#TheCareerDiaries: “We Regret To Inform You….”

I’ve been through a few interviews, a few phone calls and more than a few crushing emails since I started my job search. Within those months, I have gotten to know the standards of rejection letters on a personal level, far closer than I ever wanted to be on the bad end of the employment chain. Here are the six types of rejection letters I have received on my journey to employment. Share your personal experience in the comment section below!

1. The Standard

“Thank you for applying. We have decided to pursue other, more qualified candidates…”

Why it blows: This is the standard for the larger companies, consulting firms and other legally trained HR departments who want to stay very far away from a discrimination law suit. Having worked in employment law, it’s pretty easy to spot the one statement that makes a suit impossible: you are not the most qualified for the position. I now can spot these simply from the title of the email flashing its way to my phone screen. It’s the “Dear John” letter of the 21st century, and while it sucks, it’s not a personal or completely damaging way of losing a job to another candidate.

2. The Pointless

“We have cancelled the position and will no longer be reviewing applications.”

Why it blows: I WROTE A COVER LETTER. A personalized, glowing recommendation of my skills and talents and experiences and it was all for nothing. Nada. Zilch.

3. The Starts-Positive-Ends-Terrible

“Hi there! We loved your application, but decided to move in another direction.”

Why it blows: The false hope. You start to think that maybe this is the one…only to be blown off in the very next sentence. Those two seconds of excitement make the fall to “still unemployed” all the worse.

4. The No Response. At all. Ever.

“……”

Why it blows: Weeks of waiting and simply not knowing drive a person crazy. I once had an interview lasting over four hours, a writing assignment, test, and panel interview full of meaningfully stressful questions. I thought it went fairly well; I left excited, followed up, and then received no email responses, no phone call answers. After six weeks, I gave up and realized that I wasn’t a candidate for the position anymore.

5. The Robot

“You are receiving this message because you are no longer in consideration for XYZ position. Please do not respond to this email.”

Why it blows: It’s essentially a form email that hasn’t been given the time to personalize even a greeting or salutation. It feels highly impersonal, though, which is sometimes a better solution than hearing that your qualifications don’t match your dream position.

6. The Most Crushing

“Hi, Erin! We had a great time meeting you and discussing XYZ position. After much careful consideration, we regret to inform you that we cannot offer you a position. Regardless, we wish you the best of luck and hope to see good things from you soon.”

Why it blows: This is what you get after you’ve had a great interview, you’ve connected with the company culture and you’re deep into the process of consideration. At this point, you REALLY want this job. You’re hooked. And then you receive this email, the one you know would have been a phone call if you had been chosen. And it’s over.

Hearing this from a position I was very passionate about was absolutely crushing for me. Regardless, it was nice to have such a personalized, sweet letter from a prospective employer, and I was able to follow up and receive feedback and stay on good terms with the recruiter. If you can’t get the job, at least you can improve your future interviews, and you still have a useful contact in your industry. You never know what might come of this kind of rejection, so keep your responses sweet and grateful.

A Lesson in Retirement for your 20’s

Did you guys know that I *know things* about finance? Personal finance mostly, thanks to many articles read on The Financial Diet and then freaked out over, followed by a Wikipedia binge into investment articles and tips. It’s weird timing, because I’m not actually making a salary that I can invest. But you can bet that when I do, I’ll be ready to put that baby away into a 401k.

I wrote a blog for a company that I’m representing as a part of my internship on millennials and investing, and there’s some good stuff in there, so I’ll share my #financewisdom with you all now. You’re very welcome. (And to employers checking out my site, this, along with a few other examples of my PR work, is up in my portfolio at the top of the page! Go click!)


Tell a millennial to invest in his or her future and you will most likely get an eye roll, or, for the more sophisticated and mature, a dry snort. They just don’t invest. Chalk it up to staggering student loans increasing every year, collectively owing $1 trillion, up from only $461 billion eight years ago, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of NY. Or to the two financial crises they’ve lived through while watching their parents struggle to make ends meet, or just to a lack of education on the matter. Call it what you want, but the fact remains that a staggering 93% of millennials are not confident enough to invest. And that means they’re making a major mistake.

With Social Security reserves shrinking, the population growing, and an economy that’s hiring far fewer college graduates than years before, it’s imperative that when those millennials do find a job, their very first payment (post rent, student loans, and other living necessities) is to their retirement fund. But the how of going about planning for your retirement remains to be seen.

If you’re not quite ready to jump into a program – maybe you don’t have the money set aside or you’re still wary of investing at all – check out the multitude of online sources that help you tackle your personal finances. Take a seat, and let’s get started.

Step 1: Key words and terms of the investment landscape

Your best friend will be Investopedia while you muddle through this process.

  • 401(k): A word thrown around often in new jobs and among your parents, but do you really know what it is? Here you go: it’s a tax code, a line number (401(k)) from the IRS that “allows employers to establish a company-sponsored retirement plan,” (Smart401k). The company you work for will determine what investment plans they offer, usually a defined benefit or a defined contribution.
    • The idea behind a 401(k) is that you contribute, your employer contributes, and when you retire, you can access that money to get you through the rest of your life.
  • IRA: Individual Retirement Account. You can’t withdraw these in full until you’re over 59 and a half. However, if you don’t want to touch the money until you’re ready to use it for retirement, this option can lower your taxable income in the year you contribute to it. In turn, you get to qualify for other tax breaks like the student loan interest deduction due to your adjusted gross income.
  • Roth IRA: You can take these contributions out whenever you want, penalty-and tax-free, but not the gains earned on the contributions until age 591/2. If you are over age 591/2, your first contribution needs to be at least 5 years old to begin taking out distributions that include the gains earned on your contributions.

Step 2: Make a Spreadsheet.

Break out that Excel page and get to work on some tables, graphs and budget drafts. Figure out where you’re spending your money, where you want to save it and where you want your retirement funds allocated.

Step 3: Open the account

…and start contributing, to that, your debts, and your 401(k). Make it a habit to contribute the maximum amount to your 401(k) up to your employer’s match, because your employer is essentially giving you free money for after retirement. Take full advantage, because the more you contribute, the more they do, too.

Step 4: Use the tools and resources available on the web

First and foremost, remember to use available online tools to understand and take control of your personal finances and investments. Planning now can save you thousands later, improve your quality of life, and ensure that you won’t be working through your 60s to pay for the mistakes you made in your 20s.

10 Ways to Cope with the Downtime

1. Got a project you’ve wanted to tackle for a while? Hit it. I completely redecorated my bedroom and have been collecting pieces for when I finally get to move out of my parent’s house.

2. Master a new skill. I took on this blog, then was able to create a website from scratch for my part-time gig. It’s been loads of work, but I’m proud of the results, and now I’ve got an extra little piece of luster on my resume.

3. Whip that butt in shape. Gyms cost money, the unemployed don’t have money. I know. But running outside is FREE and, as someone who has hated cardio with every fiber of her being, I’m finally kind-of getting used to it. And who doesn’t love some extra confidence when hitting the beach over the summer?

4. Apply to jobs. Every day. Follow up every day. Schedule that planner out (you have a planner, don’t you? You need one.) to be filled up at least a week in advance with new people, new positions and new opportunities. Easier said than done, trust me.

5. Intern. You are never too good to work for free. It’s a great way to network, to get your name in there and to learn about a new career. Because of my internships, I now have experience in law, politics, communications, marketing and press. I’m a bit all over the board, but I’m getting to knowing what I like and what I’m good at through all of those free work hours. You get back what you give.

6. Cook for yourself and company. Because of this year, I have no further fears of cooking meat, I have a great collection of cookbooks from friends and family and consignment, and I have a handful of recipes that I can pull out at a moments notice with ease. It’s not intuitive yet, but I’m getting there. Even better, I can whip up a real cocktail — muddled, shaken, or stirred. Just hold the whiskey. I’m highly allergic.

7. If you have the means, visit friends and family. Not to brag about my illustrious buds across the nation, but I now have friends in: New York City, Washington DC, Tampa Bay, Nashville, Denver, Chicago, the hills of Kentucky, Austin, Santa Barbara, San Fransisco, Indianapolis and more. If I was smart enough to save some more money while I had a paying gig, I’d be flying all around the country to see my people.

8. Read books, read magazines, read the paper and watch the news. Stay current and maybe you’ll hear something that interests you and could lead to a job opportunity…or maybe you just spend five minutes of your life learning something interesting. I recommend The Skimm for when you wake up and biographies of interesting women (currently reading: Soledad O’Brien’s memoir – thanks Julz!) for when you go to bed.

9. Fine, Netflix. Game of Thrones finale got you down? Start up with another show – I’ve heard good (and weird) things about Sense8 and… I don’t admit this lightly…but my affinity for medical dramas has led me to the 90s drama ER. AND I LOVE IT. Plus, Julianna Marguiles with her 90s perm? George Clooney in his attractive, silver fox days? All about it.

10. Be the best friend, SO and  family member you can be. One of my goals for 23 is to tell people that I love them more often, to cherish my friendships and show it through communication and assistance where I can give it. I want to be present in all of my relationships, and the time from unemployment has given me a chance to stay in contact with people I had previously let go. I have a long way to go, but I’m making a point of it now, and I know the effort has never been more deserved.

If you still have time after 1-10, you better be applying to more jobs.

A Real, True Thing on Being Happy Again

We drove through the late evening to get up north, me at the wheel for the entirety of the trip, cruising behind a Ford minivan with cartoons playing in the backseat. Halfway through, I asked Sean to google the symptoms of a stroke. “I keep having this weird pain near my eye, just below the bone,” I told him. “What does that mean?” 

He dutifully typed “pain in zygomatic bone” into the search engine and laughed when he found the culprit: fatigue due to under-then-over use of the muscles sitting underneath my cheek. I guess I had been smiling so little for so long that the muscles that I would normally use to grin became atrophied. How’s that for a telling allegory on my post-graduate life? 
We finally got in around 1am and walked to the water, where I’m writing this from, and looked at the millions of stars finally visible from a house with no neighbors, no light. The moon was gilded and low in the sky, nearly touching its twin reflection in the water. 

Today the beach is covered with midge flies. They don’t bite, but they swarm. If I were a religious girl, I might begin to think of locusts. Instead, I wave them out of my face and wait for the wind to blow them away. 

Even with the flies, these are the days I love most. Good people, the sound of the water, the sun. My face started to hurt again this afternoon, but I’m -quite literally- smiling through the pain. I don’t need idyllic to be happy right now. 

So I guess you could say things are looking up.  

Letter to My Younger Self: From the 834 Blog

I’m currently externing (is that a verb?) for a PR and marketing firm in Grand Rapids, and they were gracious enough to let me take over their blog for the day to talk about my past and how I got to the 834 offices. Read on: 

The blog post you wait all month for is here-PR current and future pros reflecting on their careers and lives in “letter to my younger self.” This month we feature Erin Pavacik, a University of Michigan graduate and integrated communications gal by “accident” (it’s destiny honey) and 834 Design & Marketing intern/associate. She is on the hunt for a job right now, so snap her up before your competition does. She will likely destroy you in that contest as your competition, so consider yourself forewarned. We think she’s pretty darn cool and she is really smart. So. Smart. Anyway, we will stop gushing about her and let her school her younger self.

Dear Grasshopper,

UGHH. I don’t want to write this to you right now. By your high-strung, over-achieving standards, I have failed you miserably and am surely headed for a life of destitution, and I know you will read this, look of horror evident on your face, while your mind races with a plan to fix us.

Erin selfie

Stop. I’ve already been through all of them. You know that dream we had of going to law school, becoming a hot shot lawyer and basically taking down misogynists and abusers and the like with a finger gun and a, “pew” in their direction? It’s not gonna happen. I decided that law school wouldn’t be right for us; weighed the cost of attendance against the job prospects for lawyers and realized that I didn’t want a J.D. so much that I was willing to gamble $100,000 on a career post-graduation. Only 40% of law school graduates from your year – 2010 – are working in law firms today, 4 years later. You know those are the highest-paying jobs, the ones that make that debt seem worth it. I got too fixated on that number, on being one of the 60% not in a law firm, or the 1 in 5 that doesn’t even use her law degree, and I bailed.

After that happens, there’s a pretty nasty downward spiral until you pick up the phone and talk to a woman doing strategic communications. She will give you advice and offer her wisdom and you will soak it up like a cow seeing a sunshine-covered field for the first time all winter. You had blinders on, kid. We hadn’t thought of career options past 15 because everyone assumed that you would be a lawyer. Now, the world of communications, of journalism or public policy has opened up to you and you’re thinking maybe this can be it.

There’s still a long way left to go. You currently clean bathrooms and sweaty gym floors at night to pay off some of your debt and support an unpaid externship while you live with your parents. I know it’s not ideal; stop stomping your feet at me. I don’t like it much either. But it’s necessary. It’s the grunt work you’ve gotta put in to get to where we both want to be. Wear gloves and a smile, pretend you’re Cinderella, and keep applying to jobs. Five, ten a day, if you can handle it. Follow up, write emails, use those connections and, most importantly, ask for help. I know we’re gonna get there someday, because the pluck and determination you’ve got now isn’t touched a single bit when you go to school. If anything, school only strengthens your resolve.

On the days when you feel your worst, write. That, along with friends and family and trivia nights, are what get you through the toughest parts of college. It’s entirely worth it to take the time to write that piece on heartbreak you’ve been dying to get out, even though you have an exam or final essay due the next day. Your favorite advice will come from Peter Elbow in some dense book in your very first English class as a University of Michigan student (pay attention!): sometimes, we must write a scathing rant or weepy love poem just so that we can write the work that is actually needed of us. Sometimes, the little bit of love poem that finds its way into your lab report. And that is what will end up making your writing something to be proud of.

Erin P Water

You’ll also get some great advice from an English professor in your senior year, who will tell you, after you made a variety of edits to your paper sitting next to him, that Winston Churchill once said, “This is a rule up with which I will not put,” and you will forever stop trying to structure your sentences so staunchly around prepositional guidelines. The copy editor in you will resist. Let it happen anyway.

We learned pretty quickly that there is no formula for success post-grad. Even your best friends, the ones making crazy money in entry-level jobs as consultants or in venture capital are unhappy with their careers in their own ways. Support them and reach out to lean on them, too. It’s easier to get through the hard parts together. Blast “Dog Days Are Over,” just as frequently as you did when Florence + The Machine first released the track and sing loudly until you start to believe that your happiness is coming.

So you’re a bit of a failure so far, so what? You’re still a college graduate. You went through every hair color and style possible and found one that sticks: You will take this as a sign of growth. You fell in love, helped kids in prison, got published and switched career paths with your dignity (mainly) intact. You can’t do that quite so easily when you’re 35, so thank my apprehension now. We both just gotta hope that it pays off later. Get some rest, kid. We’re gonna be just fine.

Much love,

Older self.

 

Why It’s Time To Take Those Accounts Off Private

While I was in school, I heard constantly about keeping my online presence hidden. The warnings ranged from dubious (“I just don’t know about putting all of those things online…,”) to downright ominous (“Employers will find your Twitter account and you will never get a job and you will die a lonely, success-less death”). These warnings were directed at everyone in my class–from business consultants to PR professionals to doctors-in-waiting. The answer to social media was “One Size Fits All” and if you colored outside of the online presence guidelines, you were sure to never be hired.

I think this idea mainly stems from the generation above us: Our parents, not understanding Twitter, Facebook or, heaven forbid, Reddit, decided that whatever we put out there on the Internet was obviously Very Bad and therefore, everything should be as hidden as possible. “What goes on the Internet, stays on the Internet,” is as ubiquitous a saying as the Vegas one in kind. And, while true, just because something is going to stick around in digital copy forever, that doesn’t mean that it’s going to bite you in the metaphorical ass someday.

A year after graduating, which also coincided with the anniversary of taking all of my social media and online presence accounts over to private, I was in an interview with an expert in PR and strategic communications. One of her first questions was about my private Twitter account.

“I was told to go incognito on all social platforms,” I stammered, surprised that she was questioning why my account would be blacklisted from a potential employers’ prying eyes. She laughed, then proceeded to explain that it only looks like I have something to hide. She asked me if I was a serial killer. I, of course, said no (I’m not), and then told me to put it on blast.

It turns out that some companies and vocations — PR and strategic communications being one of them — actually like to see some sort of online presence from their potential employees. And online presence is something I’ve been doing – on this blog, on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, you name it – since social media was a thing. And I am PUMPED that I finally get to open up my accounts for the world to see. I just wish I had realized that the advice we get from the morning news, professors, horror stories like that of Justine Sacco, parents and mentors was more thoughtfully disseminated. Instead of “lock it up,” we should be teaching Tweeters to refrain from racist messages or ill-timed diatribes. Rather than preaching to change your Facebook name to keep employers from finding you online, we should counsel to keep those pictures of Friday night to yourself  — and maybe stop being so sloppy. It’s part strategy, part witty sense of humor to fit in with the sarcastic collective that populates the majority of online forums, and a whole lot of common sense.

I should mention that opening up your online presence is not for everyone sloughing through a job search or admissions process. While I remain pretty certain that a med school admissions office doesn’t care about your Instagram of your mountainous fro-yo, it also won’t be acting against you. I would argue that embracing your personality and projecting that essence online is only going to create a more well-rounded, modern, capable version of yourself for anyone who’s out there Googling your name. If nothing else, coming out strong with open accounts, you’re making it clear that you have nothing to hide. If you do, however, frequently tweet racist and inappropriate things, take questionable pictures and post them with graphic captions, please, for the sake of everyone else, keep it private. And probably stop being a racist idiot.

If you’re still confused, my rules for social media are as follows: Try as hard to spell someone’s name as NPR does to pronounce it (and pronounce it the right way off of the computer, too!), don’t be racist, sexist or gross, and don’t be rude. Congrats. You are now welcome to inhabit social media. And if you want to follow me in my little spaces, click here for Twitter, here for Instagramhere for Tumblr, and here for LinkedIn.

The Career Diaries: Guest Edition

krasnoo1

A good friend of mine from Michigan is stepping in this morning with advice on working your way up the ladder. He’s a producer at SI.com, and I’ve envied his job (despite being mostly clueless when it comes to sports) many times. Now, I get to envy his work ethic, too. Read on for Ryan’s insights on paying your dues, late nights and lateral moves that might end up moving you up someday: 

Let me just preface this by being candid: I get paid to watch sports. Had I known I would have grown to be 5’11” and 155 pounds with average athleticism and zero hope for a playing career, I would have put that in my fifth grade yearbook under the “What I want to be when I grow up” section instead of “Professional athlete.”

There is a TV on the corner of my desk next to an unkempt pile of Sports Illustrated magazines from the past year. As a producer for SI.com, I’ve watched every major sporting event on that TV that 2014-15 has had to offer. The World Series, the Super Bowl, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao and most recently my second go-around of the NBA and NHL playoffs (not to mention every episode of Jeopardy… I like learning, OK!).

I curate sports sections and edit articles that come in off these games. That’s my job, and every writer and jock I know has, without fail, told me they want it. But all the grunt work, all the inglorious hours put in when most people are asleep go unnoticed.

May 12 is my one-year anniversary, but it feels less Drake, and more “started from the bottom now we’re still here.”

The “problem” with sports is that they happen, well, when everyone else is done in the office for the day. I work nights and weekends. Three days per week my shift starts at 6pm and ends at 2am. On Saturday and Sunday, I work 10am-6pm, and my “weekend” falls somewhere in the middle.

My body frankly hates me and my circadian rhythm has been off for so long I don’t remember what it’s supposed to feel like. The weekly switch from staying up so late to getting up early has led to so many Dunkin Donuts iced coffee runs that I’m convinced I’m keeping it in business.

Don’t get me wrong; I have had the opportunity to do some pretty incredible stuff so far. I wrote the recap to Derek Jeter’s final at-bat in the Yankee Stadium. I covered the NCAA tournament. I’ve been asked to do interviews for radio stations. At 23, it’s more than I could have imagined.

But no one realizes I work such inopportune hours, and for little compensation to boot. Routines are hard to form because my sleeping and eating schedule is constantly changing. I’ve missed an abundance of concerts, dinner with friends, weekend trips, happy hours, comedy shows—basically everything that makes living in New York City fun and worth it. And dating? Next question.

But this is where we all have to start. No one hands you the corner office when you walk into a job. That job will be there one day, but only once you’ve mastered the too-small cubicle you share with a coworker.

I’m paying my dues and will be for a while; this is the nature of the beast. It’s hard to climb the corporate ladder when the rungs are so far apart you can barely see them, but you have to have a little bit of trust in the process. This is hard to do, especially as someone new to the workforce and unfamiliar with its structure.

If after a while, the next step becomes too unattainable, though, it’s important to accept that and consider other ladders that are within reach. It’s OK. It’s learning. Sometimes moving sideways is moving up.

But when you take that next step and reach that next rung, you can look back and see all the progress you’ve made. The hours and effort you’re putting in won’t be for naught, even if you don’t see it now.

Rather than focusing on the long term and battling with the unanswerable questions of when a promotion (or better hours!) will come your way, focus on the stuff in front of you, on the things you can tackle immediately, and enjoy looking back on the accomplishments you’ve done. Chances are, someone else is too.

Ft. “GO TO EUROPE” Advice and Why It Isn’t Helpful

As a member of the Millennial generation — and an unemployed one at that — I am repeatedly given heaps of advice by everyone from family to complete strangers to internet bloggers I turn to in my darkest hours of “Will I ever find a job?” doom. Most of it is HIGHLY appreciated. I can’t tell you how many phone calls have left me completely psyched about a profession that, previously, I had never known of. Even the somewhat “bad” advice, given by older women at the gym I work at, can be salvaged into something useful…except the time I was told to just get pregnant and raise children in order to find my higher calling. I don’t think I’ll be salvaging that one.

Despite all of this great advice, there are a few things I wish earlier generations understood about looking for a job as a Millennial.

First, that the advice to just pick up and fly away to Europe or South America or any number of the places I’ve been told to go, is not always feasible for those of us with mountains of student debt. I have friends who are putting down $500/month just to cover their hefty interest on thousands of dollars of money owed. Personally, I had to defer my loans while I search for a job that pays more than near-minimum wage, and I don’t even have to pay rent.

When I hear this advice, it causes me to assume that there is a complete disconnect between the writer or giver of advice and the Real World of Student Loans (or they just simply don’t understand the tragedies of bad credit). Recently, Jon Acuff, author of Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, & Never Get Stuck, wrote an article in Time Magazine on the “20 Things Nobody Tells You When You Graduate College.” Aside from the fact that I truly believe that Mr. Acuff was capable of straying from listicle format (Buzzfeed, must you control everything?), I was shocked to find number nines’s “Take risks! Go teach English in Europe! Start a small business!” right next to number ten’s “Don’t put off your college loans” prudence. Am I the only one who finds these two tidbits of knowledge completely at odds with one another? Sure, we don’t have kids or homes tying us to one spot. But, in some cases, the premium we pay on student loan coverage is near equal to what you’re paying for a mortgage or your drool machine. We aren’t without our tethers.

And then there’s the constant griping about technology. “You kids and your computers!” is a constant refrain heard in my house, but who’s the first one my mother turns to for help with adding a new Pinterest board? That’s right: me. It’s a complaint we hear constantly, but lately the diatribe has turned against this Luddite-esque model and into one that champions our skills in tech. It’s one I’m glad to see.

Finally: we don’t want the lives that our parents lived. For many of my friends, the thought of settling down in our early-to-mid 20’s is appalling…mostly because we’re already there (FYI I turn 23 in a month exactly so feel free to remember that). We want big cities, bright lights and Jay-Z rapping over a montage of our weekend exploits. We want a career that fits us (could a side effect of our so-called entitlement be idealism?) and cozy, modern apartments filled with our MacBooks and Anthro sale candles. Scrounging by on a small salary to live in the city in a tiny apartment sounds much more appealing than a two-bedroom with $3,000 in the savings account and one on the way. The thought of someday soon not having to own a car is completely exhilarating. The prizes and markers of our parent’s generation are now the burdens of our own. And stop trying to give us your old armoire.

For the over-40 crowd, this might seem like sacrilege. Maybe I come off as ungrateful. I don’t intend to be either of those things. I just want the writers of blogs and articles, advice givers (sought out or otherwise) to understand that their guidance does not exist in a vacuum: we are very much within a context of high debt, different expectations and distinct dreams. That said, keep the advice coming– the counsel from the white-haired gym walker to get pregnant found a place in my reservoir of life lessons, even if it was just to make sure I don’t get pregnant and raise a child simply for purpose.

From The Financial Diet:

For anyone who did or still does live at home with their parents and is in their twenties, I think it’s crucial that we recognize this time period for what it is — a luxury that shouldn’t be squandered or taken for granted, a time to save as much money as you are able, and to make higher payments on school loans if that’s something your budget allows. Removing the stigma from living at home is made possible by working hard and showing the world that you aren’t some freeloader eternally mooching of of your parents’ good will, but rather a smart adult who it utilizing this time as a stepping stone to a secure financial future.

I might not be a “Professional,” but I am acutely aware of the perils (and advantages) of living at home in your twenties. Thanks Lauren and Chelsea! Click the quote to read the whole article.

The Painful Reality of Returning to Your Alma Mater

I will have to preface this post with an apology. I was in Ann Arbor this weekend (where my alma mater, old friends and colleagues are still located) and failed to see 9/10 of every place or person I should have. I am very sorry for not seeking you out, or for canceling our plans. It might sound silly, but I am simply just not ready.

See, in Ann Arbor, I was successful. I held (possibly too many) jobs, had friends, went out around town, sampling restaurants and happy hours, and my outlook on life was one of confidence, bluster and, I now know, naivety. I simply assumed that my hard work in my jobs, my good grades and my connections in town would get me a job post-graduation. I thought I was smart enough to beat the LSAT with a month and a half of studying. I had no idea that simply succeeding in one city, for four years in an environment built to push 20 year olds to succeed, would fail to guarantee me a 180 LSAT or a career path or even something as simple as a job fitting my education.

When I pulled onto US-23, cruising past Brighton and into houses full of students drinking Oberon on rooftops, I realized quickly that I was in no way prepared to be back in the land of Maize and Blue. I met with Sean for lunch and hid in the back corner booth for the entirety of the encounter, trying to make sure I wouldn’t have to run into a former coworker (not you, Jordan. It was great to see you!) or roommate and be forced to explain that I wasn’t really working at the moment, no I wasn’t going to law school, how is your 6-figure salary and full-ride to Medical School?

I had an hour to kill between lunch and babysitting (the reason I was in AA), and instead of spending it visiting old friends and coworkers, I went to Whole Foods and walked around the prepared foods aisle. I found my coveted dark chocolate ginger, grabbed some fizzy water and showed up early to my babysitting gig, despite the fact that the boys I would be babysitting for the next 12 hours weren’t even home yet.

The next day, I cancelled my plans to go to coffee and yoga with a friend, where I would see even more old coworkers and friends and the thought of which had my heart pounding, palms clammy. I texted Jake, Michelle, Matt, Sean and my mom trying to figure out what the hell was happening. I LOVE YOGA. I love my friends! I love(d) Ann Arbor! What was this feeling that I was experiencing, and for the love of god, WHY was I experiencing it?

I had lengthy conversations with each, and eventually reached my conclusion: Pride. Good old fashioned, strong as hell pride, fortified by years of success and coddling, and powered by a personal image of myself that had taken time, naivety and hard work. When I was in Ann Arbor, I was a smart, successful, strong and self-assured woman. I was confident and shining, and someone once told me that when I walked into a room, was noticed simply because of my presence (if you still read this blog, thank you for that compliment because it is the greatest I have ever gotten to date and on my off days of which there seem to be many lately, I remember this). And now, I am without career, without direction, and a seemingly endless failure in a stream of job searches or career paths or future education and if you ever want to know how low your self-confidence really goes, just quit your job, move in with your parents and spend your Friday nights watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy.

That girl – the one in Ann Arbor with the jobs and the plans and the shining eyes – is dead, or at the very least, groggily slumping into a months-long coma. And facing that old version of myself was a shockingly difficult confrontation, one with pride and failure all wrapped up into a painful package, that I never realized I would run into before I entered the city’s confines.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten. I don’t have a way to fix it, nor any way to deal with these feelings of self-doubt and confusion. I’m working on it actively, looking for careers and trying to convince myself that I am not only this year – my life and my journey is the sum of my experiences, not just the most recent struggle. That said, I still don’t think I’ll be returning to Ann Arbor anytime soon. I need some success first. I need my break.

 

Go blue.