Saturday, January 29, 2011

I Have the Perfect Excuse ....

.... for being so tardy and MIA from Working Girl.

Um, I'm about to pop out a baby!

I know you've all been waiting and dying to hear all the preggo updates from me since I first announced my pregnancy on Working Girl. Right? Actually, you should be glad I didn't. Pregnancy is no fun. Dislike. Anyway, my little baby is due one week from today, so I'm betting I won't be coherent enough to blog for the next few months. This isn't good-bye, just the beginning of my Working Girl "maternity leave." I'll miss you, and I'll be back.

Anyways, how's work been, you ask? Can't complain. I'll admit it's been amazing to work from home and to fit in work around napping and constant nomming on chocolate chip cookies, brownies and McDonald's hamburgers ...

But probably the best thing to happen work-wise is hiring my first intern. Yes, my little at-home PR business is actually thriving (one year in business this March, wow), and it was kind of a shock when I first realized I would need help to manage my clients during maternity leave.

(And I say maternity leave lightly, it's not like an official time off or anything since this is my business. But for those wondering, I'm giving myself 12 weeks "off." Running your own gig is full of so many unknowns and surprises.)

Anyway, I was really worried about what to do. Do I recommend the services of another PR provider? But then what if they don't take me back when I'm ready to work again? Or should I tell my clients "Sorry" that I'll be unavailable for three months, so ... hope you don't have any PR plans you want executed during that time. That'd be lame. Bottom line, whatever I did, I couldn't risk losing any clients.

Luckily, there was a girl who had approached me several times while I was still working in the corporate world to chat PR. It was her major in college, and she wanted to learn more of what PR was like in the "real world." I was always happy to share my experiences with her. Well, she just graduated in December, right around the time I realized I would need help with my business. I approached her about the opportunity, and she eagerly accepted.

We've been working together since mid-January with me teaching her about the work I'm doing, the clients, etc. and although she tells me all the time about how much she is learning, I have to admit I am learning so much from her.

She has reminded me why I work.

First of all, she is so full of enthusiasm. So eager to learn. She's like a sponge, soaking in every bit of information I give her. She's excited about every little thing. She's positive about our plans. She can't wait to get her hands dirty. She can't wait to work.

Remember when you were like that? Remember when you were fresh out of college and the world never looked brighter? When blossoming into a real-life Working Girl was the epitome of adulthood, independence, success and happiness?

It's so easy to get into a rut now that most of us are a few or more years in and to think of work as merely, "It pays the bills." Remember, you love to work! Back in the day, you couldn't WAIT to WORK. Can we bring that back? Revive that inner intern that still lives inside all of us? I'm betting good outcomes can come from this.

Thanks to my intern, I am remembering that I love to work. It stimulates me. Working tells me, "Hey, you've got a pretty good brain in your head, good job for putting it to use!" Although I'm going to be a mom soon, I'm determined to still do what I love: WORK. I know I'll love being a mom too, and really, being a mom will be very similar to taking on a new working role and responsibility. It'll be a challenge, a pretty awesome challenge, but like my intern, I can't wait to get my hands dirty in this new job. New adventures are a-coming.

Wish me luck!! And we'll chat again soon.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Weekends Are For Living

by Lawyer Working Girl

Working Girls! Can you believe that the holiday season is over? To me, it's officially over once the MLK Day holiday has come and gone. Between Thanksgiving and MLK Day we get several days off so there's always a long weekend just around the corner. If you're a Government Working Girl, you might have another holiday coming up soon (President's Day), but for those of us in the private practice, MLK Day was the last holiday until Memorial Day. I don't know about you all, but that's a long time to wait for another long weekend (lucky for me, I have a trip planned between now and then to break up the long weeks).
Since it doesn't look like my idea of Corporate America moving to 4 day work weeks and 3 day weekends is going to be adopted anytime soon, I started thinking about ways that I can maximize my time on the weekend. Since the weekdays are so structured with work hours (for a lot of people 8 to 5) and kids school hours and after school activities (for you Mommy Working Girls), no one really wants their weekend to be so structured. If you're like me, when the weekend comes you just want to unwind and relax and enjoy every single second of your free time. And I would do exactly that if I didn't have other stuff to work do. No, lounging on the couch from Friday evening until Monday morning for me. I've mentioned before that I have what I call my Passion Project and I spend a lot of time on weekends working on that; however, I do want to make sure that I'm not all work and no play. So I started to think about how I can divide my weekend so that I can enjoy some me time (watching TV/movies, reading magazines, sleeping in late) and still be productive.

Friday evenings are usually my day of rest. When I get home from work I plop on the couch and get in my "me time." It usually involves watching TV and catching up on social media. And call me lame, but it usually includes me being knocked out fairly early for a Friday night. Saturday mornings, I tend to do more of the same. I generally take a couple of hours to catch up on magazine reading or to read a book. I might watch a movie first thing in the morning too so I can give it my full attention before I get distracted by other things. From there I'm pretty flexible with the rest of my Saturday. I try to get in a few solid hours of working on my Passion Project, but I'm also flexible to meet up with a friend for lunch, get my hair or nails done, or meet friends for dinner and a movie (notice I did not say meet my boyfriend). Then on Sundays, I generally start my day of with church and then I'm back home watching TV the rest of the morning. By the afternoon I'm out the door running errands, such as the always necessary trip to the mall and Target. On Sundays I do my grocery shopping and start thinking ahead to what I will take to work for lunch for the week (I try to bring my lunch everyday, but sometimes treat myself once a week or grab lunch with co-workers). I like to be back home by early evening so I can thoroughly enjoy the rest of my weekend before the work week starts. I think the way I map out my weekend allows me to make the best use of my 2 day weekends so that I'm prepared and well-rested for the new work week. If I didn't have a general plan, I would do one of two things: be a couch potato the entire weekend or work all weekend.

Working Girls, how do you make the best use of your weekends? If you're a Working Girl who doesn't work the typical Monday through Friday, 8 to 5 schedule, but instead have other days of the week off, how do you make the best use of your free time?
(Image/Google Images)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Finding the Happiest Version of Yourself

by Social Media Working Girl

The other day, I was chatting with some friends, weighing the pros and cons of our current jobs--a fairly normal topic of conversation for 20-something working girls, I'd say.

Are we truly happy? Are we following our passions? Are we finding value and joy in the careers we have chosen? Should we go back to school? Should we ask for a raise?

For some, these questions remain unanswered--which, to be fair, is completely understandable for this time in our lives. I mean, it's hard enough to remember the items on our to-do list, let alone deeply reflect on our chosen life path, right?

Nonetheless, this conversation put a lot of things in perspective and made me evaluate my current status as a working girl. As I've mentioned before, I am hoping for lots of exciting changes this year. And with that comes the opportunity to look inward at my career path and answer some of those questions.

Where do my passions lie? What do I excel at? Where can I improve? Am I the happiest version of myself? Where will I be in five, 10, 20 years?

Obviously, there are a few things I must consider:
  • I'm extremely passionate about social media.
  • I love technology.
  • I'm a good writer.
  • I'm slightly obsessed with AP style and grammar.
  • I enjoy a flexible work schedule.
  • I like telecommuting, when possible.
  • I must have good benefits, including a 401(k) and health insurance.
  • I like being challenged in my career.
  • I thrive on a busy workload.
  • I need to know that there are opportunities for upward movement.
  • I like having a fancy coffee machine in the office.
  • I need a parking spot (preferably a free one).
  • I like a hefty paycheck.
(Among other things, of course. But you get the point.)

And while I don't yet have the answers to the aforementioned questions, I am now starting to come to terms that these are the kinds of things I need to address--especially before the job hunt takes full swing.

So for now, I leave you with one last thought.

What are your career pros and cons? Are you the happiest version of yourself? If not, what will it take to get there?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tips for Freelancers

By: Editing Working Girl

Freelancing takes a lot of patience, and persistence. It also takes courage to face rejection. Most writers know that it is possible to turn writing into a career. The mistake comes from thinking it will happen overnight.

I am currently freelancing for two publications. I have probably sent my resume and pitched articles to 200 (alright, less than 200, but you get the idea). I have had success, but also have had some failures - all of which I have learned from. I hope what I have learned not only helps some of you who are currently looking for freelancing, but encourages others who have thought about it to give it a try.

1. Know not all of your queries will be answered. Some of them may not even be read. Good news is , the more times you send out your resume and pitch stories, the more possibility that someone will see it and give you an assignment. Also? Usually publications have multiple editors. Find the one who edits a section that your article would fit best in and get in touch with them. Researching the editorial structure can go a long way.

2. Check websites for submission guidelines. Magazines don't always have submission guidelines, but the ones that do have them there for a reason. Before you send in a pitch or article, make sure you have check and re-checked for the guidlines, and if there, read and re-read them. Doing things right the first time not only makes a good impression, it saves the editor time (which may get you another offer from the magazine in the future).

3. Read staff bios online. Not only do these staff bios give you a sense of who the editor is outside of the magazine, but it also may give you a lead. Check out where staff members have worked in the past and see if there are publications you may not have heard of before.

4. Find your niche and embrace it. Just as bloggers usually like to have a central focus for their blog, it is good to have that as an author, also. The more you are interested and involved with your topic outside of your writing, the more engaging your writing is likely to be. Topics can be as broad as food, fitness or fashion, for example or can be more specific, such as cycling or runway reviews. Whatever the case, sticking to a niche will help you build your portfolio and keep things consistent.

5. Network! Interested in writing for a certain publication? Get involved, even before you freelance! Magazines often have events such as luncheons or charity happy hours. Go and meet the staff - introduce yourself - and get to know other atendees. These "atendees" are probably fellow readers and will help you get a good sense of the audience you would reach at that publication. It can all also give you the upperhand while pitching stories as the editors can put a face your name on the pitch.

The rest is all trial and error. You will learn what works for you and what doesn't work for you personally, all relative to the city you live in, publications you are pitching to and niche you are writing for. Most importantly: don't give up! Remember that freelancing takes courage. The more you try and learn from it - the more tools you will have to succeed!

Do you have anything to add to the list? What have you all learned as writers/editors?

Being Sick in the Workplace

by In Transition Working Girl

I am in week two of my new job, I am loving every minute of it and my workaholic ways have returned. I have already turned in several 11+hr days and am so happy to be stimulated again!

That being said as I was filling out my new hire information and learning about the work policies, it got me thinking about sick time and how to handle it, so I thought I would open the discussion up on Working Girl. How do you handle being a working girl and getting sick? Do you call in? try to pull through?

In my opinion there are really two schools of thought. One, you call in the moment you aren't feeling well or two, you show up to work until someone notices how sick you are and sends you home. I feel from my experiences rarely is there a third when its somewhere in between.

For me personally I am guilty of working until I get sent home. I feel there are so many people in the work place that take sick days often and without merit many times, but I want my employers to KNOW I am sick. Bad thinking? For me I feel it shows dedication to my employer and they know that if there ever is a day where I am sicker than a dog-I must be telling the truth! Is seeing really believing? Its a little weird to be forced to go home, mentally it makes me feel better having them acknowledge it rather then question me.

On the flip side though, I know that I get annoyed when people come in coughing all over me so if I am really not feeling well I try to let my boss get the hint early in the day.

This is just how I personally handle the situation-What is your take on sick days? Do you call in or wait to be sent home?

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Skinny on Savings--Tackling Finances in 2011

by Social Media Working Girl

I'm not very good at saving money. Don't get me wrong--I try to save. It just seems next to impossible sometimes to save money as a 20-something Working Girl trying to get my career started and make ends meet.

Like many of you, I don't have tons of time to regularly stock up on grocery items and thus end up eating a lot of meals out. I tend to get sucked into sales at my favorite stores and boutiques. I always offer to drive whenever my friends or colleagues want to go somewhere. I enjoy going out and being social. I have lots of bills including rent, car payments, utilities and credit cards. And I always seem to ask myself, "Where did the money go?"

But with hopes for lots of excitement and new adventures in 2011, saving is a must. Thankfully, there are many online tools available that can help facilitate the process of saving money and making smarter financial decisions.

Mint - With more than 4 million users, Mint is one of the most popular and widely respected (and free) online budget planners. You simply plug in all of your data--credit cards, checking accounts, investments, loan information, etc.--and have the ability to set a budget and keep track of your personal financial goals.

One of the biggest perks of using Mint is the easy in use. I don't know about you, but I have a tendency to get confused with numbers. I'm a journalist by trade--not a mathematician. With Mint, you don't have to be a math whiz. Instead, it does all of the calculations on its own and you hold the reigns for setting goals and tracking success.

SmartyPig - Next up, I want to introduce you to SmartyPig. Think of SmartyPig as your free online piggy bank. Whether you're saving for a new car, your wedding, that great pair of shoes you've had your eye on, a gift for a friend or your dream vacation, this site is a great tool to help you save and reach your financial goals.

How does it work? All you do is create an account and set up automatic transfers from your existing checking or savings accounts. You can also have friends and family help you achieve your objectives by sharing your goals with others through social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

Wesabe - Lastly, let's take a look at Wesabe--a community-based online personal finance management site. In other words, you create an account and contribute to conversation, post questions and join groups regarding debt, savings, financial experiences and more. With Wesabe, it's about getting advice from people just like you.

This year, the focus must be on tackling my finances. I fully intend on using free online resources like Mint, SmartyPig and Wesabe to help me achieve my financial goals and save, save, save.

Do you have financial goals for 2011? What other online tools do you use to budget and save?

(Image via)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Co-Workers vs. Friends

by Lawyer Working Girl

My company recently hired a new employee. Since the new hire was a woman and since she was new to the area, I was sure to introduce myself to her. We started talking and she asked if I wanted to have lunch one day soon so she could pick my brain about work and the city. Absolutely! After all, as much as I move, I'm usually the "new kid on the block" and I always welcome insight from others, so this was my chance to help someone else.

So we had lunch and it was cool. I didn't really think too much about it or the new hire after that until the following weekend when she sent me a text asking if I wanted to have lunch. It was a busy day for me so I told her that I couldn't, but maybe some other time. To be honest, I said it in the same manner that we say to people, "We'll have to get together soon" or "I'll call you" but you don't really mean it. It just somehow slips out of your mouth before you can stop yourself from saying it.

That next work week she asked if I wanted to have lunch again and inquired about my New Year's Eve plans. At this point it hit me. She wants to be friends. She's new to the city and doesn't know anyone outside of work and she wants to be my friend.

For me, if I'm going to be friends with someone I work with it just has to happen naturally, like with any friends I make. I don't force friendships to happen. I'm friends with about three people at work (actually, I should probably downgrade one person, but that is a post for another day), meaning that I hang out with them outside of work (that's a key part in me calling someone I work with a friend), but none of these friendships were forced. We got to know each other by working together and talking at work, and then it eventually led to "hey, let's all grab a bite to eat after work" or "You want to have lunch?" After a while, we started hanging out away from work. We didn't go from "Hi, it's nice to meet you" to "Let's hang out this weekend." I don't do instant friendships.

I feel bad that I don't want to hang out with her outside of work...yet. I mean, I still don't really know her. We had lunch, I shared a little about work and the city, and we learned a little bit about each other. Cool. I'm just not trying to hang out regularly, until I get to know someone and determine that they are someone I would be friends with. Does that sound harsh? Do you get what I'm saying? I don't know her personality yet, I don't know what she likes to do, I don't know...well, I just don't know her.

Working Girls, are you friends with any of your co-workers? Did your friendships just happen naturally? How do you handle a co-worker wanting to be your BFF?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Eliminating the "9 to 5"

by Editing Working Girl

I am not a morning person, so the first trip I make in the morning is to the coffeemaker. When 4 p.m. comes around, I start to get tired and by time dinner is over I am ready for bed.

What I hate the most about this schedule is that I constantly feel like 'real life' passes me by - I get off work and am a zombie until bed and then wake up to work all over again, the weekends are spent catching up on sleep and I can be grumpy sometimes because of this feeling (I'll admit it).

In the Netherlands, they have implemented a successful part-time work schedule that started with women, and is now transferring over to men also (See the article from Jezebel here). Not only do people have time for things such as exercise, they can spend time with their families and traffic is even lessened, as some people can work from home in the mornings, which is high traffic time here in the U.S.

The thought of only working part-time is exhilarating - now if only it was financially feasible. Besides the financial aspect, though, I believe the United States could easily benefit from this transition. Families would get to spend time with one another, lessening the amount of time children spend in childcare. As stated, traffic could possibly be lessened and people may even be more productive if they know they have less time to get things done in the office. It is possible job opportunities would open up - especially if more employees could be brought on and shifts were implemented.

But is this something the U.S. will do? Probably not. Our economy is still in recovery mode enough to be enforcing drastic changes on the workforce of America, some who are struggling to support themselves and their families on their current salary, let alone cutting their hours.
What do you think about this article? Is a part-time work schedule feasible in the US (and is money really the only thing that could hold it back?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Being the Ex

by Working Girl One

Working at a company that rewards and promotes its employees is a great thing for Working Girls. It shows that your managers respect you and want you to succeed. Not to mention internal promotion keeps employees happy. When a job opens up and an internal candidate fits the bill, it makes the most sense to offer the position to the internal candidate.

On the flip side, interviewing at this type of company as an external candidate is not so great. That is of course, if you get in the door. Some companies don't even post job openings or reach out to external candidates. They go right to the internal candidate.

Others like to see what is out there. They bring you in, bring you back and maybe even bring you back again. Then they thank you for interviewing and tell you the position has been offered to an internal candidate.

This has happened to me once during my recent job search. It's happened to my boyfriend. It's happened to plenty of other Working Girls I know. And am I right that everyone's reaction is "C'mon, really?!"

Part of me understands why a hiring manager would like to see what is out there. Another part of me knows that much more often than not the company hires the internal person if it comes down to the internal candidate and external candidate. For the internal person it's great, but the flip side is so frustrating.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A New Year and a New Goal

By In Transition Working Girl

Happy New Year Working Girls. I hope you enjoyed the last several weeks as much as I have, although I am ready to get 2011 started. How about you? Its my last week at my old job and part of me still feels like its 2010, come next Monday though when I walk into my new job, 2011 will be officially here in my book.

Because of the all the craziness of the holidays, combined with a pending move, I hadn't really thought about New Years resolutions until this week. A few days, late, but oh well. Since I spent most of last year trying to figure out what the next steps were for me professionally, this years goals are simple. I have one and its to spend the next year pouring myself into work. For me this means that my new job is numero uno and everything else for the next 365 falls after.

When thinking back about what was missing from my life in 2010 and how out of balance it was, it was clearly the professionally aspect that had everything out of whack. So looking forward now that I have my dream job in hand I want to do everything to prove who I am, to not only to my new employer but to myself.

Just saying I am going to pour myself into my job is not enough and hard to measure results, so here are just a few of the things that I am going to do to attain this goal:
  • Attend networking events (2-3 times a month)
  • Arrive before and leave after my boss
  • Bring in new clients, which is not something I am tasked with, but feel its is important for my new company
  • Obtain additional education certificates/or attend trainings
  • Become the "expert" on something in my new company

So there you have it, while "pouring myself into work" isn't the prettiest goal, for me its everything I didn't have in 2010 and can't wait for in 2011.