June 27, 2013

25x25: The Picnic

One of the things on my 25 by twenty-five list was going on a picnic in Central Park. As someone who's been living in New York for two years (and for over a year on the island itself) it's basically criminal that I haven't been able to really spend time in or explore Central Park at all. So I made it a goal for myself. And then there were (shockingly) two dry, sunny days in New York in a row, so I packed up my stuff and headed to the park.

It was super nice! I packed a lunch of salad and my liter-sized waterbottle, and headed to the park. My setup was pretty nice:

It was a REALLY beautiful day! There were a number of people out and about enjoying the sun. There was a group of twenty-somethings maybe 20 feet away from me who were kicking around a soccer ball or tossing a frisbee back and forth. Saw a huge gaggle of NYU/Columbia students sunbathing as well.

Mostly, though, it was just nice to sit out in the sun for a few hours. Admittedly, I was kind of lamenting I didn't have sunscreen (yes, I burn, too) but the slight tan was pretty worth it, if you ask me.

I do have this hilarious tanline from my t-shirt though. Aw yeah, farmer's tanlines!

I did have enough foresight to bring a hat, though, in order to prevent the always facepalm-worthy "glasses tan" which is just embarrassing.

Sadly the hat basically promptly fell apart. Ah well, a SE beach day plus some nice times in the sunshine plus my SE photoshoot? WE'LL ALWAYS REMEMBER YOU, HAT. Plus I'd like to buy one that actually fits this time.

Anyway! My picnic was really pleasant. A nice time all around. Only 24 more things to do now. I wonder what will be next....

June 20, 2013

Alas, earwax.

No deep and insightful post today, sorry. I have 3-4 posts in various stages of completion and editing, and this week has been kinda bananas. So, instead, here's a brief rundown of what I'm currently reading:

1. The Emotional Intelligence Quickbook by Travis Bradberry -- I'm reading this at the behest of a good friend. She suggested that part of my issues with presentation and acceptance might have something to do with my lack of emotional intelligence. I'm interested to see what this book has to say and how well/poorly I score on the charts. I know my big blind spot, and I'm curious to see if the book offers advice on how to "fix" that blindness.

2. Who: The A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart & Randy Street -- Identifying talent is this incredible skill that I want to be able to do better. I was telling someone recently: the work that HR does and the work that support teams do aren't that far removed from one another. Their audiences simply differ. If I can better identify potential and goodness of fit and talent, I can be a better support role and have a broader range of employment options.

4. Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block -- I love communities, I love how powerful they are and how much a community can accomplish. In turn, I love reading about how to bring communities together more effectively, how to distill that essential magic that makes healthy communities tick, and how to find the energy to self-perpetuate a community long after the "old guard" walk away.

That's what currently in my to-read pile in my apartment. Fortunately, they're all fairly quick reads. I just need to sit down and crack them open! Like I said: it's been a hectic week.

June 18, 2013

Executives in the Mailroom

It's funny -- one of my fellow alums and I had a lengthy conversation one evening after an alumni event, and we realized that our business education, while top-notch and excellent all around, had some serious flaws. One of those was how it felt like we were all being groomed to have a seat at the executive table, masters of our fate and excellent at leading and decision-making, and thrust into the world with a sense of our own agency in our jobs. And then, promptly, we were all disabused of that notion, forced to start from the very bottom rung of the corporate ladder and work our way up to the coveted C-suite role we'd been led to believe was where we belonged. Effectively, we were trained to be executives and then immediately put to work in the mailroom. It's frustrating, feeling so little control over your professional development in those crucial first years out of university.

Of course, I took a bit of an alternate route.

One of the best decisions I made after I finished my undergrad was working for a company with less than 50 employees. It was kind of a huge risk for me -- my career trajectory up until that had not included such a move, and even with a long runway the company still didn't feel solid to me, mostly because I was unfamiliar with its products -- but it paid off in spades. If I had to pinpoint three things that made a smaller company the better choice, I'd have to say it was: getting to take on a variety of roles, having more flexibility in what my chosen role could do, and having a real impact.

Lots of Hats

My undergraduate business degree was unique in that the school actively emphasized students understand the entire enterprise before picking a specialized area of study. So, for example, even though I majored in economic consulting, I took rigorous finance, accounting, operations/supply chain, and management courses, as well as learned why these functions are important. Every part of a business has a function, and each function is essential. In the truest sense, a business is an organism.

What this meant was, by the time I graduated, I had a specialized set of skills (my specific major) along with a broad-base understanding to complement it. It also meant I had a top-down look at an organization; I understood what the various pieces were and knew how to put them together, and why they all depended on each other. I expected this knowledge made me super valuable and that my job role would be flexible and fun to match, letting me work on my core competency while also exploring my other interests.

Ha. Ha ha.

Turns out, I had hilariously unrealistic ideas of what "real business" was like. Almost every business major I know finds themselves frustrated when they start out and realize their jobs have a very specific, narrow focus and that they're expected to specialize in this. For example, my friend studied accounting and landed in audit for a large multinational enterprise. And then she learned that her job would be reviewing federal withholding. For the next two years. Suffice to say it was not quite what she expected.

That said, this is also a situation unique to a massive, multinational enterprise, where scale requires intensely narrow specialization. (This is actually a fairly important economic principle -- as a company scales, it must specialize to a greater degree in order to maintain efficiency. There is, of course, an optimum level of specialization. Arguably, most financial services firms are way past this point, but that's an argument best left to people getting their PhD in Economics.) At smaller companies, a lack of pure specialization is actually preferable.

Why is this? Well, frankly, it has to do with distribution of resources. (All my econ and ops management readers can refer to "Cobb-Douglas" now.) At the most basic level: many small companies are running on equity and prayer. A fully specialized team early on is expensive and requires a lot of managerial overhead to ensure all members are functioning. It's way cheaper to pay three people to do 9 bodies' worth of work for like 6 months until you secure Series B or Series C funding, as needed. As a company grows, teams gain specialization -- you hire a dedicated finance guy, a sysadmin, sales people, etc. -- but especially as a team is being established, you'll get to work on tasks that are tangentially connected to what your primary role.

This is great if you're a specialised generalist: you'll get to do two roles' worth of work (if not many many more) while the company gets its sea legs. This is invaluable experience -- you might gain PM experience, for example, without having to permanently wear the PM title. Working for a small company means you'll get to take on job roles that explore your tangential skills. One former colleague of mine, for example, handled HTML bugfixing for special promo landing pages. In no way was that her primary role, but she had HTML and CSS experience and so she did it.

Look, the long and short of it is: the more work you can do, the more valuable you will be at your next company. Beyond that: it widens the array of work you can do in your career overall, and lets you build skills you might not necessarily have had a chance to improve otherwise. If you decide you want to run your own company later on, the myriad roles you hold can better inform what you'll need to do and know as your own enterprise gets off the ground.

Job Role Tetris

One of the things I enjoyed most about working for a smaller company was how much flexibility I had in my role. When I started, I was on a team that was "experimental" and had a lot of power over what I did each day and what strategy I wanted to take in order to achieve the team's goals. (In retrospect, that job role is better-defined, just in a different industry: nonprofit. It's funny; the more I work in tech, the more I realize that what that industry needs is a resource in abundance in nonprofit. I for one would love to see more overlap in tech and nonprofit. But that's a post for another time.) Eventually, when I switched to a different team, my role solidified into something more established, based on precedents.

But even then, I had the opportunity to take on projects that captured my interest and were genuine improvements in some way. One was a fun multi-site promotion that I really enjoyed planning and organizing. I worked on site features, promotions, and even wrote documentation. Even though, on paper, my job was "support specialist," my actual work spanned tasks and assignments that fell into my lap by a combination of luck, planning, and crazy random happenstance. I got to choose what I took on that was considered "outside" of my primary responsibilities, and in doing so got to learn (or, sometimes re-learn) what I could do well. I remembered how much I love mentoring and watching my charges become really good at their work.

Flexibility extended beyond just what I could take on -- several times, I saw colleagues switch to different functional teams. While I myself moved from promotions to community management, other colleagues moved into PR, project management, user experience design, and analytics. I've seen people from the sales pool move into marketing, and I've seen developers shift to management and recruitment as well. Smaller organizations are more able, in my opinion, to help you find a niche still in the company that you fit better. Many times, it's a case of, "We like you but this role isn't right for you [anymore]," and that kind of deep consideration is harder when there's 28,000 of you as opposed to twenty-eight bodies in the office.

High Visibility, High Impact

At some point in the last year, I realized: I want to have a real impact in my work, and I want recognition for it. More importantly, I want the work that I do and the projects I undertake to have real utility. While I loved managing discrete resources across multiple teams, promotions are inherently ephemeral, and the internet is all about short term memory. Although some of my projects have been of lasting impact (some of my work on support resources, for example) I always wanted to be doing things that left a bigger mark on the product.

That said, the fact that I got to have any projects at large-scale is something pretty amazing. Within two years of joining the company, I was planning and managing a large product-wide event? I became the de facto contact for all site promotion work? That's pretty impressive, and wouldn't have happened in a larger organization, where I'd likely still be working up from permit acquisition to initial client consultation or something equally mundane.

If you want to be doing Big Things, things that have a real impact on team efficiency or even the company at large, you're way less likely to be able to make a splash in a larger organization. The metaphor I use is: the company pool is a finite size. It's harder to splash when the pool gets more and more crowded.

Go Small or Go Home

If you're a business student (or really anyone with serious ambition) look hard at smaller companies. Your impact, potential, and growth at these kinds of organizations will be significantly larger than at a larger enterprise. You won't get as much mentorship and handholding, however, and you will be trading security for some intangible idea of what could happen. At the same time, higher risk almost always means higher rewards, assuming things work out.

Only you can decide how much risk you're willing to take on, but I will say this: if you're fresh out of university, and the company has maybe a year of runway left, take it. Security at that point is nice but not necessary. You're much more likely to gain a ridiculous amount of insight -- even if the company folds! -- in a year or less with them than you would at a MNE with infinite runway. That learning and knowledge will serve you well in your next job.

Take the plunge, it's worth the risk, and you will not only land on your feet but also be far stronger for the experience.

June 13, 2013

25 x 25: A Goal-Setting Bucket List

Recently, I saw my friend V tweet about how she was taking a ceramics class as part of her New York City bucket list.

It got me thinking. There's so much I want to do that I've been putting off for various reasons. Either it was too expensive or I've been too busy or a hundred other excuses. It's so easy to just say, "I want to do that, but I'm sure I'll do it later." And then later comes and goes and I still haven't done that thing.

About three months ago, I was informed that a major change in my life was going to occur on or around my twenty-fifth birthday. Suddenly, a lot of things clicked and changed for me. I have a deadline, however firm, for me to stop procrastinating and start doing many of the things I kept telling myself I would do later. Add to that the knowledge that many of my friends were starting to leave New York (fairly typical, really -- more on that in a minute) and I knew that I had to take action soon.

I've been in New York about two years, now. My move-to-NY anniversary is on 6 July, which is the day I landed at Newark International with a suitcase and an offer letter. So much has changed and yet surprisingly little has altered since there. I had dreams back then, fresh out of college, of things I wanted -- fully expected -- to accomplish by this time, and surprisingly few of those things ended up happening.

Furthermore, I've noticed that most people stay in New York for about five years, or they end up living here for forever. I don't see myself in the latter category, and I have Plans (with a capital p!) for where I want to be when I am 27/28. Knowing that a lot of changes are coming -- including many of my friends moving on or out -- made me realize that time is precious and limited. It struck me that living in New York is like being perpetually in senior year of university, in that first semester when the future feels tantalizingly near and yet hazy enough to feel indescribably distant.

There isn't a "later," not really. There's just right fucking now.

So! With a little under a year and a half to go until I turn twenty-five, I figured it was time I made a 25x25 (read: "twenty-five by twenty-five") list. It's one part bucket list, one part a list of dreams, and one part personal development.

The List

  1. Write my novel.
  2. Travel to Southeast Asia.
  3. Ride a horse.
  4. Go to every speakeasy in New York City.
  5. Run a half-marathon distance.
  6. Reach my goal weight.
  7. Dine at Per Se.
  8. Design a website.
  9. See a performance at Lincoln Center.
  10. 100 posts on Adventures of a Business Major.
  11. Read every book on my bookshelf.
  12. Visit all five boroughs.
  13. Learn how to play guitar.
  14. Buy myself a diamond.
  15. Take a cooking class.
  16. Pick up a ballroom dance – salsa, merengue, whatever.
  17. Have a picnic in Central Park on a nice day.
  18. Go dance in the rain.
  19. Knit a sweater.
  20. Take a bartending course.
  21. Go to Canada.
  22. Watch the first 50 Disney Animation Studios theatrical films.
  23. Get a non-ear piercing.
  24. Visit every NYPL location in Manhattan.
  25. Spend a weekend in The Hamptons.

1 Note, this list was edited slightly on 14 October 2013, and then again on 7 December 2013.

Why are some of those things on there?

Some of those list items are things I've been dreaming of doing for years, since my senior year of university. Some of those things are dreams I've made since I started working. Some of those are things I feel like I should do, just because they're good life experience types of things. Some of those things are fun things I want to do with my friends. Some are things I'm working towards right now and want to legitimize and "canonize" as real, honest-to-blog goals I have for myself personally. Some are things I know I won't be able to do if/when I leave New York.

And some of those things are about my own personal development. They look fun or even mundane on the surface, but they're about me facing my own fears and insecurities in small (or big!) ways.

A self-reflection exercise

It's surprising, because I was able to populate this list fairly quickly and with few real repeats. It made me really stop and think about what I felt like I was passing on doing for what are really pretty flimsy excuses. I kept telling myself there would be time later, or that I couldn't do everything.

And while those things aren't untrue, they were becoming excuses for me to avoid doing things that challenged or scared me. It was too easy for me to settle into my predictable, routine life. Work, going to the gym, and spending time with friends in casual settings felt like enough. And it was, for a while.

In May, my job and I parted ways. I left, lacking a clear plan on what I was going to do next and with a huge amount of fear -- of the future, of how bad a decision it was to leave without something certain in-hand, of the risk I was taking, of what the hell I was going to do. I took some time to reflect on what I'd learned and what I wanted in the next year, in the next five years.

A lot of that learning got channeled into my 25x25 list. I mentioned that some of the list items are personal development tasks; I realized I needed to work on those aspects about myself based on performance reviews, yes, but also based on what I wanted from my life, both personally and professionally.

Ultimately, I want to be a better me, and identifying my weaknesses and vulnerabilities could only happen when I myself felt weakened and vulnerable. Leaving my job suddenly, taking a huge leap of faith, putting myself in a tough situation helped me learn more about myself and what I actually want.

While I don't necessarily encourage people to make the same choices I did, I do think that self-reflection (and the accompanying self-awareness) is indescribably valuable.

Making your own list

Do it after a year in the workforce.

You should absolutely make your own 25x25 list (or 27x27, or 30x30, whatever) but wait until you're settled into your life first. The very first year out of school was a huge adjustment for me and for many other people I've spoken with. It's a challenging time, one where lots of things are changing, including yourself! I know I grew a lot (metaphorically) in that first year I lived in the New York area. It's not just paying bills and negotiating roommate issues; it's learning the ropes of a new job, navigating office politics, and finding out who you are at work.

Learning those things takes time, so give yourself that opportunity before you self-reflect. In this time, consider journaling or writing regular long emails to a trusted person -- even if those emails are simply sent to yourself. I kept a personal journal of everything that happened in that first year; I'm so glad I did. In reading those entries, I see challenges great and small that I faced, and I am now better able to offer advice and perspective to friends who are just now entering the workforce.

Ask yourself certain key questions.

Any recruiter or support professional can you that asking the right questions is significantly more valuable than simply asking questions willy-nilly. For an exercise like this, start with the bigger pieces and drill down until you have manageable pieces that you can find concrete steps to accomplish.

  • How do I see myself?
  • How do I want to be seen?
  • How do I become that person?
  • Why do I want to be that person?
  • What do I need to do in order to have those skills/qualities?
  • How do I start doing those things?
  • When will I know I've finished?
  • What time frame am I looking at to accomplish these things?
  • Is there a person that I'm trying to emulate? Can I ask that person for advice?
  • What have I been putting off doing?
  • Why have I been postponing doing those things?
  • What would need to happen for me to stop postponing?
  • What prompted me setting that goal for myself?
  • Do I still want to do that, really?

Asking yourself questions like these can help you identify what you really want. If the last few years have taught me nothing else, I've learned this much: you have to know what you want out of your life. If you don't, you're liable to stagnate and stop growing.

Make your list blind.

This might sound counterintuitive, given that I just told you to ask yourself deep questions that you have to break apart into finer and finer pieces, but making your list blind (that is, with no notes or echoes of conversations in your immediate environment) is key to understanding what's important to you. For one, the items that top your list will reflect whatever internal prioritization you've already done. In addition, you'll identify whatever goals you've been putting off that you're still passionate about.

Type up your list until you can't think of anything else, then consult your notes and fill in anything you've missed. Don't be afraid to make a too-long list at first; cutting is always easier than padding.

In my list above, I've been wanting to write my novel for a long time. I have lots of research notes, reference materials, resources, and character sheets from the last several times I tried to pull myself together enough to simply write it. Obviously, I failed in all previous attempts. I'm determined to make the next one count.

I also love to travel but haven't done so as much as I wish I would. Part of it is the sheer expense -- New York is an expensive city, and careful saving only works when unexpected expenditures don't randomly crop up, as they have been for me the last few months. I also told myself that I needed a traveling companion and I didn't really have one in the U.S. whose schedule matched up with mine. Finally, my job was intense; I felt my responsibilities were too great for me to simply take an extended leave to travel. Obviously, my situation changed, and I realized I needed to make this a priority for myself. I let my work define me more than I anticipated, certainly more than I realized I was doing until I left. I found friends in other parts of the country and the world who want to do these things with me. I realized my excuses were just that: excuses.

Ask friends to do the list with you.

Some of the things on your list you'll want to do with friends, absolutely. (For example, in my list, some of those Disney movies are going to be watched with a group of friends for sure!) In fact, some items may even necessitate a group of friends to embark with you.

However, your friends likely have goals and dreams they've also been putting off. Encourage them to make their own lists, and share if you both feel comfortable doing so. Hold each other accountable to your goals, and support each other through tough spots and difficult challenges. Having a partner can help you stay motivated and make mountains into molehills.

Plus, you need someone to hold the camera!

Document your experiences.

Whether it's journaling, scrapbooking, taking photos for a Facebook album, or even simply leaving calendar notes on your phone, take the time to track what you've done. Having a record you can look back on, something you jog your memory when you tell stories, will prove invaluable. It takes a lot of time up front, but it pays off in spades down the road.

What happens after the list is completed?

Honestly, I don't know. But as soon as I do, I'm sure I'll make an entry about it!

June 11, 2013

It's the Little Things You Do

I've been thinking lately about how, more than the big moments, I have a tendency to remember and treasure small moments.

Moments like: once, at lunch, I was trying to remember my New England geography (and failing miserably) and asked my coworker, "What's halfway between New York and DC? Connecticut?" And her expression of disbelief and despair was perfect.

Moments like: one afternoon I watched the company's Ops guy stave off a headache while in hour 2 of what promised to be a continuing, increasingly frustrating call. Knowing he loved dogs, I pulled up the most adorable photograph of a golden retriever pup I could find and made it fullscreen on my laptop. Quietly, I carried my computer over to him, made a shhh gesture, and opened the cover. The size of that smile made my day.

Moments like: early on in my tenure with one of my positions, one of my teammates saw his project effectively restructured without his consent, and was (understandably) upset about that. Knowing his love of chocolate, I popped out of the office during the lunch hour and swung past my favorite chocolatier and picked up an assortment of sweets for him, ganaches and pralines and caramels, in milk and dark. I remember handing him the bag before our daily roundup, and I recall how surprised and touched he was by it. All eight of us sat at our big table, feet propped up on our little desk cabinets, and one of my colleagues commented on how we were kind of a family. At that time, when that team had felt so deeply isolated from every other functional team in the enterprise, that meant a lot.

It's hard to pinpoint why these specific moments have stayed with me through time. It's not like they were particularly game-changing in the course of my work. And there's so many more moments that I didn't mention -- playing catch in the old office, being compared to a small boat by a colleague (in a flattering way, to be clear), trying on sample hats, karaoke nights at this horrible dive in Chinatown, dancing at holiday parties, terrible jokes while playing Apples to Apples, sinking the clutch shot in a game of beer pong, the list goes on -- that are equally mundane or minute in the course of a life. And yet, those are the moments that meant the most to me. Just like I always enjoyed walking to the train with my colleagues. Not for the conversations, but simply because it was.

I guess the biggest thing these have in common is how they instilled a sense of camaraderie in me with the people I worked with. I came to enjoy spending time with these people -- we were, after all, specifically chosen to be part of a really awesome enterprise with a mission we all believed in. In learning about and bonding with my colleagues, I felt more loyal to the enterprise and I worked harder and better for the company. While I went along with the teambuilding activities that were occasionally structured for us, I don't remember those as clearly as I do having a drink with an English colleague. At one point, he turned to me and out of the blue said, "You know what? You're pretty awesome." That single line, more than anything.....it meant a lot.

I know in the U.S. it's generally considered a major faux pas to assume that your colleagues are anything more than simply transient types who work with you and nothing more. But for a smaller organization, that kind of attitude isn't really possible. If you love your work, you're going to be working with and around these people a lot. A lot. You have to trust them, and in the course of doing that, you're going to get to know them.

Maybe I'm an odd duck, but: in coming to trust my colleagues, those small moments, the tiny gestures, the downtime and the quiet in-between time, the blink-and-you'll-miss-it expressions of consideration, they meant the most to me. Startup life means work is more than just clock in, clock out, collect a cheque; the company is a community, especially when the team is still small. When each person demonstrates the best of their humanity, the company (just as with any community) is stronger for it.

June 6, 2013

Summer in the City: Avoiding Isolation

Congratulations to all the new graduates of the class of 2013! Your prospects upon graduation are way way better than mine were even two years ago. I am sure lots of you (especially business majors) graduated with an offer in-hand. You're going to be moving in a few short weeks to New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Raleigh, Washington D.C., Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Las Vegas, Cincinnati, wherever, to start your actual adulthood.

That's awesome! You should be excited and optimistic and ready to have a whole new set of adventures and good times. But one of the most important things that people forget to tell you is how lonely it is to move to a completely new place, especially if you've been comfortably surrounded by longtime friends up until this point. Cities are places where suddenly the population density skyrockets, yes, but they can also leave you isolated. It's hard to break into groups, and just lingering on the edge of a bar can be uncomfortable.

Frankly: most people don't find themselves in a situation where they have to start from scratch for friends. And chances are you won't have to, either, not really. But in case you do have to start from square one, here's some tips on how to minimize that loneliness.

1. Facebook

Good old Facebook. (It's sad that I can say that, frankly, but Facebook turns 10 in a couple of years, holy smokes!) While Facebook is nothing if not the realm of the Fair Weather Friend, it's also a great place to start looking for people you already know who are or will be in your new area.

Facebook's Groups function is pretty awesome for this. You can use it to filter out people by where they've indicated they're located. From there, Facebook will show you anyone who's within that metro area. If you're moving to, say, Peoria, IL, and can't think of anyone in the area, it's possible Facebook can.

Clicking "MORE" or "Create Group" (as circled in red above) will take you to the groups page, where you can filter your friends by location, interests, etc. It's actually a pretty handy tool....assuming the entire site doesn't get redesigned in a week!

Reach out to friends, plan a lunch or catch-up session over coffee (or other adult beverage) and stay positive.

2. University Alumni Association

This was a huge mistake I made, one I want other to learn from. The minute you're in a new area, and if you didn't hate your university at all, if in fact you liked most of the people you encountered while in higher education, seek out your alumni association. Aside from hosting cool events and fun networking things, they'll also put you in contact with people who are in your area that would be happy to add you to their fold.

These will often also be people who've been living in your new hometown for at least a year. They'll be able to offer you everything from bar and restaurant suggestions to apartment advice, names of doctors and dentists and beauticians, and everything in between. It's always helpful to have someone who knows the city push you in a direction when you first start exploring; an alumni network can connect you with that person.

I've made some awesome connections through my alumni network, people whose help and advice I could have used a year ago. Tap into yours, I'm certain you'll be surprised by what -- and who! -- you find.

3. Meetup.com

Meetup is a pretty simple premise: find something you like and meet other people who like that, too. And it's awesome.

Meetup lets you do basically what university did for you organically: meet people who like stuff you like based on things you do. Hang out with people, do a fun thing, become better friends with them. Like I said, it's a fairly simple concept that can be amazingly powerful when you're feeling overwhelmed and alone in a new place. When you sign up, you pick a bunch of your interests and Meetup will generate a list of potential meetup groups that might interest you. You can read through group descriptions and cycle through categories and find a group to match your interests. Whether it's Latin@s Who Knit or BASE Jumpers Anonymous, there's a broad variety of meetup groups out there. Plus, Meetup sends you occasional reminders and group suggestions based on your selected interests.

This rec is a bit disingenuous on my part -- I've actually never used Meetup myself, in part because I learned about it somewhat late in the game. That said, I've known people who swore by Meetup, who loved using it to find new places to explore and friends to get to know. Even if you don't find your new bestie through Meetup, you'll at least walk away with some new experiences and connections.

4. Intramural Sports

Sometimes this is known as a rec league, but picking up a sport through some kind of intramural organization (rec center, city-sponsored, or otherwise) can be a great way to meet new people and gain close friends pretty quickly. Even if you're not that athletic, there are beginner leagues and low-contact sports to play. I've seen flag football, frisbee golf, basketball, softball, and even run clubs. A lot of teams/groups tend to go out for a social event after games, effectively making lots of these teams "beer leagues" for participants.

In my first year with my last job, the company actually sponsored a bunch of us to play in a soccer league. While we were all woefully outclassed by the other teams, it was actually a lot of fun. I came to really trust and know my colleagues in a way I wouldn't have if I hadn't played on the team. We won maybe once, but I look back on that time with a certain sort of sweaty fondness.

Listen: team sports build camaraderie a lot faster than anything else. This is why companies make teams go on retreats to build interpersonal skills and do silly things like trust falls. Yes, that stuff is mundane and vaguely useless and mostly hokey, but the core idea is sound: working towards a singular goal in tandem is the fastest way to create community in discrete individuals. It's actually been studied extensively; as human beings, we respond extraordinarily well to being given a goal, some rules, and a group of people with varying skills whose resources we have to leverage to win. It's a guaranteed endorphin rush, and it inspires in us positive feelings associated with our comrades -- even when we lose.

So, consider joining a team of some sort. Even if it's pickup basketball at the rec center, or a full-on, bracket-tournament league with serious monetary buy-in, it's worth exploring or at least trying for a season. If you hate it, stop doing it. But you might find that you really enjoy field hockey, or maybe that Ultimate is the greatest thing in your life since the iPhone. Or maybe, even, that the people you're around make it worth staying.

(For the more artistically inclined, regional choirs and audition-only groups, community theater, cooking classes, and getting your bartending license all reflect the same principles as sports and fall into this same category. I suggest these more cautiously, though -- a sub-par director or a single diva in the group can totally bring down this experience. Regardless, exploring your local rec centers and community centers is an easy way to get to know your new home better -- especially if you're trapped in the suburbs.)

5. Newsletters and Mailing Lists

Ok, this one sounds super lame I know, but bear with me. I signed up for Guest of a Guest and a few other, more "underground" newsletters that list activities and goings-on in New York. It's pretty awesome -- I've seen some cool theater events and stuff, and I've attended some really fun exhibits and learned a lot. I even got to see Vera Wang give a talk! It's amazing how much is going on in New York at any given time, and it can be a little overwhelming if you don't know where to even begin looking.

I remember finding newsletters and mailing lists just like these even when I was living in Bloomington, IN. Admittedly, a university campus will have a lot going on in and around it, but my point stands: if a smaller town like Bloomington can make and sustain a mailing list, I'm certain other cities of varying size have similar things going on. Do a little Google-searching and find one, or scour public Facebook events in your area and check the comments for mentions of MLs.

Just bear in mind...

One of the toughest things I had to adjust to was the simple fact that people don't see each other as frequently in New York. Seeing someone once a month is fairly frequent here. Seeing someone twice a month means they're clearly your bestie! Get comfortable with the fact that seeing people daily is no longer a normal occurrence, unless you work with them or you're dating them. (And even that latter one isn't a guarantee.)

I think a lot of us have the expectation that our lives will resemble the television programs we loved when we were younger. Lord knows I wanted a life like the characters on Friends (and, later, Gossip Girl and How I Met Your Mother) and I was severely disappointed when my experiences didn't reflect that life.

A couple years later, I have a life that I'm thankful for. I learned to enjoy my own company more, and I carved out spaces for myself here. Do I wish more of my closest friends lived nearby? Yes, of course I do. But regular phone calls, long email threads, and working to build relationships with people located physically nearby have balanced that out.

Every relationship is hard work, especially close friendships. Do your best to recognize that the norms change when you enter "real adulthood," and that it will take you six months to a year before you have the same kind of support system you had when you graduated college. It's a process and a learning experience, but you'll come out of it with some great stories and (hopefully) people you can count on for life.

June 4, 2013

Just to be Clear

I didn't realize this would be necessary, but my naivete caught up with me fairly recently.

This is a disclaimer for this blog.

This blog is meant to be a space where I share my experiences over the last few years (and into the future) navigating through my adulthood and my professional career. As a business major working in tech, I've learned a lot about the disconnect between my education and my practical experience, and I want to share that with others, especially new graduates and young women as they enter the workforce.

However, this also means that I'm drawing from my experiences, which include the work I've done at my former employers. It was recently brought to my attention that sharing certain things could constitute breach of my employment contract(s) with these organizations. As such, I need to leave a disclaimer.

The opinions expressed in this blog are my own and do not reflect my employers' beliefs (past, present, or future) in any way. This blog is not intended to be critical or derogatory in any way to any of my employers, past or present or future.

I'm going to do my best to keep the focus on what I've learned, and less on the situations that led to that learning. I will describe situations in vague and/or general terms. I will also do my best to anonymize anecdotes I share, or at least make clear why the anecdote connects to my larger point. Or if it does at all; sometimes I just want to share an amusing story about working with amazing people. Many anecdotes will be gathered from speaking with friends and connections who are located all over the country.

Some posts will address issues specific to women in the workplace. These are generalized observations not intended to reflect on my employers (past, present or future) in any way. This advice will be based on my observations and anecdotal evidence from friends in various industries.

Posts that are identified as problematic will be removed upon notice and re-posted with edits, if possible. To reach me directly, please @-reply me on Twitter or leave comments on the entry.

I reserve the right to update and/or change this disclaimer in any way and at any time.