When I Realized Choosing a College Major isn’t a Life Sentence

I had an a-ha moment today. In a training meeting on email marketing at my new job, I interrupted webinar-man to thank him for his suggestions on how to learn basic HTML, letting him know I wouldn’t need to, because I already know basic HTML. I was then transported immediately back to high school, when advisers encourage you to choose elective classes based on what you *think* you might want to do for a career. You know, when they imply to a 14 year-old that their choice about whether to take Computer Skills or watch CSI in Forensics all year will make or break what they end up majoring in and ultimately doing with their life.

When I approached that life-determining dilemma (and chose Forensics), I thought, “my interests are all so different. How am I supposed to know which classes to take? If I choose the wrong one, I’ll be behind, never have a job,” teenage existential crisis, etc. And the career aptitude tests we took seemed to confirm the uselessness of my split interests. My 14 year-old self was apparently equally prepared to be a web designer, pathologist (I really liked the movie Outbreak), Spanish translator, or CIA agent. Thanks for narrowing it down.

I proceeded toward college with vast forensic expertise (jk) while realizing that I enjoyed Spanish, English and Government more than other classes, and that I wanted to “change the world through intercultural cooperation.” I wanted to know how people connected with each other. I visited Italy for 6 days and was done with the U.S. for good. But the part of me that stayed up late with my sister throughout middle school designing websites and teaching ourselves Photoshop was worried – what kind of job will I ever get with those interests? Shouldn’t I be looking into marketing instead? How will I ever make money?

That joy that comes when you do something you love. That small voice that tells you, “I like this. Do this again. You are good at it. Keep going.” That is the juicy stuff that lubricates our lives and helps us feel less alone in the world.”

-Amy Poehler, Yes Please

Then choosing an academic track in college only solidified my confusion and impending career anxiety. My university put me on a political science trajectory, that I quickly abandoned after a semester of dry political theory (a rash choice that my current D.C.-residing self considers foolish). My interest in international cooperation budding, I chose to pursue sociology instead while taking Italian as a prerequisite to a double major in international relations. Every semester when I talked to friends who had chosen either business or communications tracks, and were taking classes on HTML and graphic design, I felt pangs of regret. These people were learning skills you needed for real JOBS! And there I was discussing pasta vocabulary and taking notes on the sexism inherent in football for Sociology of Sports.

I think we should stop asking people in their twenties what they “want to do” and start asking them what they don’t want to do. Instead of asking students to “declare their major” we should ask students to “list what they will do anything to avoid.” It just makes a lot more sense.

– Amy Poehler, Yes Please

Well, fast forward to life after college. I followed through with the prospect-less sociology major and gave up the international relations degree in favor of Italian Studies and a year eating pasta abroad. I waded through the post-graduation I’m-not-qualified-for-any-jobs-no-one-uses-Italian-why-did-I-do-that crisis that ensued. Took a risk on an unpaid internship to move to D.C., and am now beginning my second real job, in communications on international security issues.

And the a-ha moment came today because I realized: I’m doing it. I’m doing everything the career test told me! (okay, excluding the CIA) I’m getting paid to set up websites and design graphics and study how people communicate and what governs international cooperation and even how diseases spread (my office works on nuclear and biological threats to global security). 14 year-old me would never have guessed I’d be here! Even college graduate me couldn’t have visualized a job that encompasses my diverse interests so perfectly.

So the moral of the story I’d tell 14 year-old me is: keep cultivating all your interests, no matter how unrelated they seem. Sociology is not career-suicide. There ARE people in the U.S. who will speak Italian to you. Jobs you will enjoy and are totally qualified for are out there and you will find them, even if you can’t imagine them right now.


If you need a good laugh, some life motivation and wisdom, and enjoyed the Amy Poehler quotations in this post, I highly recommend her book, “Yes Please.”

Savory, Veggie Waffles: Meet the Startup Changing the Breakfast Game

SWAP Post Photo

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Meeting SWAP founder Rebecca Peress at Union Kitchen!

After mutual Instagram-stalking seemingly brought us together by fate, I recently had the pleasure of meeting Rebecca Peress from SWAP, a D.C. startup that makes AMAZING savory waffles, called swapples.

swapples swap the junk out of frozen waffles (like chemicals and articifial coloring) for vegetables, flavorful spices, and heart healthy oils. They come in flavors like sun-dried tomato (SO GOOD), spicy spinach, everything bagel, and sweet potato curry, and are vegan, gluten free, and paleo-friendly – but they don’t sacrifice taste.

I don’t have these dietary restrictions, but I’m a savory breakfast food-lover, so these waffles are right up my alley. Importantly for my pre-work breakfast creations, they’re as easy to prepare as Eggo waffles, but so much better for you.

Read my interview with Rebecca to learn how the idea of these breakfast game-changers came to be:

The market for paleo-friendly, vegan, veggie-based foods has exploded over the last few years. How does SWAP fit into that trend, and how does it stand out?

Quite frankly, the large majority of people are just sick and tired of eating crap. We now care where our food is coming from. We want to know it contributes to our health, prolongs our lives, improves our function and energy. SWAP fits into this trend because we’re taking what were once considered junk foods and ”swapping” the ingredients with little to no nutritional value for vegetables, giving you something that actually does good for your body.  Veggies in, junk out!

What inspired you to create Swapples?

An affinity for cooking, a need for convenience, a love for yuca (one of the main ingredients in swapples that replaces grain), and a long history of autoimmune disorders that required I remove all processed foods and sugars from my diet. The waffle part… that’s the fun in it. It’s probably because I was a mini Eggo addict as a youngin’.

What inspired you to start your own business?

That’s easy: I wanted to do what I love. When you get to work hard at something that you both enjoy and puts a smile on people’s faces…. it’s the most rewarding work there is.

Do you have plans to make any foods beyond waffles?

MANY. We’ve got quite the list of veggie-loaded products in the pipeline for the future – but hush hush for now 😉

What’s next for swapples? How can people find them?

swapples are growing fast throughout the DMV region, and will be invading dozens of more stores over the next few months (store locator can be found on our site). We’re also (drumroll please) starting online sales for large orders towards the end of this month/the beginning of May.


Note (2/18/2017): swapples are no longer available online. Click here for a list of store locations!

Liebster Award: Reflections on Writing & Blogs I Recommend

LiebsterAward

The Liebster award highlights newer, fledgling blogs, connects writers who might otherwise not have found each other among blogging’s vast community, and provides a forum for writers to reflect on their purposes for blogging and what they hope to achieve by it.

I am delighted that my college friend Aryn Versteegh thought to nominate me for this award, and I’m so grateful that she gave me this opportunity to reflect on why I started this blog in the first place. Here are the questions she has asked me to answer. The blogs I’m nominating are below!

What inspired you to start your blog?

I started this blog two years ago so I could have a place to vent my thoughts about labor conditions leading up to the 2014 World Cup. About to graduate, I was a full on Social Justice Warrior. I drafted a long, fiery paragraph of analysis to post on Facebook with a BBC article about laborers dying while building soccer stadiums before I realized that Facebook is not the place to try to change people’s minds about policy issues. I decided to write an essay about the issue instead, and this blog was born.

What’s been the biggest challenge for you blogging or writing?

Keeping it short. If I’m taking the time to write about something, whether it’s the refugee crisis, life as a young professional, or food, it’s because I have a lot to say. I know that people don’t need to read 5,000 words of my thoughts about these topics, but I’m so passionate, I can’t help myself. A lot of trimming happens before I post anything, but I know my writing is still verbose.

Where do you find inspiration for writing?

Like I said above, if I’m writing about a topic for the world to see, it’s because I really care about it. I started by writing about World Cup labor problems, and have kept a focus on international affairs and the work of the United Nations. But I have also branched out into lifestyle topics such as the effects of the perceived importance of selfies and social media on travel, or my lessons learned from job hunting after college. I’m even writing about and photographing food now! I typically use this blog to articulate thoughts that have begun to brew in my mind for some time, so it has evolved into a writing portfolio on many topics that I’m passionate about.

How involved in the blogging/writing community are you?

I try to follow other blogs that write about similar topics.

What inspired your blog’s theme?

I read that I should have a professional writing portfolio for prospective employers to see when they creep on me.

How has blogging changed your perspective on everyday life?

It has reminded me that I can reach people with my writing if I’m really worked up about a current event or an aspect of adult life I’m struggling with. That’s empowering.

How do you stay organized to balance blogging and real life obligations?

What happens is – I get fired up about a topic, write a post, become very active on my blog for a couple days – and then real life gets busy and I forget to write anything for months.

How do you power through writer’s block?

I only write when I have a lot to say!

What are some of your favorite Instagram accounts you follow?

Current favorites that I follow from my poached eggs/breakfast food Instagram account, Meags_Eggs:

  • Donut.carrot.all – Constant food porn. Of all types. Pasta, ice cream, eggs. This account is like my stomach’s fantasy.
  • Districtbakingco – This woman makes the cutest designer cookies I’ve ever seen. They were deemed “the prettiest desserts in DC” by the Washington Post.
  • Budgetbytes – Pretty food pictures of easy meals. I love that the point of her page is to share tips for making good food for one person in an affordable way.
  • Historyinhighheels – This girl is super stylish and somehow always frolicking in Italy. I follow because I want to live her life.
  • Corgistagram – Because no Instagram feed is complete without pictures and slo-mo videos of adorable Corgis’ butts.

Books: What are you currently reading or looking to start reading?

I’m way behind on my reading list. But the last good book I loved was The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza.

What’s the one place in the world you would travel to if you were to go by yourself?

I want to take a train trip all over Canada sometime.

Now to pass this Leibster Award along!

Rules for the Liebster Award:

  1. Thank the blog that nominated you on a post in your blog.
  2. Answer the questions asked by the blog that nominated you.
  3. Nominate 4-10 other new bloggers.
  4. Create 10 new questions for the nominees to answer.
  5. Notify all nominees via social media
  6. Post the award as a widget on your blog

I nominate:

  • Chance Wilcox – Chance Encounters – Chance is a Peace Corps volunteer working in Paraguay, and also one of my best friends from college. He’s great at capturing what life is like in the “PC.”
  • Taylor Paquette – A Blog by Taylor Paquette – My first boss in DC, and now my roommate. Taylor’s blog has great articles and lifestyle tips.
  • Chanse Pierson – Leave it to Chanse – Chanse and I met at leadership camp in high school and went to college together. He just started a new sports blog.
  • Molly Moore – A Royal Experience – Molly is another friend from college, whose blog chronicles her interesting reflections on life in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Kansas City.

Questions for my nominees:

  1. What made you start a blog?
  2. What motivates you to continue writing for your blog?
  3. What is the hardest part about writing?
  4. What benefits do you think have come from writing for your blog?
  5. What’s your favorite post you’ve written so far? Why?
  6. How do you engage with other bloggers or writers (if at all)?
  7. Who do you see as the audience for your blog?
  8. What is one goal you have for your blog or your writing?
  9. What’s the last good movie you saw? Why did you like it?
  10. Who are your three favorite people you follow on Twitter? (or another medium if you don’t use Twitter)

2015 Dating, Money and Career Lessons Learned

2015 Lessons

One year ago, I started my first real job in a city 2,768 miles away from my home. Since then, I have attempted to navigate the ups and downs of making new friends, dating,  advancing my career, and living on a budget. Needless to say, many hard lessons were learned.  Here’s what I’m taking away from entering the workforce in 2015:

  • Making friends in a new city is daunting. You might know a few fellow alumni from your college, but nobody knows you like your best friends at home do. How are you supposed to find new ones from scratch? Even if you do find a potential new friend, you have to go on friend dates to see if you’re right for each other. I can barely muster the energy to do that with a guy! It’s so much less effort to go home after work to Netflix and a bag of cheddar and sour cream Ruffles than it is to haul across town for drinks with that girl you met once at a networking event.
  • It’s also much harder to make plans with friends outside of college in general. Walking across the street to your friend’s house for Bachelor night is no longer feasible. Now we have to schedule each other in for happy hours that probably will require a walk to the metro or bus that likely won’t come on time — and the same commute to get home later that night. Socializing is such an ordeal now. But at least that means that when you choose to make the effort, you probably have found friends you really care about. Which I have now! I’ve met some really great friends in D.C. over the last year – through blind girl dates set up by a college friend, through high school friends, and through work. My point is that squad-building requires increased effort now.
  • Dating after college is a whole new game to which I’m not sure I am yet accustomed. In D.C., it’s the norm to search for your significant other (or at least date around) via dating apps. Tinder, Hinge, Coffee Meets Bagel, Bumble, OkCupid, Grindr, Grouper (I sound like Stefon listing off nightclubs on SNL). It takes research reminiscent of my sociology class assignments to figure out how they all work. Gone are the days of simply getting drunk and finding someone at insert-your-beloved-college-bar’s-name-here. The love life scene is now like interviewing for a job, because dates in D.C. so closely resemble a resume evaluation. It’s not hard to meet guys who work at the White House or who have frolicked in Africa for years at a time, but the novelty wears off fast because so many of them flaunt their occupation as if they’re god’s gift to politics. (A young white male who’s been told his whole life he’ll be elected to office someday? The world really needs more of those!) And this is why I usually fantasize about a reason to bail before he can ask the most common phrase in Washington, “What do YOU do?” That’s why I’m still single, mom. Sorry.
  • Living by a budget is essential. It turns out you can’t just splurge on happy hours and refill your metro card without thinking about it, or you won’t have any money left to buy groceries (shocker). Staying conscientious about spending takes some getting used to. Money leaving the bank has to be accounted for, not spontaneously blown like extra financial aid in college (if you were totally on top of your finances as a college student – I salute you). Extra expenses come up all the time, like the jacked up contact lenses bill I didn’t save for, or the weekend trip I booked 2 days in advance. If you don’t plan for these costs with a monthly budget, you might end up eating Top Ramen for a week in order to compensate… Lesson learned.
  • Which brings me to the monthly joy of making student loan payments. I tend to imagine how much cooler my life would be if that percentage of my money didn’t fly away to the government every pay day. Did I know what losing that income would be like when I accepted thousands of dollars in loans as a high school senior? Not exactly. It’s hard not to resent that choice now. But — I had the chance to obtain a Bachelor’s degree and use my university experience to hustle my way into a job in Washington, D.C. all of which I couldn’t have done without loan money. So my goal for 2016 is to put resentment aside and adopt some gratitude for the opportunity to go to college at all.
  • When you’re a junior or entry level staff member, your job entails so much more than the job description says. Sometimes this is overwhelming, but it’s good for your career. I wasn’t hired to manage social media for my organization or to plan events, but those are now responsibilities I can say I’ve taken on in addition to my other duties. And now I know that I want my career to include managing communications! It can be frustrating when you’re expected to do more than your job officially entails, especially if you’re not receiving any sort of extra compensation. But I’ve learned that owning extra responsibilities is the best way to learn new skills, and to build your case for why you’re deserving of a promotion or raise.
  • It’s easy to get impatient about your career. I get down on myself for not working at a United Nations agency yet or having the exact job title I want. That is the stereotypical millennial in me that wants my dream career to start right now. It’s especially hard to avoid that mindset in D.C., where you interact with people who work at your dream office on a daily basis. I’ve attempted to assuage my growing impatience by using my free time to build my resume with volunteer activities related to what I eventually want to do for a living. I tell myself that if I work hard, I’ll be on track for that fantasy career soon enough. We don’t have to put so much pressure on ourselves to have a glistening LinkedIn page this early in our careers.

Do you have anything to add? Has your entry into the workforce or move to a new city affected you in different ways? Let me know about your 2015 lessons here or in the comments below.

Why Don’t I Feel Like a Real Adult Yet?

I pay bills. I relate to my coworkers by commiserating about the weather. I bemoan meal prep and pay rent and have a “commute.” So why don’t I think of myself as a real adult?

I can vote in elections. I can (sometimes) not get ID’d at a bar (Okay, I ALWAYS get ID’d). I have a job. I spend my own money on garbage bags and toilet cleaning supplies. So why do I feel more like a freshman in this world than a grown-up?

What is a Real Adult-FB size

“It’s because you’re a millennial! You don’t know how to do anything for yourself!” – The Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers will yell.

Millennials are constantly jostled back and forth in the media between arguments that we’re “overly-confident and entitled” and claims that we have no “soft skills.” We are depicted as social media gurus adept at making ourselves look cooler than we are, when in reality we have achieved nothing of value. But is that true? Are we really as incompetent as articles about our generation suggest? And is it fair to berate a younger generation for its lack of experience?

I don’t have an answer yet. I think the competencies my friends and I possess are different than the competencies we’ve grown up perceiving as true adulthood – making us feel like we don’t measure up.

But what is ‘true adulthood’ supposed to look like anyway? Personally, I imagine someone with authority – older than me, rarely unsure about how to handle scenarios like using an ironing board or signing a lease. Someone with furniture that matches and a refrigerator with an ice machine. Someone who is an expert at their job. I envision a person that exudes stability and world know-how. This sounds like a sit-com character.

But seriously, how do anxiety-ridden 20-somethings like me contrast with the ideal adult above? For one thing, I don’t know how to use an ironing board. I hang clothes in the steamy bathroom during a shower and hope for the best. I also still shop at Forever 21 which probably heavily weights me in the non-adult camp. I don’t have furniture that matches. I have whatever furniture was cheap or free. I had to Google “things to know when signing a lease” because I felt naive (and DC real estate hunting is scary). I lack expertise and know-how on many world topics. Am I a fake adult?

I typically end my posts with recommendations and answers for others, but this time I’m asking you – what is a Real Adult? Why don’t I feel like one? Will I ever?

Please share your thoughts with me in the comments below or here – Follow-up post with your answers to come!

How Blogging Got Me a Trip to New York

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I’ve always felt a little uneasy about the self-promotion required to maintain a blog: Posting links on social media asking my friends to read my work, assuming I have anything interesting enough to say to hold it up on the internet, let alone expecting people to like it. But this month, I learned what doors blogging can open. Not the kind of doors where advertisers pay you to talk about a product on your blog. My passionate rants about various social issues lent me to a slightly nerdier purpose – I was selected to attend a Social Good Summit as a United Nations Association Blogger Fellow in New York next weekend.

The Summit is a two-day conference examining the impact of technology and new media on social good initiatives around the world. The summit’s theme, #2030NOW, asks, “What type of world do I want to live in by the year 2030?” In addition to the event I’m attending in New York City, people “convene around the world to take part in the global discussion about how communities are using the digital tools of today to build a brighter future.”

Event Cover Photo

The timing of the Social Good Summit is especially important this year, as it will coincide with the 70th meeting of the United Nations General Assembly at its headquarters in New York, and the adoption of the United Nations’ new “Global Goals,” that replace its expiring “Millennium Development Goals.” (read more on these below).

My role at the Summit will be to amplify the message of thought-leaders, global experts, and “social good” advocates who will discuss issues ranging from resettlement of refugees, to using sports for social good, to using social media as a first-responder in cases of emergencies (like many of us experienced when Facebook notified us that our friends near the recent earthquake in Chile were okay).
Agenda_smallSpeakers_SmallI will share the discussions and ideas I hear throughout the weekend on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and this blog, and encourage you to follow the conversation using the hashtags #2030Now and #SocialGood.

It will be quite the honor to attend this event. If I hadn’t started this blog after graduating college more than a year ago, I wouldn’t have had any material with which to apply for such an exciting blogging opportunity in the career field I love and want to work in someday. Now, instead of grimacing at what I thought was self-promotion, I am so happy that I have used this medium to keep my writing skills sharp about issues that I truly care about. A seemingly-pointless blog has turned into my first networking opportunity with real UN leaders (that I’m fan-girling about hardcore). Moral of my story – While you might not work in your dream job or ideal career yet – continuing to cultivate your interests in your spare time can open big doors in the future.


To learn more about the #SocialGoodSummit and what I’ll be doing there, click here. To learn more about the Global Goals the UN will adopt this week on September 25th, read below.

The Goals

Millennium Development Goals Background:

In 2000, countries came together to put in place the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), that the world would use as a plan for ending extreme poverty. They focused on eradicating extreme hunger, and poverty; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment; reducing the under-five child mortality rate; reducing the maternal mortality rate; combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; and developing a global partnership for development.

Sustainable Development Goals or “Global Goals” Background:

As the MDG’s expire in 2015, the new global goals the UN will adopt this week are built on their successful framework, but represent a better understanding of the connections between poverty, governance, health, gender, climate, and education.

The postgrad freakout and awkward coffee-date networking: My job-hunting lessons learned

Twelve months ago, one month after graduating from college, with an Italian Studies degree and a Sociology minor, I was in the thick of the freakout. The everyone-I-know-already-has-a-job-I-still-don’t-know-WTF-I’m-doing-with-my-life-why-did-I-major-in-Italian-freakout. Friends who majored in accounting happily posting their life-plans all over Facebook. Family members not-so-subtly asking if you have a life plan, yet. Every entry-level job application to be found requiring “3-5 years of experience.”

One year ago, that freakout paralyzed me. I whined, hoping the next life-stage would present itself to me like high school and college so conveniently did.

I know a lot of people who are tackling the same ‘is this the right path’ doubts, student-loan anxieties, and job application difficulties that consumed me a year ago (and continued well into my 9 months of unemployment after graduation). So I’ve compiled a few of the most important lessons I tend to share with people that I have learned over the last year –  from interning in an extremely competitive environment, while also applying for jobs in one of the most competitive cities in the U.S. – and I hope that they can help you or someone you know navigate the inherent freakout of transitioning into post-grad life.

Overcoming the Freakout

For me, breaking out of freakout paralysis involved sending a LOT of resumes and cover letters into the black hole that is the Internet, to any organization I thought I might be interested in. Although applying and not hearing back from anyone right away can begin to feel fruitless, if I hadn’t forced myself to send applications repeatedly after graduation, one of those resumes would never have led me to intern with a Congressman, and my current job in Washington, D.C. Commit to applying to one job per day, and suddenly ‘figuring out the rest of your life’ will feel less daunting.

Standing out by acing the little things

If you’re like me, you might apply for some jobs or internships in a different city than where you currently live. Which means you’ll likely be interviewed by phone or Skype, which provides additional challenges to conveying your knowledge and skills. For example:

You might live in a different time zone than your interviewer. You might confirm that your phone interview for an internship with a Senator in D.C. is at 2 pm on Wednesday, prepare really strong answers the night before, and check your phone at 1:30 on Wednesday, to realize that you missed 3 calls from your interviewer that morning because it was at 2 pm EASTERN TIME, NOT SEATTLE TIME. You might not be chosen for that internship.

Am I speaking from personal experience? Yes. Did I lose an internship opportunity because of my lack of attention to detail? Yes. Did my prior preparation still impress the guy in my rescheduled interview so he would eventually pass my resume along to another Congressman’s office, who I ended up moving to D.C. to intern with? Also yes. (Thanks, Nick). I got lucky here. Not everyone will be as nice as Nick. Moral of story: with any kind of interview, the little things, like double-checking your interview time and demonstrating an impeccable attention to detail, can make or break your chance of getting a job. Be the person who remembers the time zone.

Getting over your pride to intern until you find a job

For some horrible reason, “entry-level” jobs in many fields require applicants to have 3-5 years of work experience in that field. This is why so many post-grads end up selling their labor in return for the opportunity to make coffee-I mean-learn valuable skills through internships that count towards that required prior experience. Taking an internship while applying for “real jobs” right out of college may feel demeaning, especially if it is unpaid, and you actually are only making coffee. But I would argue that the three (THREE!) different internships I held after graduation, which included coffee-making, are what set me up so well for my first real-world job.

Using an internship to your utmost advantage

There are a myriad of articles out there with comprehensive internship advice, that I won’t try to replicate. But these are some useful lessons learned that I frequently pass on to other people. The first piece of advice I received upon moving to D.C. to intern while looking for jobs was to set up coffee dates. Not like meeting-up-with-a-friend-you-don’t-actually-want-to-hang-out-with coffee dates. I mean informational interviews – where you invite a colleague from your internship’s office to coffee in order to “learn more about what they do.” Apparently everyone knows that this really means you’re looking for jobs, and you want to know if they can help you find one.

Some people will swear this is the only way to find a job in highly-saturated job market cities like D.C.: you want to work in PR, but so do 200 other interns who live near you. So you get coffee with Senator so-and-so’s Communications Director who will pass your resume along to Congresswoman so-and-so’s office that has an opening for a press assistant – and thank goodness you met for that coffee because now the Comm.s Director will put in a good word for you over those 200 other interns. This is how “applying for jobs” was described to me when I moved here. That is a best-case scenario. Luckily, while they may not connect you directly to a job, seasoned professionals can help you in other ways (listed below), so you should grab coffee with any colleague you can, and ask about what they do and how they got to where they are today.

Once you’ve set up a few coffee dates, prepare intelligent questions to ask on each one. After listening and learning from the answers, you will usually be asked what your career goals are (if you haven’t thought about them, do so. If you have nothing to say here, they’ll wonder why you’re wasting their time). Then, it is UP TO YOU to figure out how they might help you. Most often, the person will offer you some really helpful advice, having been in your shoes before. But you can’t assume they will do more than this, unless you ask them to. Professionals in the real world have a lot on their plate at all times – and finding an intern a job is not high on their to-do list. However, you CAN politely enlist their help in a couple of ways:

  1. Ask them to look over your resume, and suggest any changes. These are people who probably look over resumes all the time, and will know what is impressive in your field and what actually isn’t (How I quickly learned nobody cares that you’re ‘proficient in Microsoft Word’ – because of course you are, you typed your resume right? Duh.)
  2. If it feels right, ask them to forward your resume along if they know of an open position in your field. Make this easy for them, by sending them your typo-free resume in PDF form after your coffee. (I now have a 3 page PDF doc that includes my resume, cover letter for the specific job, and list of professional references. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for a very busy person to read.)
  3. Always ask them to direct you to at least one new person to have coffee with. If you’re awkward like me you might get sick of meeting strangers in coffee shops. But, the more you do it, the better your interview skills, and the less awkward you become.
  4. Finally, don’t let your network of coffee dates forget about you. If you talked about editing your resume or obtaining contact info for a colleague in your field, send profusely-thankful follow up emails, paired with real, mailed notes thanking them for taking time out of their busy schedule to meet with you. People remember that kind of tangible gratitude.

I didn’t jump into the coffee-dates networking game nearly as soon as I should have when I began my internship. And I missed out on early advice and connections because of it. One of my best friends who found a job most quickly after graduation had been grabbing these informal coffees with local professionals months before we left college, gaining tons of advice and communication skills before the rest of us. Get on her level.

Putting ‘the rest of your life’ into perspective

Sometimes throughout the job hunt, you’ll be tired of uncomfortable networking events, tired of your job application emails being ignored, and you’ll feel like you will never find a job related to the degree you went $30,000 in debt to obtain (Unless you’re an engineer or an accountant, in which case you can leave this page and go enjoy your eternal job security bliss). You will probably feel pressured to find the perfect first job that combines your major with your passion and long-term goals.

Well, stop fretting. The best advice that this Italian-Sociology major got during the job hunt was that careers are no longer simple ladders. They’re more like adaptable flow charts, that provide you with multiple, changing paths for achieving an end goal. You will very likely need to take internships and jobs that don’t seem related to your dream career goals, in order to learn the specific skills that you will end up needing later to achieve your dream career goals. Look at job descriptions* of positions you want to work in someday and figure out what jobs or internships you could work now that will prepare you for that goal in the future. I want to pursue international policy as a career, and my current job has nothing to do with that. But the U.S. policy analysis I do now is making me more qualified for my goals every day. Remember that your first job or internship is not the rest of your life.

I have been extremely fortunate to work many diverse, formative internships immediately after graduating from college. I am now employed, in a job I love, paying my student loans, and doing fine. The freakout is only temporary!

While I’m not an expert, postgrad anxiety is fresh in my mind, and I’m always happy to answer questions recent graduates might have.

*Also, www.Idealist.org is where I found my current job, and is one of the best free internship/job search resources I have used. Good luck!

Key lessons I learned from breaking my ankle in the middle of summer

Enjoying vacation without getting in the water - a tough mental challenge.

I had grand expectations for my first summer after graduating college. I was going to find a yoga studio, swim, get beautifully tan, and maybe even find a job.

Enter the 4th of July plot twist: a night with friends in Seattle, nearby fireworks at Gasworks park, and ringing in USA freedom with a stroll through the city. One second laughing hysterically, the Fremont neighborhood flying by me as I sprinted toward the fireworks – the next second, on the sidewalk unable to move, my dress covered in dirt, and my ankle broken. An injury that takes at least 6 weeks to heal, with crutches and multiple casts, rendering any physical summer activity, let alone showering, nearly impossible.

This is the first bone I’ve ever broken, so it’s been a mentally challenging 6 weeks, with plenty of lessons learned. I’ve taken those lessons and still enjoyed a fun, productive summer with my family and friends, whose support I couldn’t have enjoyed this time without.

As I prepare to walk on two feet again and move to Washington D.C., I decided to reflect on the challenges I’ve overcome and the unexpected knowledge I’ve gained from this injury experience. I hope my key bone-break takeaways are useful to others in similar situations, or at the very least, are fun to read:

If you’ve spent your evening enjoying some 4th of July beverages, it’s probably a bad idea to sprint for 10 blocks “to try to see fireworks better.” I was a gymnast and a cheerleader (and somehow never broke a bone), but I am not a stellar runner. I jog. PBR-induced downhill sprinting in gladiator sandals is not my forte and I should have recognized that and stopped instead of pushing myself to go faster. I ended up seeing great fireworks lit up-close by people on the street where I fell and waited to be picked up, anyway. Key takeaway: know your athletic limits.

Secondly, as our favorite yoga instructor on Orange is the New Black reminds Piper, “Your experience here is only temporary. Try to make it meaningful.” Obviously, a broken ankle and the inability to walk are not the same thing as a prison sentence, but it can feel similarly overwhelming, especially when I started to obsess about all of the plans I had that I now couldn’t do with a broken ankle.

Instead of spiraling into a negative depression, I forced myself to be optimistic about the summer. I pushed my thoughts toward still being able to travel to San Diego and successfully kayaking without ruining my cast instead of dwelling on my inability to swim, getting to park super close to businesses because of my disability permit instead of becoming angry about how slow and tiring moving on crutches is, how rock-solid my biceps would be instead of how much thinner and weaker my left leg muscles would be, and how great yoga will feel when I’m healed instead of whining about not doing yoga all summer.

Spending my energy on the positive effects of my injury kept me from wallowing in self-pity too much and allowed me to have a great summer despite the cast. Key takeaway: the injury, the crushing immobility, and constant dependence on others are only temporary.

This brings me to the greatest challenge I’ve faced because of my injury. I pride myself on being a very independent person. I would much rather complete a task on my own, and feel accomplished about what I’ve done, than surrender my independence and let someone else complete a task I was capable of myself. I guess you could call it a pride issue.

Summer injury plot twist #2: the inability to walk or carry anything while using crutches means you HAVE to rely on other people to do things. You don’t have a choice. Putting dishes away, opening heavy doors, cleaning out your car, getting dressed on time for work – these are all everyday actions we rarely think about as difficult because walking and standing on two feet makes them so quick and thoughtless. Constantly carrying my backpack has solved a lot of these problems, but everyday life still encompasses an obstacle course of actions that have never seemed hard, but suddenly do. (Walking around a grocery store? Too tiring for my arms. Ugh.)

Most people in my life are more than happy to help me with these things, and I know that. But in my head, I convince myself that everyone feels obligated to help me but secretly hates the burden, so I avoid asking for favors. It makes me very uncomfortable to have someone interrupt their work to come help me open a freaking heavy automatically-closing door that I’m trying to prop open with my crutches on my own. I look ridiculous, and it makes me feel incompetent and powerless.

However, once I realized that people don’t actually hate giving me a hand, it became much easier to ask for help. Granted, my family is probably sick of putting my dishes away and helping me vacuum out my car (thanks, McNeil), but for the most part, people are very understanding of my predicament and eager to help me out. So I’ve learned to let go and accept the assistance that I clearly need. Key takeaway: depending on others sometimes doesn’t make you any less of a competent adult.

My family has endearingly (they claim) called me Gimpy all summer, which I pretend to dislike but really don’t mind. I understand that having a disability shouldn’t be something to be embarrassed about or ashamed of, and have generally embraced my temporarily crippled state.

But how is a girl supposed to still feel confident and fun when all of her clothes are dictated by how easily they fit over her ugly cast, she’s unable to walk around a party with her friends, and people look at her apologetically all the time? It was like being thrust back into my painfully awkward middle-school stage: I’ve been uncomfortable talking to cute guys (nobody wants to flirt with the cripple), left parties early because I couldn’t flow around the room like everyone else (if you’re immobile and people move, you’re left by the keg looking pitiful and lonely), and generally just haven’t felt attractive at all.

Luckily, learning to refuse to care about judgment from others has helped me through this phase. I have way more pressing issues such as healing correctly and planning to move across the country to address than worrying about other people perceiving me as the “poor cripple.” Before leaving the house I now say to myself, “so what if I’ve worn Soffe shorts and a Gonzaga t-shirt every day this week? People will understand that not falling on your face as you crutch is more important than fashion to you right now!”

Besides, I have some really great friends at home who have worked hard to make me feel comfortable and help me nearly forget that I’m the injured girl. Since I started caring less, I have more confidently attended parties and met new people, and finally realized that my injury is way less of a big deal than I narrate it to be in my head. Key takeaway: the embarrassment about being the “cripple” is all in your head.

Sometimes being injured has huge advantages, anyway. Flying to San Diego to meet my family for vacation was surprisingly the easiest airport experience I’ve ever had, with the best customer service. When you request a wheelchair, you get whisked past all the snaking lines of security, escorted to your gate in less than 10 minutes, and you are “invited” to board the plane first because of your disability. This is definitely worth the very thorough security pat-down (in case you’re hiding a bomb in your cast – it DOES happen in a Dan Brown novel). Key takeaway: breaking a bone transforms TSA agents into your best friends.

I read a message once that said, “sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.” This might be a stretch when referring to a smile from the TSA, but it is a poetic way to reflect on how I might have actually benefitted from my broken ankle debacle this summer. Hashtag so blessed.

Using crutches forced me to cut excess out of all my routines (the fear of water seeping through a garbage bag into your cast is enough to cut  your normal shower time in half). I may not have been able to find a hip Seattle job or join Italian-speaking groups like I planned to, but focusing energy on tasks like studying for the GRE and excelling in my work at Global Peace Foundation gave me a lot of time to develop professionally. If I had had the ability to gallivant around the Pacific Northwest doing outdoorsy activities I might have slacked off more at work and not prepared as well for the interview that led to an offer for an internship in Washington, D.C., where I am moving in two weeks. It turns out that slowing down to let my injury heal helped open doors for exciting new opportunities.

I never thought I would break a bone this summer AND have something positive to say about it, but just as I told myself in the beginning – it was only temporary. And now, the best is yet to come.

A huge thank you to everyone who has helped me this summer. My friends and family rock.

– Meaghan