020 // little thoughts, 2016

1.       Figure out where you stand on different issues, but be willing to learn more. You may change your mind.

2.       In 2013 I noted that you should only buy shoes that you want to wear around Disneyland for the day. That goes for heels as well.

3.       Networking is invaluable. The common refrain is that it isn’t what you know, it is who you know. It is cliche, but very true. I have not yet gotten a job, or even an interview, just because I filled out an online application. I have, however, gotten interviews and job offers resulting from networking. Don’t know how to go about it? I gave some beginner tips on post #19 (and I’m not a networking wiz or anything – these are just the basics that I use).

4.       Being single is not a bad thing. It can be difficult. Really really difficult, but not necessarily bad. Learn to be happy being single.

5.       Beyond keeping some spare clothes and toiletries in your car, also keep a gallon of water and a paper map. Personally, I keep an orange crate in my car to hold all of the “just in case” items.

6.       Before you get frustrated learning something new, watch a baby learning how to walk, recall how much time you spent in piano lessons and practicing scales, or count the sketchbooks you filled with doodles. Everything you are good at today took time and practice. Remembering that makes learning something new so much better.

7.       Each month do something to bolster one of your professional interests. It doesn’t always need to fit on the resume, but you should be able to learn and grow.

8.       When you are not okay, ask for help.

9.       It is okay to want to spend time alone. Putting on sweatpants instead of participating in a pub crawl can be just as fulfilling.

10.   Shift your view on nutrition. I don’t aim for well-rounded meals. I aim for okay days and a balanced week. It takes much less stress off the individual days and I eat healthier in the long run because it is easier.

11.   Don’t text and drive. If you are a passenger, do not let the driver text unless the car is parked on the side of the road. Save lives, folks.

12.  Vaccinate. Vaccinate. Vaccinate.

13.   Compassion, grace, and courage. That’s the goal.

14.   Give yourself 5-10 minutes to be frustrated about something, but then move on and figure out how you are going to take care of it. Wallowing and self-pity are not sexy or useful.

15.     I cannot even begin to enumerate the ways in which complaining about other people is counter productive and harmful, to them and you. Just don’t do it.

16.   Going back to school full-time really does get more difficult with age.

17.   So does travel and jet-lag.

18.   Be present when spending time with family and friends. Put the phone away and do not look at it. Put it where you won’t forget it, but don’t touch it. Spend time with the people you love and give them your full attention.

19.   When people get upset, it is rarely about you. It may be about how you made them feel, but it will nearly always be about them. Seek to understand their perspective instead of getting defensive.

Time spent: 32 minutes

019 // networking 101

Disclaimer: I am not a master networker. I am not a human resources person. I am not an expert. These are simply the activities in which I engage that have allowed me to build a strong network over the years. Take what you think will work for you, and leave what doesn’t.

As noted in the disclaimer, I am not a networking expert. But I have found that a few things have helped me to build and support a strong professional network over the years. Ordinarily I would think nothing of this, but some of these tips have helped my classmates over the last year. So, here they are for you too.

On building a network…

You may not realize it, but you already have a professional network. It consists of your current/former bosses and coworkers, your current/former professors, your current/former classmates, and can even include your friends.

If you want to reach out to someone new, tell them how you can help them, or add value. This requires that you do research, and not send out a canned email. Introduce yourself, highlight what you are good at and how it fits in with what they are doing, and ask them if there is anything you can do to help them. And be willing to do anything – connect them to other people, be a guest lecturer, consulting for free. The goal is to build a group of people who will keep their eye out for something for which you are a good fit, or they think you would be able to do. The goal is to stand out in other people’s minds.

To that end, take note of the people who stand out in your mind, for positive reasons. What did they do to stand out? How can you emulate that? What can you do to stand out to other people.

 

On remembering…

One of the side effects of my concussion in 2014 is memory impairment. Unless I had a strong emotional reaction to an event during a five month period of 2014, I don’t remember what happened. Longer term, it means that I have a much more difficult time remembering anything. But this isn’t about my memory issues or how I cope with them, it is about two particular tactics I use to overcome this issue, and how they are incredibly useful for networking.

The first is a spreadsheet. I’m sorry to say it, but if I’ve interacted with you over the last ten years, there is a high likelihood that you are on my spreadsheet. It includes names, contact information, professional information, and then notes. This allows me to sort the list to find particular people in case I can’t remember a name (Oh, remember so-and-so that I met at that alumni networking reception in the fall of 2015? What was their name? They were interested in health economics?), or by last contact date, etc. The notes section also includes information about your professional accomplishments (Congrats on the promotion, by the way), but also more personal information (How is your daughter Sophie doing? She’s what…three now?).

I also keep that information handy in my phone contact list. There is a section for notes on each contact card. Use it. That way you can look up people at the drop of the hat, and remember everything you need to. I learned this from one of my mother’s friends – my mother and her friend were having lunch one day, and the friend asked how my finals had gone the previous week. My mother was floored and asked how she remembered that. The friend said that my mother had mentioned it in a phone call three weeks prior, and she noted it in her contact card. Then, knowing she was having lunch with my mother, the friend pulled out her phone about thirty minutes before meeting and was able to pull up my mother’s contact information and refresh herself on what each of my sisters and I had been up to, and what the names of all of the grandchildren are. It was phenomenal and I’ve used this so much in the last two years. I highly recommend this.

 

On strengthening/maintaining…

Reaching out to people once is not enough, nor is remembering their name and their job title. You need to keep in touch with them. Spend 20 minutes a day reaching out to people in your network. Say hi, send them an article that made you think of them, make an introduction, or simply provide an update on your life. Always make sure to ask about their lives. But keep in touch. Remaining in contact with your network helps you to stay in the forefront of their mind, which is where you want to be in case any opportunities arise.

 

Time spent: 41 minutes

018 // little thoughts, 2013

A few years ago I was procrastinating at work and stumbled upon a list of quotes from someone’s high school economics teacher. The introduction seemed interesting so I mulled it over – did I want to spend my time reading someone else’s words of wisdom?

Eventually I stumbled upon an idea that I, personally, really liked. It seemed like an opportunity to show change and growth over the years, would allow me to look back and see what I thought was important at the time, or highlight a lesson learned.

The idea: each year sit down and write a “little thoughts” list. Just sit down and reflect over the last few months and what I’d learned.  Try to sum it up into coherent sentences.  Publish for the general public. Take over the world.

Just kidding.  I don’t want to take over the world.  That would be miserable.

At any rate, I recently stumbled upon my first pass at it. I completed it before reading the list published online, and don’t think I ever actually read that other list. Not reading that list is fine with me – I intended this to be a project focused on introspective thought and it wouldn’t be very introspective if I let someone else’s lessons influence my own.

Little Thoughts (2013)

1.       You will find people polarize on many different topics (football to politics, religion to hair cutting techniques).  Don’t avoid the polarizing conversations – it is not only how you learn about other people but if you avoid those discussions you will spend a lot of time focusing on the weather.

2.       Good shoes are a worthy investment.  Only buy shoes that you would be willing to wear for an entire day of walking around Disneyland.

3.       On alcohol – remember to stand up and move around sometimes.  It allows you to gauge how much you’ve consumed.

4.       Running and laughter are the best medicines in the world.

5.       Moving in with someone is difficult.  Relax and take it easy.  The moments you stress about now are the ones you’ll laugh at later.

6.       Sit down with your resume and three different colored highlighters.  Highlight all similar things in one color and work your way through your resume.  At the end you should have three main topics/paths/focuses that jump out at you.  From here on out, only put stuff into your resume that supports one or more of those three themes.

7.       It is always going to be warmer/colder/wetter than the clothes you are wearing.  Keep a sweater, tank top, and rain jacket in your car.

8.       Being injured is a great opportunity to try something new.

9.       It is only an opportunity if you make it one.  Apply for all of the jobs you think look interesting, say yes to all the international travel opportunities you get, and never turn down a chance to be with friends.

10.   Speaking of international travel, do it.  As often as possible.

11.   Send handwritten thank you cards.  Christmas, birthdays, random thanks, and after interviews.  Always after interviews.

12.   If the street performer caught your attention, walk over and give him your change or a dollar.

13.   Sometimes work will attempt to consume your soul.  Don’t let it.  Remember, you work so that you can pay to do the things you like.  That’s it.

14.   There is a time and a place for sarcasm.  And it is not everywhere and always.

15.   It’s okay to not be okay.

16.   Ice cream for dinner is acceptable as long as you don’t do it every night.

17.   Be smart – driving distracted has the potential to ruin more lives than you could ever imagine.

18.   Always be nice to the cashier at the store. You are the billionth customer they’ve had today and they still have to ask how you are doing.  They don’t really care.  Ask about their day.  Make them laugh.  Be the “out-of-the-ordinary” customer, in a good way.

19.   Four things to do each day: something for your body (exercise), something for your mind (read a book), something for someone close to you (friend, family, etc.), and something for society (volunteer, pick up trash, etc.).  It helps you remain balanced. 

20.   Those thirty minutes when you first arrive at the office?  Don’t check email, don’t pick up your phone, and don’t use the internet.  Use that time to get organized, plan out your day, review your calendar, and make sure you have your shit together.  It makes the rest of the day easier.

21.   Facebook, blogs, personal email, etc. at work are a bad idea. Researching classes, seminars, conferences, reading industry articles?  Great idea.  Shows initiative and allows you to remember how you fit into the big picture.

22.   Aim to give at least one sincere compliment each day.  When you do that naturally, bump it up to two.

23.   Focus on the positive.  You’ll feel better for it.

24.   Keep an extra toothbrush, toothpaste, and tube of deodorant in your desk at work, and extras in the trunk of your car.

25.   Put money into your savings.  You never know – this could be the month that you need to buy new brakes and a new windshield, right after you purchased that plane ticket for your friend’s funeral, which you’ll come home from and find that your refrigerator is broken and all your food rotted.

26.   Keep plants in your apartment or house.  They purify the air and have amazing powers of relaxation.

27.   Separate yourself from technology multiple times a year.  A weekend here, a weekend there, and at least one week-long vacation.  You’ll hate looking at your inbox when you return, but that week allows you to focus and find your center.  Totally worth it.

28.   Yoga really is as beneficial as people tell you. But it is okay if you just don’t want to do it.

29.   You do not need permission to be passionate about something.  If you find something that you like, explore it.  Find your passion and do not look back.

30.   Appreciate other people.  Better yet, appreciate them and let them know.  It could be the best part of their day or week.

 

Time spent: 34 minutes

017//India journal, day something

I’ve been in India for a few weeks now, and some aspects of traveling by myself have changed in the last eight years, others have not.

The wanderlust has returned, and with it the desire to explore and experience. I crave the adventures and find myself planning little trips. In Germany it was weekends in Berlin, Dresden, Munich. In France it was weekend trips to Paris, 10Ks run in the Black Forest, fashion shows in Greece, and time spent tasting honey in Aix. Spending time in Asia is no different – I have tabs up on my computer for weekend trips to the Taj Mahal, a trip to Rajasthan, a week kayaking and biking in Kashmir, and tours of tea plantations in Darjeeling. The goal is to determine what kind of shenanigans I can safely experience each week.

But there are other aspects that have changed. I used to be okay traveling alone, enjoyed planning my trips and experiencing the world by myself. I was accepting of travel buddies but generally enjoyed being by myself. This trip, though, I find myself wishing that I had someone. Someone to travel with and plan with, someone to call with tales of my adventures, someone to look forward to meeting in Kashmir, or Darjeeling, or take pictures with at the Taj Mahal. I’ve never felt so lonely, and that’s probably the biggest change of all.

Perhaps that will change someday, but there is a fear that I will spend the rest of my life traveling by myself, and coming home alone, and that there will never be someone to call about the journeys, or who will be excited to join in on the adventures.

 

Time spent: 27 minutes

 

016//the people in my life

When I was younger I spent a lot of time trying to make people like me, and trying to fit in. I wanted to wear the right clothes, buy the right shoes, and have the correct color nail polish for my manicure. But in reality I preferred wearing jeans, wanted to choose my shoes for comfort, and accept that I hate wearing nail polish and getting manicures.

In recent years I have learned to be more true to myself. I admit more readily that I may have the movie tastes of a 13-year old boy and would rather watch Transformers and the Avenger series than anything else, or that my hobbies fall in line with those of an 80-year old woman and that while I watch Transformers my hands are busy knitting a sweater, or making a counted-cross-stitch stocking. It is owning who I am, and the confidence that comes with it is phenomenal.

Even more recently, though, that includes accepting people into my life who make me a better person. Sometimes that includes cutting out people who do not. Yesterday it meant cutting out someone that I haven’t been able to let go. Someone that I once loved dearly, and have now missed for longer than I loved. He has moved on, and despite my best attempts, I haven’t. It has hurt to see it happen, and I needed to stop. So I no longer see his posts on Instagram, removed his contact information from my phone, and “unfriended” him on Facebook. I hope it helps.

But if it doesn’t, I may need assistance. It has been two years and I haven’t managed it properly myself.

Time spent: 21 minutes

015 // travel

I used to travel a bit, finding myself overseas for at least a month twice a year, throughout all of my undergrad career. It seemed a very natural thing for me to do, and beyond knowing that I was extremely lucky to have the opportunities I did, I never gave it much consideration.

 

A few weeks ago I pulled out the passport, blew off the dust, and booked myself into a four month trip in Asia. The last few days have been great, and I’m really enjoying my time here. But I have to admit, jet-lag and multiple days on a plane were a lot easier when I was younger.

 

Time spent: 10 minutes

014 // ending the year

This school year comes to a close in two weeks, and it is a bit difficult to believe that I’m 62% done with my program. In the last year I have taken thirty classes, covering finance, evaluation, epidemiology, biostatistics, investments, economics, maternal health, global health, population dynamics, environmental health, and negotiations (to name a few). I can’t even begin to fathom how long it would take me to calculate the number of pages I’ve written, or assignments I’ve completed. Hours spent studying, appointments with professors or TAs, and group projects all fall into the same bucket of interesting-statistics-that-I-just-don’t-have-time-to-determine.

It’s been a crazy year. There were times I thought of quitting, but the notion of the loans I’d have to pay back stopped me. There were days I questioned why I was doing this, but friends helped me remember that I am very interested in public health. In general, I’m so incredibly happy to be here and doing this. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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Time spent: 9 minutes