Quarter-Life Crisis Lessons

Years ago, there happened to be only one phase of life crisis – and it was midlife. Alas, with the stresses of student loans piling on interest rates, undeniably talented twenty-somethings sans and the ever terrifying possibility of moving home with parents, a new crisis has come to be a household phrase: the quarter-life crisis.

It’s happened. I knew it was coming and that there was no way I could even stop it. Even at the tender age of 21, commuting back and forth from the City of Brotherly Love to the Big Apple on my own dime for unpaid internships created an anxiety to be experienced by only those who have mortgages, trust funds and several mouths to feed. I had none of those; my only expenses were Greyhound tickets to NYC and back, the occasional meal when I could fit it in between my multiple part-time jobs, 18 credits and my internships, and of course, the absurdly high rent payments in Philadelphia. There was no reason to have the weight of the world on my shoulders, and yet, there it was.

The Hustle

Perhaps the elusive “quarter-life crisis” only strikes those with an innate and unutterable fear of failure. Everyone defines “failure” differently. For me, my definition of “failure” terrified me to the point of exhaustion. At a time when I should’ve been enjoying the last months of my collegiate experience, I was too busy working from 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily, to ensure that I would never be put into a position of “failure.” When I moved to an entirely new city early last year, instead of going out to make friends and explore my new “home,” I stayed at the office until the sun went down. I knew only the walls of the office and the walls of my apartment complex. That wouldn’t make a great story, would it?

Perhaps it is both a blessing and a curse. If you are terrified of failure, work consumes your life. This could certainly put you among the top performers with the best numbers and greatest experiences but are those numbers enough when you ignore friendships, family and all that which made you what you are? It may be that I’m getting older, smarter or a combination of the two, but I’m starting to believe that it is not enough.

I haven’t stopped working in six years. I’ve gone anywhere and everywhere to better my career and gain the best experience that I could. Along the way, however, I’ve lost the best friendships I’ve ever had. I have stopped talking to friends just because I wasn’t able to find the time. And this – all of this – is what creates the quarter-life crisis. The realization that everything you have been tirelessly working for doesn’t matter when you don’t have anyone to enjoy it with you. Your successes mean nothing when the only person you can count on is yourself (and your parents, if you’re lucky).

As I’m embarking on a new chapter of my life, wherever that may take me, I am entering into it knowing two things. First, I will never lose my innate fear of failure. It makes me who I am and drives me to be the best marketing professional I can possibly be. Second? When someone comes into my life, realizes that my career is of utmost importance and still wants to stay, I will do everything in my power to keep them in my life. As for this quarter-life crisis; it’s old news, as far as I’m concerned. Hit me with your best shot.

To have undeniable success is one thing; to be surrounded by true friendship is another. There is a way to have both and I will have it all. Mark my words.


xxCandyLips2011xx Isn’t Acceptable Anymore

Twitter is known for the casual messages and fast paced updates, but this doesn’t mean you should throw discretion to the wind. While colleges are preparing to welcome back crazy, rambunctious and oh so studious groups of 20-somethings, I was busy developing a few unconventional words of social media wisdom that may have been missed at that 8:00 a.m. lecture last semester.

  1. Private Twitters = Shifty Eyes: Twitter is an undeniably fabulous asset for public relations students (Hell, I even had a few job interviews because of my Twitter presence) and when you hide your twitter feed, it looks like you’re hiding something bigger. When you limit your profile, you also limit your opportunities and connections. If you feel the need to privatize your twitter feed, create two accounts – one public and one private – to ensure you aren’t missing any great networking opportunities.
  2. Bios Are A First Impression: Your Twitter bio may be the first thing that potential employers view and when you proudly announce that you are a member of #TeamDropout or #TeamAlwaysHigh, things probably won’t work out in your favor. Try adding your Alma Mater, your course of study, a graduation year and a few of your personal interests. Avoid offensive language, politically incorrect slurs and try your best to shy away from using words like “expert” or “guru.” And finally, unless you truly are Nicki Minaj, please do not refer to yourself as “Barbie” — working at your local fast food establishment doesn’t mean you have the right to refer to yourself as an enviable starlet.
  3. Would Dad Be Shocked: Does the thought of your father reading your Twitter feed make you shudder? If you answered yes, then we have a problem. When you’re tweeting anything that you wouldn’t want your parents to see, odds are potential employers will be just as offended as dear old dad.  If you are serious about finding a job, think of Twitter as one big job interview with thousands of agencies and firms – you never know who is reading your feed and for what reason. Make sure that you are tweeting relevant industry articles, participating in tweet chats and accurately spotlighting your personality. Stay away from the play-by-play of last night’s frat party, at all costs. And to be honest, no one wants to know what happens behind closed doors.
  4. Don’t Be Shy — @ Reply: A Twitter feed that contains only self-generated ramblings with no follower interaction is defying the nature of the network. Grow your followers, meet new people and watch as the opportunities present themselves. Generate content that will welcome replies and retweets – you’ll be amazed as new industry contacts pop up.
  5. The Power of a Handle: Do not, for the love of all things holy, make your Twitter handle anything other than your name or a variation of it. Things like xoKittyKat690x…unacceptable. First, ew. Second, Myspace much? Third, you are 20 years old — act like it.  If a potential employer is trying to find you, do you honestly believe that “fastNhard09” will come up in a search? Of course not. So Sasha Fierce, if you seriously cannot pull yourself away from your secret identity, use your private profile for certain handles and your public profile for professional handles.

I wholeheartedly believe in the power of social networking and, with some discretion, social media is capable of changing lives and career paths. If you follow these four simple guidelines, your trip into the PR industry could be smooth sailing – it definitely worked for me.

If I forgot anything, please feel free to add it!

The Generation of Debt

I'm a Hustler, Homie

Those who have followed my posts from the beginning have seen quite the roller coaster ride of emotion — from sheer excitement after my college graduation to terrifying depression when I didn’t secure a job immediately — since May of 2010, my life has been anything but stable.

In just under one year, I interviewed for my “Dream Job,” landed my “Dream Job,” grew to strongly dislike my “Dream Job,” interviewed with and got hired by a great agency, quit my “Dream Job,” and found myself in $50,000 of debt from student loans. How did everything spiral out of control so quickly? Commuting to NYC two times a week for eight months during my senior year  and managing 4 part time positions to fund that commute certainly added stress to the situation (you can read more about my opinions on unpaid internships here), but without that experience, would I be where I am now? And by that, I mean living paycheck to paycheck.

According to everyone and their mothers, I am one of the “lucky ones” who landed a full-time gig doing what I went to school for — but what makes me lucky? Most of my graduating class, so I’ve heard, have been living with parents, thereby avoiding rent, utilities, and groceries. That is quite a hefty portion of an entry-level salary — more than 50% by my calculations (and I live in a studio). So am I being “rewarded” for my hard work and dedication by living in pseudo-poverty? Something isn’t right here. Student loans are devouring my soul, Philadelphia rent and taxes are robbing me — how am I supposed to be surviving when 90% of my paycheck is gone before I even get it? Everyone tells me I am overreacting and that this is normal, but how am I the only one who is literally losing sleep over this?

Someone please enlighten me.

Learning to Relax

Relaxing is the New Black

So I have officially be a “college graduate” for fifteen days, but who’s counting? I have come to the realization that I do not, cannot and will not understand a person who enjoys having nothing to do. For fifteen days, I have kept myself busy by applying to relevant positions, fantasizing about which city I will live in and pretending like I have the funds to purchase a new car (I test drove an Accent and almost bought a Mazda3).  I cannot fathom having to do nothing for the remainder of my life…I’d go crazy!

I suppose this is a strength and a weakness. In the PR world, having the ability to continuously work for hours on end is, by no stretch, a con. But what happens if, like now, I find myself in a period of unemployment? I’m going stir-crazy. Thank goodness for my part time gigs. Big love to Dell and Tuttleman Computer Lab at Temple University.

Slowly and surely (I think), I am learning to relax. When I first graduated, I would wake up panicked that I was missing an important class, was late for my bus to New York City, had to meet my group for a presentation…but alas, I had nothing to do. Now, I am finally sleeping through the night and am actually SLEEPING IN! I haven’t been able to sleep in since freshman year of college (I used to be a pro).

But I’m positive, as soon as I relax, take  a deep breath and begin enjoying the life of nothingness, I will have agencies knocking down my door (or so I hope).

That Awkward Pause When Asked For Your Salary Requirements Gives Me Nightmares

The SRQ breaks my little heart

Oh yes. The dreaded salary requirement question: in a second, you will go from feeling great about the interview to double-thinking every single moment of your short life. What should you ask for as a recent college grad? If you came here for answers…sorry. I just wanted you to know you are not alone.

I recently interviewed and the SRQ (salary requirement question) made me nauseous. We’re in an economic crisis, 19.8% of people below the age of 25 are unemployed…it is a mess. So what should I have done? If I answer too high, I sound uppity. If I answer too low, I am selling myself short. I was lucky enough to be asked this question twice for the same position. The first time I was asked the SRQ, I did nothing short of sell myself short. I went home, did some research on the title and what similar positions. I learned that I undersold myself by nearly $15,000! DO NOT DO WHAT I DID! I am talented, I have experience and I just spit out the first number that came to mind!

Do your research before a job interview, because I then looked like a fool when I had to correct a previous salary range.

But then came the opposite extreme. According to http://www.salary.com (which I have now made my bible), I should have been asking around $47,000. For some unknown reason, I feel too terrible asking that much and I am not sure why. I could not bring myself to say that number. Usually I am not one to turn down money, but I could not fathom asking for anything greater than $40,000. According to Ronnie Ann, author of the blog “Work Coach Cafe”, women always ask for too little during negotiations. Come on, ladies…we deserve more than what we’re getting.

I just need to figure out how to get around this inexplicable guilt trip I experienced during negotiations. Solutions? Comments?

Addendum to My Prior Post

I would first like to say that, contrary to popular belief, it is possible to be great at an art or profession without years of training; this is what makes someone a natural talent. Professional actors without training are usually strikingly believable and an overall better performer; the same is true for some professions (with the exception of surgeons and the like, because that would just be undoubtedly frightening to have an operation performed by an untrained hand. But I digress).

I have gotten some feedback that confuses and astounds me. Readers are concerned that I have doubted the exigence of my diploma. It is not that I regret becoming a legitimate job seeker with a bachelors degree, but I am baffled by the fact that one needs a diploma to even be considered for a position. I find it astonishing that my  international experience, my eye for design, my ability to communicate with and speak in front of large groups of people would all be for nothing had I not gotten a degree. My natural talent would be lost and I would be working at a burger joint (presenting customers with the BEST level of service they had ever seen).

I can see both sides to the argument, though.

It is our culture to believe one needs a diploma to become successful. However, to the people who stand behind this belief, I ask this: What about the entrepreneurs who pushed us into a new century of technological advances like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates? Why can’t I be the next Coco Chanel or Simon Cowell?

That is what I mean when I say that a college degree is unnecessary. If you are brilliant enough, determined enough…nothing will stop you. You have to be fearless, see debt and march right into it (I’ve already met this step of the process) and believe in yourself when no one else does. And to be honest, I believe I am on my way.

I am sorry to those who have been programmed to believe that “nothing is impossible” is a lie. Critics of my drive and dream are my biggest fans, and I’ve had these “fans” throughout my entire life. Thank you for pushing me to go above and beyond what I think is possible.

“Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity - not a threat”

Did We Choose the Wrong Major?

Oh my gosh. What if everything everyone has been saying…is true? Should we have been doctors, lawyers or accountants instead of journalists or publicists?

$40,000 Diploma = Unemployment & Welfare

Even the acclaimed graduation speaker made the entire class of 2010 doublethink its decision to have chosen the School of Communications & Theater as opposed to FOX School of Business or the College of Science & Technology. There is no doubt that ALL graduates are being hit, but who is truly being hit the hardest? It can’t be everyone…can it? Yes, it can. Once I read that only 33% of Harvard graduates had jobs lined up, I did not feel to bad about my two part-time gigs. I’ll sit behind a computer any day; just don’t make me sit at home, mooch off of my parents and stuff my face.

According to BusinessWeek, “Unemployment among people under 25 years old was 19.6 percent in April, the highest level since the Labor Department began tracking the data in 1948.” Well, isn’t that enough to make you thrown in the towel, take your overpriced diploma and fall into the fetal position in your parents’ basement. I, however, am a confident, overly aggressive and unbelievably proud 21-year old woman who refuses to move back to her parents’ home in Pennsyltucky (if just for the fact that it takes 20 minutes to get to the nearest gas station).  After residing in the cut of North Philadelphia for the past 4 years, asking me to live anywhere besides seconds from a subway station, police station and crime scene is preposterous; I just cannot do it. So I say “Screw you, highest unemployment level since 1948.” You will try to knock us down, and maybe we’ll be down for a minute, but after we recuperate at our parents’ house, we will be back for you.

We are a determined, forceful and educated public, and you better believe we will not rest…or work at your local fast food chain. We are too proud. And I will be happy to lead us to a revolution, or at least to the unemployment office for the time being.

If you have time, leave a comment. I want to know what everyone else thinks. Who else wants to join my revolutionary army of one undergrad holding an expensive piece of paper?