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.

Back to the Nest


I have always been proud of my independence and ambition. I never thought for one minute that I’d ever consider moving home. Senior year of high school was the last time I lived with my parents for more than a few days at a time – recently, however, I’ve made a guest appearance.

There is a nasty stigma surrounding the notion of grown children living with parents, or at least there used to be.  After college, it seemed most of my friends flew right back to that comfy, cheap nest when the job field didn’t extend an offer with the exact firm in the exact field with the exact salary that they wanted.  I, on the other less frugal hand, took an internship that didn’t pay me nearly enough to afford my studio apartment in West Philadelphia (or life, in general).  I was technically living under the poverty line, but I saw stars -both literally and figuratively- during my stint with the Philadelphia Eagles and the brand recognition was too impressive to pass up.

After the honeymoon phase wore off, I realized that student loans were steadily pouring in and I was making less than a cashier at Burger King. Something didn’t add up. I started the stressful and totally disheartening task of finding a new job. Finally, as if the stars had aligned perfectly, a contact I had met through Twitter had an opening with an agency – bada bing, bada boom – new job.

Unfortunately, after three unpaid internships throughout college and countless loans, the damage was done. Even with my new salary and benefits, there wasn’t a way for me to save and continue with my lifestyle, which was already less than extravagant.  Calling my parents for help was the absolute last thing I wanted to do. As I said, my independence has long been what drove my ambition. Fortunately, they both recognized my struggle with poverty-ridden pride and offered for me to move home temporarily – I added “temporarily.”

I have given myself a hard deadline of June 1, 2012. I will have a little nest egg saved and I will be back on my own. Giving myself a timeline is the only way I can mentally prepare myself for my independence being taken from me. I wanted to do it all on my own, but as GenYers, we need to realize when a battle is lost. With the economy in distress, our debt, the country’s debt, our parents’ debt – all forces are pushing back on us.

My advice is not to become discouraged if you must move home for a few months. Of course, the hardest thing for me is taking my own advice.

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.

Unpaid Internships Have Taken Over


I put in my time. I had not one, not two, but three unpaid internship while in college. I was the struggling college student who worked through being broke for the “experience.” I appreciate all the time I spent at those three companies, learning and doing things that I had only read about. I wouldn’t trade my experience gained at my internships for anything in the world.

After saying this, however, I need to bring up another issue. Are companies taking advantage of the job market and desperate fresh-out-of-college job seekers? As a qualified applicant searching for an entry-level in public relations, I have been seeing more “paid” internships for applicants holding degrees. So why would a company call a legitimate position an internship? I think it obvious that a large-scale corporation of any kind offering an hourly wage of $8.00 or less would be frowned upon, so they call that same position an internship.

Since the fate of the American job market remains to be seen, job hunters are settling for this measily wage because there are two options:

  • Ride on a high (poverty-ridden) horse for months, struggling to pay rent & finally decide to take a job at your local friendly fast-food provider. You make more than minimum wage but only learn the difference between peanut oil and olive oil.

OR

  • Humble yourself, work ridiculously long hours for minimum wage, but learn the ins and outs of any given field. Hopefully a door will open at the end of the journey, thus making the entire internship that much better.

Of course I would choose Option 2. I just think if a company would create true positions and offer real salaries, both the economy and the confidence of Americans would heal. But until that time, pass me that paid internship.

The College Grad’s Version of a Critical Decision


"To Know the Road Ahead, Ask Those Coming Back"

Since graduation I have had five interviews. I thought I was one of the lucky ones until I realized I will be having to make an extremely difficult decision in the upcoming weeks (if all goes as I hope and think it will).

OPTION A: Before graduation, I had interviewed with an NFL team for a position in community relations. “What could this position be,” you may ask. Aye, there’s the rub. It is an intern-level position. Now before you shudder in disbelief that I may be considering an internship position post-graduation, I need to let it be known that it will be paid. I do use the term “paid” loosely; it would be minimum wage, without benefits (bites finger). Yes. After four years, thousands of dollars and three unpaid internships, would the next step be to a paid internship? I’ve been teetering back and forth; the job description is me in a nutshell. Player appearances, media coverage, promotions, event planning…everything I love to do, and coincidentally, everything at which I excel.

OPTION B: I recently had two telephone interviews with a digital ad sales company in New York (if you don’t know me, New York is my promised land). My third interview is  tomorrow afternoon at the New York City satellite location. The company prides itself on the benefits offered by the 30-something executives. With the founder being just a little younger than 35, the company knows what is enticing to its younger-than-normal team;  it offers health, vision, dental and little perks like car washes and happy hours. The position for which I am interviewing isn’t necessarily in the field of public relations but the closely related and perhaps, more profitable, marketing and ad sales. This company is showing promise of growing into one of the world’s premiere digital ad sales firms, and perhaps I should hop on the tail of this comet while I have the chance.

But the question remains; is it better to take a salary position with benefits which is not necessarily in your field or a “paid” internship that promises of growth and demands all skills you’ve acquired during your collegiate career? To make it simple; a career for money or a gig for passion?

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?