So this blog will be a little different than my normal ones. But honestly, I feel I need to write this post with some of the things I've been asked lately or have witnessed with some of the newly grads that I know or see on media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.
Well first off, no I do not work at my former "big box" employer anymore. I haven't for over a year now. I decided I needed a change and quit. I was not happy in the slightest and debated quitting for probably 9 months to a year. Straight up, I was miserable and had never felt that way in ANY job that I have ever worked! I'll dive into this further later on.
The main reason for this blog entry was to reach the newly graduated folks who are unsure about their path or really anyone who is unhappy doing what they're doing.
I had the privilege to be able to mentor some individuals out of college and try to help them into the working world. If anyone tries to tell you that (1) school (your degree), (2) your GPA, or (3) hard work is enough..they are lying to you. It is ALL about who you know. News flash: your professor wasn't lying to you. I know my NIU instructors said this all the time - go to networking events, meet people, hand out cards, get on LinkedIn, make connections, send that thank you email, etc. They are 100% correct. So, I was more than happy to try to help connect some of these young pups into the working world. I would want someone to do that for me (and I have had someone do that for me - thanks Kels!).
The biggest thing I see is fear. And boy, do I get that! It's scary. It's almost as scary as when you were graduating from high school and you had to decide what you wanted to do for the rest of your life at the age of 18. Uhhhhh.... Yikes! No pressure.. But here you are 4 years later. You changed your major/concentration 3 or 4 times (or was that just me?), are finally on the right track. You got your life together (so you think or would like to think). You have a well-built resume, and are applying for jobs. Great, right? You know what you're doing. You got this! Then job posting after job posting you're seeing that the positions they call "entry-level" require 3+ years experience, 5+ years experience. Say what?! *Panic mode*
Apply for that job that seems like you don't qualify according to their 'minimum' requirements. Connect with that recruiter on LinkedIn. Message them directly. You may be more qualified than you think you are. Or it may be that those requirements are their ideal candidate, but will take on someone a little less experienced because the right traits and qualities are there (this is almost ALWAYS the situation). Take a chance on yourself and give yourself credit where credit is due. Don't sell yourself short! What I've seen is the experience that employers are asking for can be worded in many, many ways and that job that you did back in Sophomore year actually has those same skills - just a different setting and you killed it! (Mrs. So-and-So would be a great reference BTW.) Utilize the experience you DO have and relate it to the current situations at hand. There's always going to be a learning curve when it comes to systems and programs - because every company is different! But experience can be applied to any situation at hand.
*Bonus Points: it also shows you have critical thinking skills that you can relate a past situation to evaluate the current one and use past experience to determine best route/decision making.
Now, the next fear I see is the "I have a job offer, but I can't see myself there long-term" or "It's not what I want to do".
BREATHE. (Getting the trend, yet?)
Mom and dads aren't going to like my next advice, but this world, this reality, that we live in now is much, much different than when they were growing up. Our parents and grandparents are used to finding a job and that's what you did for the rest of your life. Point blank. You went to school for accounting? That's all you're doing for the entirety of your working career. Career change? What's that? Listen closely: this job may not be your career. It may not even be your job in a year. THAT IS OK. It's okay to decide that you want something different. It could be for any reason: pay, benefits, career growth/path, etc. Here's what you DO need to decide:
1. What's my 'end goal'? What do I want to achieve in my career?
2. Is this going to build my resume in the direction I WANT to be moving towards?
3. What's this company going to do for ME? **
Yes, you heard me right on the last one. It's okay to be selfish even though we are told otherwise. Millennials are seen as needy or needing to be catered to, but most employers know that isn't the truth. Millennials want a sense of direction, they want proper training, and they want consistent feedback. Does your company have a path for you? Can you move within the company?
*Hint: these are great questions to ask during interviews.
*Side note: I am not giving you permission to job hop. Be strategic, build your resume, don't burn bridges.
Guys, I switched my career path not even 2 years into my first full-time, salaried position. I got that job offer Fall of my Senior year at NIU. I was set. I loved retail (still do) and was 100% that was my path. WRONG. And you know what? That's okay. Here's the thing. I am young enough to not have to stick with something I am miserable doing. (side note: I cried ALL the time). But not even the young factor - I deserve to be doing something I am passionate about. I deserve to be happy. And I wasn't. Life opened up a new window for me and I crawled out! ;)
A job is every bit like a relationship. You WILL have bad days. This is inevitable in every job you will ever have. What is the fire that is making you stay and work through it?
I am more than happy to help where I can if you're experiencing this limbo! I love reviewing resumes and interview tips and tricks. :)
I'm fulfilling my promise of my favorite places I have been to... Let's keep it to top 3?.. Top 3 of my favorite places I have been to!
Disclaimer: My favorite vacation spots doesn't mean it will be yours. That's what makes life beautiful - variety and likes/dislikes. :)
1. Puerto Rico
Honestly, this one probably won't come as a surprise to a lot of you.. I talk about this trip all the time!! And maybe it was the way we executed the trip is the reason I just loved that vacation SO much!
For those of you that do not know, Jason and I flew down to Puerto Rico 2 years ago (already?!?) and took the Southern Caribbean cruise by Carnival out of the Old San Juan port. The cruise went to St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, and St. Maarten. We then stayed in Puerto Rico another week after the cruise. LEGIT. HANDS DOWN. One of the best vacations I have ever been on. I could probably do another blog just talking about where to go/what to see/how to plan this type of vacation.
Puerto Rico itself is wonderful. The entire island just has a story to tell you. We stayed at a condo nearby to the airport. There was a nearby grocery market that we got groceries from for the week and it worked out perfect for us!
Things I would change or stay the same:
- Stay in Old San Juan at least part of the trip
- Go to Bio Bay again
- Go to the island(s), Vieques and Culebra, off the coast (we went during the busy time - holiday - and it would have been impossible to get there)
- Spend more time at the El Yunque National Forest
Things to do:
- El Yunque National Forest
- Old San Juan
- Bioluminescent Bay (Bio Bay)
- Cathedral of San Juan (Old San Juan area)
- Arecibo Observatory
- San Juan National Historic Site (fort)
- San Juan Cemetary
- Bacardi Factory Tour (I would say do this as a last resort of something to do. If you're used to a good tour, this doesn't compare.)
- Awesome food, restaurants, bars, and beaches
I asked Jason what his personal favorite was and this was the first thing he said. This trip is still fresh in our brains and now that I'm reflecting on it.... I don't think I ever blogged about it! Shame on me. We went to Alaska in January. Yes. January.
There are 2 reasons we went to Alaska this past winter:
(1) Jason had been to all the US states except Alaska and Hawaii. His bucket list goal is to have visited all 50 states by age 30. He turns 30 this summer.
(2) Northern Lights: can only be seen in winter months.
For bonus points.... (3) DOG SLEDDING.
I will warn you ahead of time..Alaska is pricey. If you don't have enough money saved or are staying on tight, tight budget, not the place to go right now for you. When we went, it was basically a "we spent how much on flights to get here, we are doing what we want to do/when will we make it back here next? Let's just do it". I don't mean like the food is pricey or things like that, I mean the excursions to go where you want to visit. I also blame part of this on the winter (snow). We rented a car and it just didn't work out for us as it wasn't properly equipped with the right tires (not studded). If we had the car the entire time, we could have driven places ourselves. That being said though, summer is their main tourism season - therefore prices are way jacked up (hotels, etc.) - and there are still excursions you must go on to see certain things. So pick your poison. :) We definitely will be going back to Alaska in the summertime. I hear nothing but wonderful things about it and personally I'd like to take a cruise.
Activities we did:
- Dog Sledding (-60 degrees....we were test dumbies)
- Northern Lights Photography Tour (we had our camera)
- Matanuska Glacier Hiking
- "Best of Alaska" tour (we were the only ones on this tour)
- Don't ask the Alaska Info stand downtown for ideas in winter...they weren't helpful. At all.
- 49th State Brewing is awesome. Must go to.
- Hard Rock Cafe: we ended up here a lot of the time.
- Be prepared to drink. :)
- Ted Stevens Anchorage Airport is legit.
- Anchorage is small - you can walk everywhere.
It is really hard to pick a 3rd favorite.... But Jason and I both agree that if we are in the Caribbean we are doing something right! :) I can't say we have ONE favorite island, as we have enjoyed about all of them that we have visited. One that we will be going back to at some point is St. Maarten. In fact, my mom and dad went there after we did!
I lied in my last blog - this isn't best destinations, but rather another 'what/how-to'. :) Maybe I'll do destinations in my next!
I get asked this question a lot when packing for a trip - and I never used to be great at it, so I'm here to help you... "HOW DO YOU PACK JUST A CARRY-ON BAG?".
Jason and I have only ever taken actual luggage on our trip to Alaska this past winter - for obvious reasons, of course. :) I have found it is quite simple to pack just a carry-on and it makes for WAY easier traveling!! You don't have to sit and wait for your luggage to come out of the terminal...you don't have to fight the crowd to get to the terminal...etc. No, it may not be for everyone, but here are my tips and tricks if you want to pack light or like to be on the go and not worry about something like this!
1. Find a carry-on piece that suites you.
For me, I use a simple black suitcase with wheels that I was given for Christmas YEARS ago (has held up well!), but I have also used my sister's cute polka dotted hard shell luggage a time or two. Keep in mind, this is just your carry-on piece not including your personal item! Almost all carry-on luggage pieces will be correct measurements, but you'll want to check to make sure.
Jason on the other hand uses a book bag as his carry-on. It is a backpacking style book bag and it works well for him! His has held up well too. He's had it for at least the 3 years that we have been dating. Links to similar products:
Luggage: Click Here
Back pack: Click Here
2. What and How to Pack Toiletries
So with having a carry-on, there are restrictions on liquids that you can take on a plane. Funny enough, we usually only take one 'sandwich' sized bag with us. Mind you, you are allowed one per person with travel size liquids. The only problem we have ever encountered with doing this is if you are going somewhere hot and need a lot of sunscreen. Jason burns easily and I do not sooooooo .... I under packed and it was a mess! :) We have learned since that he takes a bag just of sunscreen minis alone. I hate using actual plastic 'sandwich bags'. (A) we don't keep Ziplocs in our home so I have to call my mother for one or two (I like to double wrap for security against leaks) and (B) they aren't reusable by the end of the trip! They break...tear...etc. Thus the double bagging on my part. I linked a very similar one below that I found on Amazon that I use and it has upheld at least 2 years, if not 3. Mine is originally from Target, but they do not have one that is similar to mine right now online. I like the side zipper and I can fit a TON in there.
My Travel Bag:
- Mini Shampoo & Conditioner (Jason uses hotel freebies, I can't)
- Mini Body Wash (helloooooo Bath & Body Works freebie mailer!! J uses hotel soap/body wash, again)
- Mini Lotion or Body Cream (again B&BW promo) - this comes in handy if peeling from sunburn or to help with some sunburn (may want to pack aloe depending); I like this primarily for keeping legs hydrated with razor and heat (know your skin, folks!)
- Liquid Makeup (concealer); I actually can fit all the makeup that I use in this bag (bronzer, blush, etc. but you can pack all of that in a separate makeup bag as it isn't liquid)
- Extra Contacts (in solution)
- Contact Solution & Case
- Medicine/Creams: I am allergic to some things so I like to keep a cream handy in case have reaction to something otherwise vacation can be miserable
- Mini Perfume (I wear VS so anything pretty much comes in travel size whether a mist spray or a roller ball)
- Mini hairspray (varies, usually have but I'll leave out if not enough room or need another bottle of sunscreen instead)
- Mini Sunscreen x 2 (available at Target or your drugstore)
- AND THERE'S STILL ROOM FOR MORE
I legit take this even if we are going somewhere I can take full-size bottles with (road trip, overnight/weekend trip)
*Myth debunked: Don't fall for the buying a travel size deodorant. You only have to worry about deodorant size if you have a gel deodorant (liquid, remember?). EVEN THEN, check the ounces on your deodorant - you probably can just throw this into your liquid bag and not have to buy a 'travel size'. Smart, huh? If you don't use gel, don't worry about throwing it into your liquids bag!
*Packing tips: You lose some of these from utilizing the products on the trip. You may find it easier to simply buy a sunscreen full-sized bottle when get to destination, but be careful...they can get pricey! (Think resorts or cruises where they charge ample.)
Travel Bag for Liquids: Click Here
I find this easier to pack than I did when I was younger simply because I think, or would like to think, that I am more logical as I've gotten older. I will wear the same shorts half the time - hey it looks good with this shirt, that shirt and that shirt too...or they're just comfy!
My process is simply to lay out everything I would LIKE or THINK I need to take with. Next think of what you're doing each day. So for this, I think of the excursions we have lined up thus far, etc. If we don't have anything planned that day, we will just wing getting off the boat and going - I'll wear clothing that goes over a suit, but will also hold up decent if I put back over a wet suit. AND/OR take undergarments with to change before heading back. BUT think of what your tendencies are AND the destination. Jason and I are beach people - we will most likely end up there one way or another. :) I'm just thinking cruise in this blog post, honestly. If you have other example or can't think of how to pack for your upcoming trip - shoot me a comment or message! Next, especially since we are talking cruises, I pack a piece to wear to dinner. This usually entails a cute romper, maxi, or dress. We skip out on elegant/dress up night because we don't find it necessary to lug a tux and evening gown along with us (reason for this article LOL). Now I know what you're thinking - shoes Randi! What the heck do you do about shoes?! Well, personally, I'm not a shoes gal so I take a few pairs of sandals that pack well with a day outfit and an evening outfit. I have classic sandals that go with either. Would I like to wear wedges? Maybe, but it's not practical for one outfit - think how many outfits would I wear these with and then plan around that if you really want to take them! Maybe you take a sneaker, a sandal, and a wedge - that's still fine!
- 2-3 swimsuits
- Undergarments (think of dresses/outfits you have - do you need a strapless? Sticky bra? Etc.) I take extra sets just in case delayed flights, unplanned circumstances, etc.
- # of days gone: # of outfits; trick: can you pair different bottoms to different tops? I usually take a spare set of 'pants' for, again, unplanned circumstances (we don't do laundry on vacation)
- Always, always pack a sweatshirt/sweater and pair of jeans - YOU NEVER KNOW. This may sound crazy since we go on warm-weather trips, but, like for example, they have movie nights on the main level of the cruise ship outside at night - that gets chilly! Also, if air is on in room....may need! I rather be cold than hot, but I also like to be prepared. I have a light, grey sweater that I adore and pairs nicely with about everything I own that I take with typically.
- One pair PJs; I sometimes take 2, I have a 'light pair' (if I get hot or have a sunburn - easier on the skin) and then I take a pair of gym shorts and a tee.
Tip: Use an undergarment bag. I received mine free with a purchase from VS and adore it which I would have never thought! Again, easy travel. I linked one on amazon, but I would find one that is cloth material - easier cleaning it up/washing in my opinion.
Wash-Wear Travel Bag: Click Here
4. Finding the Best Personal Item
I see both sides of the spectrum when at the airport - the person who doesn't take advantage of a true personal item (small purse) or the person who takes personal item to an extreme and could possibly be rejected (I see you). My personal item is a (smaller) North Face book bag that I actually used for the last couple of years of college! ha. We take this because we will utilize it when we get off the ship, go to the beach, etc. We have taken this hiking to Starved Rock, we took this on our bus trip to hike on the glacier and left in the car, etc. It is probably the best investment that was made (thanks Santa!). It fits our camera and its case, 2 towels, selfie stick, water case (for when we snorkel), 2 water bottles, some fruit from breakfast buffet, and room for secret storage like room keys, keys, etc. I'll link a similar one below. When traveling, however, I put blow dryer, passports, liquids bag, and bulkier items in there so not to take away from the room I have in my actual carry-on and have easier access to some of things that I will have to take out, such as the liquids bag for security. The backside (the side that touches your back) works well because of how sturdy and flat it is, I can place all travel documents along the backside (hotel reservations, boarding passes, etc.) without it wrinkling or getting torn. A lot of stuff goes into this bag when it's used on the airplane.
Jason doesn't need a carry-on, but I make him take one anyway. It's usually the 'medicine' size bag that comes with a luggage set. Think like a quarter duffel looking thing - I'll link one similar below again. I like to put all electronic-related things in that bag. So think your chargers, cameras, etc. It makes traveling easier when you can organize as much as you can. This way you know where something is when you're looking for it. For example, I always keep our deck of cards in my book bag, front pocket, middle slot. :)
Book Bag: Click Here
'Medicine' Bag: Click Here
*This one still seems a little big in comparison to what we have, but it has the strap on the 'backside' that you can hook to your rolling luggage for easy carrying.*
5. Other Items to Take With
- Documents: Printed Hotel Confirmation(s), Cruise Info, Rental Car Info, Flight Info, Excursion Confirmation/Info
- Beach Towel
- Hat(s)--recommend wearing, not packing, to keep shape
- Snorkel Gear
- Wristlet or Light Purse
- Nook (load your books prior to leaving on trip) or Tablet
- Selfie Stick
- Underwater Phone Pouch
- Deck of Cards
- Passport--even if staying in United States/road tripping, we take ours.
- Water Bottle
- Plastic Bag(s) (Target, etc. - think wet swimsuits and towels being packed away on last day)
Can you spot the items I mentioned below? Hover over picture to reveal. :) I also linked places we were at. :)
An adventurous soul, a kind heart, and a sarcastic mouth. You never know which you will get.