Why Working for a Small Non-Profit Out of College Was My Best Decision Yet

When I first graduated college, I spent a month or two non-stop searching for jobs, interviewing and feeling just plain distraught over the fact that (in my mind) I was never going to find a job.

As I sit down to write this, it’s hard to believe that my college graduation was one year ago. And while it took two months for me to finally get that “you’ve got the job” phone call, it eventually did happen.

And the funny thing is, I didn’t really want that job. It was for a mediocre size company, in the middle of No-Wheres-Ville, PA. It was far from my home, my friends, my family. I didn’t know anyone in the area. It didn’t pay great. I was excited, and then not really all that excited at the same time. I told them I needed some time to think about it.

A few days later, I decided I couldn’t wait around for something else to fall into my lap, and that this job might very well be the only one I was going to get at the time in as a young professional in a wildly-competetive job market, and I accepted the position. I was ready to give up my Netflix addiction and start my career.

I moved to the new, minuscule area a few weeks later and started my first “big-girl” job in a tiny health care non-profit where I would stay for the next nine months before landing a job that was more ‘up my alley’; closer to my friends/family, better pay and more opportunity for professional growth.

And although I wasn’t thrilled at first for my job with the non-profit, I couldn’t be more pleased that I chose the road (less traveled? Here’s to looking at you, Robert Frost) I did. Working for a small (in size and budget) company opened my eyes to the back-ends of everything that makes an organization tick. I gained more experience in those nine months than had I ever waited around to take some other, entry-level position.

And here’s why:

Because my department contained all of three employees. You heard me — THREE! Which meant a ton of responsibility fell on my shoulders. I was able to explore, voice my opinions and work closely with my team to make things happen. I was a part of every in and out of every move we made.

Because I got to know everyone. I knew every employee in every department; including each volunteer we had. When I had a problem and needed IT’s help, I would sit in their office and watch how they ran the back-ends of the company. I had the opportunity to work with nurses and doctors, learning what was done on their end — outside of the office — helping me to better understand my job. I worked closely with accounting and billing and watched how every number of every budget was broken down. I assisted human resources and witnessed what went on behind closed doors. I could sit down with the CEO, face-to-face, and discuss projects, events and employee relations. I was able to work with each and every manager, no matter the department, and learn how each of them played a role in operating the organization. These are things I might never have the chance to do in any job ever again; but at least I know, when I’m (now) one of 19,000 employees, the types of things that are going on elsewhere in other parts of the company — and that, in itself, is forever invaluable.

Because I was given more tasks than my job description noted. And while, at times, that felt unfair and frustrating, it was really a blessing in disguise. I ran around like a chicken with my head chopped off more times than not and thinking, “This isn’t my job,” or “I’m not getting paid enough to do this,” when — in reality — I was gaining more than I could see. Looking back, I’m grateful for those experiences. I wore a lot of hats and I’m happy that I was given those responsibilities for the sake of learning to accomplish something regardless of whether or not it was my job, and in doing so, gaining more knowledge than I would have if I was just given my assignments. Every day was something different, and it caused me to become adaptable to a lot of different work environments.

Because when faced with difficulties, I had to pick up the pieces. There weren’t a whole lot of people to count on. As I mentioned before, there were three of us in one department. When sh*t hit the fan, I had to think on my feet to relieve the problem. Because there weren’t other people to run to for help, I relied on myself to fix the problems. I couldn’t give up, because, sometimes, I was the only person I could count on.

Because it made me learn to work with people I didn’t like. With a small group of working (mostly) women, you could sometimes feel the tension floating around the office. There was gossip, and fights and a lot of secrecy; and though these are things you might come to find in any work place, when you’re working with a smaller group of people, it tends to make it harder to respect them or find an outlet. I learned to not involve myself in anything besides my work because of the small territory we all shared — later helping me to understand and respect those in a larger organization.

Because I learned how to budget. I knew people who were making more than I was, and I knew people who were making less. I was well-off in the sense that I could afford my rent, bills, food, dog and social life. But, after taxes, it wasn’t the world’s best paycheck. Yet, I made it work. I learned how to budget my life (for the first time ever, mind you) from the smaller paychecks I received, which made it that might easier to become a “saver” once the larger paychecks started to come around.

Overall, working for the small, non-profit right out of college was the best decision I could have made. I learned a lot about myself in those nine months; professionally and personally. I gained experience, I gained professionalism and I gained a sense of self. It was like being thrown into a pool for the first time ever and learning how to swim and, though it was a tough nine months, I’m thrilled that it landed me where I am today: a place I don’t think I’d be had I not chosen to work for that small non-profit.

It’s hard to believe that, at one time, it didn’t sound so great.

– C

The College Grad Guide to Looking the Part: “Bro” Addition

“Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”

We have it instilled in us from the time we go off to pre-school, “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover.” Unfortunately, in the real world, an interviewer, recruiter, and employer can judge your look as soon as you walk through the door.

It’s probably easier for girls than guys to make the transition into what’s appropriate and what’s not. Besides, we’ve only been reading fashion magazines since the time we were 12. We pay attention to what our moms, older sisters, and quite frankly, every woman we pass on the street is wearing and how they’re acting. What looks good and what doesn’t: We’ve got it down. We’re pros.

But for most guys, the switch from “college bro” to “meeting with the CEO” can be tough. Your clothes, your shoes, your hair: It all says a lot about the type of person you are. More importantly, the kind of employee you will be. If you dress sloppy, you’ll be categorized as someone who is a sloppy worker. It may not always seem fair, but it’s time to make necessary changes.

If you’re a recent college grad “bro”, or if you’ll be one soon, follow these tips to looking the part while still maintaining your manliness and personality in the process:

The College Grad’s Guide: “Bro” Addition:

1. Keep your hair trimmed and clean cut. It’s not to say that you have to totally conform to one hair style or another, but try to make it to the barber every few weeks or so. At the very least, run a comb through it in the morning, wouldya?

2. Think about the way you speak. Do you use words like “man”, “dude”, and “killa”? It’s time to listen to yourself in everyday conversations. The way you speak with your roommates and friends will greatly affect the way you speak to co-workers. Amp up your speech by cutting out inappropriate words and start thinking about the way you sound to others.

3. You become most like the people you surround yourself by – choose wisely. The people in your life greatly affect the person you will become. It’s time to cut ties with the people who are only interested in drinking from morning to night regardless of what they have to accomplish the next day. And, unfortunately, these might be some of your best friends. Making this change doesn’t have to mean saying goodbye to your bros forever. Just take a step back and think about how much their influence has on you – good and bad.

4. Create friendships with people older than you. Chances are, you’re one of the youngest people in your office. This is a blessing, not a curse. Grab lunch or after-work drinks with some of your older co-workers. Associating yourself with those who are higher up and have more experience can only further your own self – professionally and personally.

5. Go shopping. Even if you have to “drag” your girlfriend, mom, sister, or best girl friend with you. Tell them it’s a day at the mall for you and that they are there to help you with your wardrobe. This won’t take much convincing so set a date and prepare your wallet because it’s time to shop for quality clothes, shoes, ties, etc. — Look good, feel good.

And guys, remember the best college grad guide rule of all:
Work hard – play hard 😉 

– C

7 Changes as You Grow Up

While finalizing some plans out loud for a friend’s upcoming wedding to a co-worker this morning, discussing travel time, weather, etc., she mentioned that this was the second wedding I had mentioned within the last few months. I shrugged and said, “Guess I’m getting to that age.”

Ew. That age? Who am I? But it’s true, after college graduation and starting to become a real, functioning human being, I guess we really are starting to get to “that age.”

While that age might not be a set age, and can happen at different times for anyone, there are some things we start to notice as we grow up…

1. Weddings
Your friends start to get married. You soon realize you’re filling your calendar with more save-the-dates faster than you can roll your eyes. All of a sudden it’s like, wow, when did we get so old?

2. Careers
Suddenly, your friends who you thought only majored in Netflix and Tequila are starting to find their niche in the real world and landing jobs. And it’s exciting and scary and new, but at least you can relate to having similar schedules for once.

3. Happy Hours
Sure, you had them in college, but happy hours after a certain point seem to be filled with work colleagues and tend to be a lot classier than they were before you graduated. Age varies and… gulp, you actually kind of have fun without slamming down 16 tequila shots before that clock strikes 6 p.m.

4. Money
You start to realize that when you or your friends have plans, or want to take a trip, there’s no more “I can’t afford it” or “Maybe I’ll ask my parents to pay for me as a Christmas gift!” Everyone has their own income and making plans for a night or long weekend become easier than ever to say OK to.

5. Emails/Texting/Social Media
You email people more than you text. Or you call instead Facebook messaging. It’s a whole new world beyond emojis and “K.”

6. Clothes
You come to the realization that maybe, just maybe 54 crop tops and 26 booty-shorts is a little much, and that you don’t really have places to wear them to anymore anyway. You stop shopping for quantity and you start aiming for quality. “Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have.”

7. Friends
Like clothes, you’d rather have quality over quantity. You get rid of the ‘friends’ that you no longer see or feel a real connection with. You keep the ones who do. You make new ones – through work, organizations, etc. Some just plain drift away. You know you’re old when you can accept this – that some people will always be around and that some people just weren’t meant to, and that’s OK.

Overall, no matter what changes you start to notice and how old you get, you’re always you and you can still throw back seven margaritas before that happy hour ends and you can still do The Wop better than anyone on the dance floor at the next wedding you attend. Oh, and you still look good in those crop tops shoved in the back of your closet that you won’t admit you didn’t throw out with the rest. You’ll still have money issues and learn to balance it between friends and time. Emojis will always be fun, age 14 or 42, and a smilie face will just have to suffice for friendly work emails.

If you’ve reached that age, don’t worry, your dreams still have no barriers and your innocence remains.

“The best is yet to come.”

The Best Places for Young Professionals to Shop (Females & Males!)

As a college grad, it can be hard to find a happy medium about where to shop now that crop tops (for girls) and muscle tees (for guys) aren’t appropriate for the professional scene, whichever you may be in.

I’ve done some looking and hunted down, what I personally think, are the best stores for us college grads to start shopping, without breaking the bank!

The Loft (F)
It’s a little pricey, but here’s why it’s worth it: The clothes, they last. They aren’t cheaply made and you’ll wear them forever. Also, this store comes with amazing benefits! They are constantly sending out deals and coupons. The other day, I spent $35 there for a dress, and today they sent me a $50 off coupon just for coming in. They are one brand you’ll want to make sure has your email address!!

New York & Company (F)
I used to think of NY&C as a hit or miss, but if you shop online, there are so many great options and they are always having sales! It doesn’t hurt to ever check here if you’re on the hunt for some great quality work clothes.

Gap (M/F)
I’m slightly, overly, maybe, possibly obsessed with Gap, not only for work clothes, but also more along the lines of comfy, day-to-day clothing that classifies you as an adult without making you look over 35 years-old like some shops. They don’t always have the greatest sales, but if you can hunt down a good sales rack or even an outlet shop, you’re bound to find something.

J.Crew (M/F)
I love J.Crew, and while their prices may be through the roof on occasion, they always have really good deals for guys!! J.Crew, for ladies, might not always be the best for everyday shopping, due to prices, but when you need something fabulous, you know where to head.

Ralph Lauren (M)
R.L. has clothes for women, too, but for the professional world purpose, and because most of you probably aren’t heading the country club to play polo any time soon, I’m going to keep this one strictly for the boys, and here’s why: While their robes, hats, and ties may be insanely over-priced, there are good deals here. Their dress shirts and pants are affordable and most importantly, they’re long-lasting and comfortable.

Kohl’s (M/F)
Kohl’s is one of the best places to shop for both men and women’s dress clothes. They offer different lines, brands, and tons of styles to choose from. For women, there’s Vera Wang, Lauren Conrad, ELLE, etc. For guys, there’s Harbor Bay, Dockers [insert dad jokes here], Haggar, and so many more! You won’t find this many good, affordable, choices in one place anywhere else

H&M (M/F)
I was hesitant to put this on the list because quite honestly, the clothes just aren’t great quality. But, I’ll admit that I have found a good pair of dress pants and a blazer or two from here and since they finally made ordering online accessible for the U.S. a couple months back, I guess they deserve a mention 🙂 With their cheap prices, there is a wide variety to choose from, making it worth a shot if you’re looking to grab a few things at once without spending a ton – just be careful because some things are more poorly made than others!

 

While I do occasionally stop in stores such as Forever21, Charlotte Russe, etc. etc. for a pair or leggings or tank top, I end up spending more money on replacing the clothes. Try to stay away from stores that cause you to end up practically stealing your money in the long run, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the check out.

 

Look good, feel good.

Happy shopping!

 

 

 

 

Where are some of your favorite places to shop for professional/casual clothes? Share below!