Creating Good Habits

The twenties is notoriously known for a time of self exploration. Why don’t we try to challenge this concept with the idea of twenties being about creating yourself.

The way I see it twenty somethings have two extreme lifestyles; they are either the “No Worries Party-er” or the “Extremely Focused Worker”. The problem is I don’t think anyone truly wants to be just one of these people. Deep down I think twenty somethings search for a balance of these two extremes.

Instead of finding ourselves in our twenties, let’s create ourselves.

Who do you want to be? What type of values do you want to be made of? How do you want people to describe you?

The answer to these questions can help us both learn who we are and make it a part of who we are. I believe the honest answers to these questions tell us who we are at our core. We are answering these questions based on something deep within us. Knowing the answers to these questions provides us with the choice to follow through with taking action on these desires or not.

This is where creating good habits come in. A habit does not just live within us, it comes from repetitive action. If we want something to be a part of who we are we need to make the  daily conscious effort to act in that way. 

These habits can be a concept or a tangible action. A concept would be something like practicing being honest or empathetic. An example of a tangible action would be a healthy diet or having daily prayer or meditation.

I mentioned my resolutions for the year in a post 6 months ago. Two resolutions I’m currently putting the most focus on is being a better friend and adding a work out routine to my work week. I’m practicing being a better friend by choosing one person to reconnect with in a special way each week. I’ve downloaded fitness apps to my phone and signed up for yoga classes in the effort to get into a habit of working out. After awhile it will be natural for me to come home from work and start a ten minute work out routine and to make plans with a friend each weekend.

When I grow up into my full adult self I want to remember people are more important than work and I want to keep myself healthy. What do you want your future self to be like?

Last week I was inspired by a post form Ambition in the City, Reconnecting with Your Passions. Cristina talked about how she reconnected with her inner yearning for painting. I thought this was a fabulous idea. I also love to paint but haven’t since I graduated.

Do you have a forgotten passion? Unleashing these inner passions is another way to create good habits as you build up the new adult you. Go ahead and use your twenties as a positive time of exploration. Try new things. See if you have any undiscovered passions. Learn about yourself outside of your comfort zone. Just remember to come back to reality and get your butt to work.

Combining values, tangible actions and passions is how we create that balanced persona. Obviously taking the time to increase your work ethic and understanding who you are are essential to growing in your twenties, but remember to focus on all areas of life. Develop your work skills, live out your passions and desires, and introduce good habits into your life to create that future self you want to be.

What passions would you like to start again? What type of person do you want to be? 

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3 Things I Could Go Without

Anthony’s post from Stuff Grads Like, 5 Things You Need to Give Up for 30 Days, inspired me to think about what I could go without. I sat down to write a list of what I could get rid of, what was unnecessary in my life.  Anything I could think of could fell under three categories. Honestly, I don’t know how long I could go without them because I am only human, but I do know I would feel much better after taking a break from them. I’m going to share these three things with you because I bet we could all do without them.

1. Technology

 

Anthony talked about giving up Facebook for 30 days, but I’m going to take it a step further. Do we really need all this technology in our daily lives? We have cell phones, mp3 players, tablets, laptop, computers, televisions… and crazy gadgets that I’m probably not cool enough to know about. I know some of this is inevitable. Cell phones are good in case of an emergency and we use computers at work. But how much could we reduce our use of technology?

Earlier this week when I got home from work I decided to see how much I could do before I sat myself down in front of the television. I read a book. I finally potted that plant that’s been waiting way too long to finally have a home. I cleaned my fish bowls (Chaz and Bebo are very thankful, I’ll have to Instagram them for you tonight). I did the dishes. I updated my calendar. I even got my laundry in while doing all of this! I did all of this to end my night with a nice meal I prepared. Yes, I ate my meal in front of the television because Leslie Knope is a great dinner companion. It surprised me but I felt a lot better and was in a better mood than my normal “come home and relax in front of the TV” routine.

I think we could all challenge ourselves to at least…

  • Not carry our phones around with us everywhere. Have it for the emergencies and if someone needs to get a hold of you, but leave it in one spot. Don’t check it unless you get a phone call, text messages can always be answered later, enjoy the moment you’re in.
  • Not stare at a screen all day. Our eyes need a break from screens. Most likely you stare at a screen all day at work, so read a book, go outside, get some exercise, meet up with friends, do something relaxing that doesn’t require technology.

2. Complaining

Seriously, do we really need to complain so much? Whatever we complain about, there is always someone who has it worse. I think we forget about that too much. I know, complaining is easy and I do it a lot. I complain about the job I have when most of my friends don’t even have a full time “real” job! How insane is that?!?

Complaining is just a bad habit that brings us down. Why not try our hardest to get rid of it. Instead we could practice good habits to replace complaining. It’s a little cliche but for some reason it’s harder to remember the good than the bad. Reminding yourself of how good you have it and how awesome you are could fight the urge to complain.

I challenge you to fight complaining with positive support by…

  • Creating  inspiration boards. Collect some inspiring words and picture then display them how you wish.  
  • Volunteering. Helping others is a great way to give back and helps make you humble.
  • Complimenting others. Instead of focusing on things you don’t like in your life, concentrate on the good in others’.

3. Laziness

Laziness is like a disease! It creeps in and then you can’t get rid of it! Laziness is the cause of so many unwanted or unnecessary things. The two things I thought of were procrastination and eating habits.

We could get so much more done with our days, weeks, months, lives if we didn’t procrastinate. We would improve in so many areas; work, home, relationships, friendships, and personal goals. If we were proactive we could spend time taking on new tasks at work, which could help us move up in our career; spending more time with friends to maintain relationship; and learning new things to improve ourselves.

I was going to make junk food the fourth things I could go without until I realized that I eat bad because I’m lazy! If I wanted to eat better I could create a meal plan for my week/month, research different diets, and have healthy snacks prepared to resist the easy to grab bag of chips.

Let’s challenge ourselves to fight laziness by…

  • Creating daily routines or scheduling things in a planner.
  • Putting a time limit on our down time.
  • Making a resolution to first do something active and productive before we reward ourselves with down time.

It would be a big leap to stop doing all three things at once. I imagine it would be very challenging to keep your will power up through all of this. But what if we just started with on thing at a time? Or making a small effort each day? Or having one goal from each thing for just a week? Do you think you could go without these three things?

What are your three things you could do without?

Dr. Meg Jay from The Defining Decade – 30 Is Not The New 20

Check out my girl, Dr. Meg Jay! She’s on TED talking about her lessons for twentysomethings.

I did a post series on her book, The Defining Decade, where we learned about the importance of using our twenties to build of future in work, family and personal life. Listen to this talk, read some of my posts, and take the time to read The Defining Decade. If you learn and act, you will be better prepared than most of your peers.

“Thirty is not the new twenty, so claim your adulthood, get some identity capital, use your weak ties, pick your family. Don’t be defined by what you didn’t know or didn’t do. You’re deciding your life right now.” ~Dr. Meg Jay

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Where Have I Been!?!?

Oh my goodness it feels like years since I’ve written a new post! I apologize to all of you readers and I thank you for the continued support of comments and views while I was away. And a very merry welcome to new followers!

As you may know, I am a production assistant for Sesame Workshop, meaning I work at Sesame Street helping with a variety of tasks to make creating the show possible. The last few weeks have been crazy busy! We’ve been at the studio creating new pieces for the show. Although I can’t give you any clues as to what we did, I can tell you that I am surrounded by so many creative and talented professionals. The team never seizes to amaze me, the writers especially. The writers are so talented in creating content that is educational and entertaining for children, but also have content for the parents, guardians, babysitters, nannies, teachers or whoever is watching the children.

Since I’ve been away so long, I thought I would share with you the type of work I have been doing while I was away…

Studio

Our studio is at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens. The studio has been there from the very beginning! When we are shooting at the studio I have a variety of tasks to complete so everyone else can do their job smoothly. Let me give you a generally run through of my day…

The day before I will usually receive the running order. The running order is basically our shooting schedule for the day. I print and distribute copies to everyone the day before so they know if there have been any changes and what to have ready first. Some people receive timed running orders, which are the same thing but someone has written the actual times of when we should be doing what and how long it should take. This is how the producers, stage manager, director and a few others can see if we’re on time or not.

In the morning I come in and immediately check my email. Even though I handed out the running orders the night before anything can change in a matter of hours… minutes really. Sometimes there are no changes and sometimes I have to start all over again. Either way, in the morning I hand out any running orders to people who weren’t there the day before and put up two extra large printed copies on the studio doors and talent doors. During the day the production stage manager will cross out what we’ve completed so everyone knows where we are. And it’s a real motivator to see how much we’ve done!

In addition to my running around with running orders (see what I did there 😉 ) I set up snacks and waters in the control room, hand out walkie talkies, refill water coolers and make sure the stage manager has waters on set for the talent. You may have seen my quality snack presentation on my Instagram. These tasks are small but I take pride in them. The little things need to get done so the big project can be fully functioning.

At a break before lunch I check in to see who needs lunch orders. There might be a vocal recording or meeting during lunch, these people will need personal lunches ready for them. These people could be talent, producers, directors, clients, international partners… basically there’s a potential I’m getting lunch for someone who is important. I need to coordinate my time to make sure I can get all the lunch orders at a time that is not interrupting their work schedule, order the food with enough time for it to arrive on time, and set it up before the lunch break. Taking these lunch orders gives me an opportunity to meet some pretty amazing people. Taking lunch orders and going on coffee runs is how I first met a lot of people at Sesame who are the reason why I work here.

The rest of the day is a little less planned out. I can get a random phone call to go on a run to pick something up for the director or an email saying we’re making changes that I need to notify people of. Sometimes I have time to observe on set. I learn so much from just observing. It’s also a great time for people to learn more about me by coming over chatting when they have a break.

Studio time can be a little hectic. I can wake up at 5am and not be back in my precious bed until after midnight. Normal call time for me is 7:30am at the studio, but depending on the work load I might come in earlier to set up. A normal wrap time can be from 6pm – 9pm. On long days we work more than twelve hours. I’ve learned how to get into a routine to keep me going for an entire week. You learn to adapt your lifestyle to what work asks of you. There are weeks when I’ll wake up, go to work, go home, have dinner, shower, go to bed and never see my roommates. It can be tiring but studio time is my absolute favorite! I would rather be on set than anywhere else!

Gala

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I was asked to help the stage manager for our Gala. You may have seen my pictures on Instagram for this as well. I was an assistant stage manager for the Sesame Workshop benefit dinner where we honor people for the extraordinary achievements and raise money for Sesame productions. The Gala is basically a dinner and a show. We have celebrity hosts, Muppet bits and a musical act. This year we had George Stephanopoulos and Ali Wentworth as our hosts and the PS22 Chorus for the musical act. A stage manager’s job is to make sure the show runs smoothly and talent has their cues. This was a one day project so we arrived early for a meeting with the director. When I say “we”, I mean the 3 camera men, the teleprompter, the other assistant stage manager, the stage manager, the assistant director, the director and myself. The director went over the script with all of us to share his vision of when shots and entrances would take place. I was out in charge of all the Muppeteer entrances. I marked up my script to see who had to be where, when and with what.

I loved working the Gala because I had never done it before. It was kind of similar to my theater experience in high school, but I was never actually a stage manager. It gave me new exposure to something that I think I could do one day.

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks but I love the chaos. The constant need of things getting done gets my adrenaline pumping so I can keep going throughout the day. What I’ve learned from my time at Sesame Workshop is to do everything that is asked of you to your best potential and do it with a smile.

If you have a job that at first glance might not look too important, look again. You’ll be surprise how much you would be needed if you weren’t there. Make an impression by taking yourself and your job seriously. Go above and beyond the normal. It’s a great opportunity to show your potential, but most importantly you will be happier at your job.

How to Get the Job

Resume? …Check!

Portfolio? …Check!

References? …Check!

Cover Letter? …Check!

Impressive Professional Outfit? …Check!

You have everything they told you was required… why haven’t you been hired?

Chances are you have all the content, but your writing might be why someone else is getting chosen over you.

Having the right qualifications, easy to read formatted resume and praised recommendations are all important necessities when applying, but the cover letter is what separates you.

Picture yourself as an employer. You have two twentysomething applications in front of you. Both are from Ivy League schools, have the same GPA and meet all the qualifications. You only have the budget for one new employee. Which one do you choose?

You choose the one who most resonates with you; the one who wedges his/her way into your memory; the one who told you a better story.

“A good story goes further in the twentysomething years than perhaps at any other time in life.” ~The Defining Decade, Dr. Meg Jay (p. 62)

The cover letter is your opportunity to capture your future employer’s attention. Instead of telling a chronological explanation of your highlighted experiences and accomplishments, create an engaging story. Grasp their attention. Make them want to read your cover letter because it is different from the tens to hundreds sitting in the same pile.

Go back to the basic writing skills you learned in English class about a story arc. Do you remember this chart?

story arc

Try to use the story arc to tell your professional story. Be selective and share specific moments that can form pictures.

“As a twentysomething, life is still more about potential than proof. Those who can tell a good story about who they are and what they want to leap over those who can’t.” ~The Defining Decade, Dr. Meg Jay (p. 62)

This was hard to hear the first time I read this. I was very proud of all my accomplishments in college. I thought my experiences set me up very well. To think my experience meant nothing kind of hurt… It took my pride away, but only for a moment.

I realized the point wasn’t that the experience gathered as a twentysomething was not important, but that it was more important to showcase traits that can be improved upon. 

When an employer is looking to hire a twentysomething most likely they are looking for someone to grow with the company. Someone who has the fundamentals to be a good employee. Someone who can listen to directions and improve over time. Someone who can be easily trained.

How can this be reflected in an a cover letter? It sounds like something that has to be demonstrated in person and perhaps over a period of time.

The answer is in the story. Your well written story will show that you have the two most basic, yet highly necessary skills needed of every employee; communication and reasoning.

Having good communication means you can receive direction, relay information, and express your own thoughts. Reasoning is important because it allows you to operate on your own and make key decisions. Having both these skills gives the employer something to start with, something with a success rate that can be molded into the long term employee they need.

In your story you can relay what type of person you are and what type of employee you can be. (I think both are important.) You can reason out how you can be a key aset to the company and how you want to grow.

“Stories that sound too simple seem inexperienced and lacking. But stories that sound too complicated imply a sort of internal disorganization that employers simply don’t want.” ~The Defining Decade, Dr. Meg Jay (p. 62-63)

This is why I would suggest outlining your thoughts first. Organize them in a manor that pertains to the position and to each other. Then you can get a better handle of capturing the best illustration of yourself and keep it all on one page.

Take your time on your cover letter. Personalize them for each position you apply for. Select specific illustrated stories that most apply to the position. Get feedback (I’d love to help review your cover letter through email at asktheyoungprofessional@gmail.com).

This might not be your one chance, but it is probably your best chance to grab the attention of an employer.

I know I need to go back and update my cover letter. I encourage you to join me because it turns out our English teachers were right, our writing skills will always be important.

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Being The Best I Can Be

I’m on this new kick of “being the best I can be”. I’m currently 23, but I only have 2 months, exactly, until I’m 24 years old! That’s almost a quarter of my life and half my twenties!

Honestly, one day I was looking at myself in the mirror and I didn’t love what I saw. Yes, I know I’m skinny and I don’t need to lose weight, but if this twenysomething body is the best body I’m ever going to have, why not make it the best it can be?

I’m starting my version of the South Beach Diet today. My version meaning I didn’t want to pay for the real thing so I tried the free trial, took some notes and combined what I learned with advice from friends. My goal is to slim down my legs and have flat abs, just like every girl wants. What I will really achieve is a healthy life style.

Committing to this diet will start healthy habits I can keep for life. I will learn more about what is good, or bad, for me and about portion sizes.  Then, hopefully, I will create a workout routine that I can continue to keep to.

It is obvious how much I’m enjoying The Defining Decade. I think it has really drilled the idea of the twenties being the years that set up the rest of my life. I do want to do as much as I can now to start living a better life. A better life personally, professional and socially. Everything I do now can only help start a create a habit to help me throughout life.

That’s why I have also been trying to organize my life. Once I get organized I can set routines for managing my money and schedule. I can also find where I need to make key purchases like the external hard drive I need and possibly some new storage units.

Socially, I can start creating habits of meeting up with friends weekly. Saving up for a yearly reunion with friends. Keeping close relationships with my younger siblings. These are just a few ideas, but creating social habits is the most important to me. We forget about people in the chaos of everything else. We need to dedicate time to working on that part of our life as well.

This 23 years and 10 month year old will be spending the next 5 years and 2 months choosing what habits to create and working towards “being the best I can be.”

The Defining Decade: Identity Capital Part 3

Another common misconception about the twenties is that it’s the last chance for freedom before real life begins. Dr. Meg Jay shares one of her client’s worries about letting go of her freedom too soon…

“I encouraged Helen to get some capital. I suggested she start by finding work that could go on a resume.

‘This is my chance to have fun,’ she resisted. ‘To be free before real life sets in.’

‘How is this fun? You’re seeing me because you are miserable.’

‘But I’m free!’

‘How are you free? You have free time during the day when most everyone you know is working. You’re living on the edge of poverty. You can’t do anything with that time.’

Helen looked skeptical, as though I were trying to talk her out of her yoga mat and shove a briefcase into her hand. She said, ‘You’re probably one of those people who went straight from college to graduate school.’

‘I’m not. In fact, I probably went to a better graduate school because of what I did in between.”

Helen’s brow furrowed.

I thought for a moment and said, ‘Do you want to know what I did after college?’

‘Yeah, I do,’ she challenged.

Helen was ready to listen.”

After college Dr. Meg Jay got a job with Outward Bound as a grunt in logistics, driving a van through the Blue Ridge Mountains. When an opening for an instructor position came up, she quickly seized the opportunity. She traveled through North Carolina, Maine, Colorado, Boston and more. She led trips for a wide variety of groups, from war vets to CEO’s to school groups. Jay recalls that when she started with Outward Bound she thought she would only be with them for a couple of years. Before she knew it 4 years had flown by. Jay comments on a visit back to her college town…

“Once, on a break between courses, I visited my old college town and saw an undergraduate mentor. I still remember her saying, ‘What about graduate school?’ That was my own dose of reality. I did want to go to graduate school and was growing tired of Outward Bound life. My mentor said if I wanted to go, I needed to do it. ‘What are you waiting for?’ she asked. It seemed I was waiting for someone to tell me to get going. So I did.”

Jay went straight to preparing herself for grad school. She made all the preparations for her portfolio and the interviewing process. She quickly realized that no one wanted to talk about her portfolio pieces or discuss scholarly articles and researches with her. After seeing her resume every interviewer wanted to talk about her Outward Bound experience.

Jay had a piece of capital that was different from other graduate school applicants. It made her memorable. So memorable that she was known as the Outward Bound girl until she got her doctorate from Berkeley.

From Dr. Meg Jay’s experience we learn that not only is it OK to take some time before entering a career or graduate school, but gathering unique experience can be very valuable. Unique experiences set us apart from a crowded applicant pool. It can give the interviewer or employer a visual to remember us by.

It is also important to notice that once Jay’s undergraduate mentor reminder her about her original desire to go to graduate school she took action right away. If Jay had put off preparations for graduate school she may have spent too much time at Outward Bound. Even though Outward Bound gave her some capital, too much time there may have set her back.

Now that we have understand what identity capital is and have the great example of Erik Erikson and Dr. Meg Jay to follow, we can discuss some of the practical advice Jay gives while we wrap up the chapter on identity capital in The Defining Decade.