All Articles Tagged "career advice"

The 1 Question I Wish I’d Been Asked In College

January 29th, 2016 - By Christine Mwaturura
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I played by the rules: I studied hard, got good grades, graduated from college and landed a good job at a good company. Initially, I was hungry to climb the corporate ladder and quickly earned a reputation of being a top performer. But deep inside of me, nothing stirred. The mundanity of each work day slowly gnawed away at my soul, and my heart swelled with regrets. My disenchantment with corporate America became apparent when, after being in the workforce for a couple of years, I bumped into an old college friend who asked me with worry in  her eyes, “What happened to you? You used to have more life.”  

I wasn’t the only one though. Among many of my college friends, an existential crisis of sorts was well underway. “Is this it? Is this what life is? How come no one told us it would be like this?” we’d hopelessly ask each other. Forefront in our minds, we wondered what the hell we had spent our time doing in college. Wasn’t college, after all, the place where we were supposed to have found ourselves, and the place that should have prepared us for the real world?

The two most pressing issues on my agenda in college were: what am I going to major in? and what job do I want after college? These are important questions in the college experience, and I have a hunch that many other students also ardently set about to answer these two critical questions as I did. However, I believe that the way in which these questions are framed — very direct and very narrow — constrain the mind to a limited number of predefined majors and job descriptions: predefined possibilities. We fixate so much on these two questions in college that it’s often at the expense of other more insightful and useful questions.

Like sheep, college students are corralled into majors which ultimately govern the sub-set of jobs that they will be eligible for in the future. We ask 20 year olds to put on blinders by declaring one major (maybe two), instead of encouraging healthy experimentation during the time of life when the stakes are relatively low. It’s, therefore, not hard to imagine why Albert Einstein said, “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.”

What I wish I’d been asked in college

Young adults need guidance and what I wish I’d been asked by a career counselor or professor is: what are you curious about? A question that invites the person to whom the question is asked to engage deeply with themselves — with no boundaries. Curiosity, unlike the elusive concept of passion, is digestible, familiar and doable. The grandeur of passion can overwhelm many but curiosity gives us permission to experiment and see what sticks. People can handle curiosity. Curiosity, should we dare to follow it, guides us through self-discovery, and if we pay attention, can lead us to fulfillment.

I wish that I’d considered my higher education more holistically beyond the confines of the curriculum and had investigated my interests with as much fervor as my school subjects, through informational interviews, books, podcasts, volunteering and exploring ideas in a practical (not theoretical) sense. Had I done that, I think that I would have learned more about the variety of things that I could be good at, picked up more practical knowledge along the way, and made better informed decisions about my career. I highly doubt that I would have landed in the predicament that I saw myself a few years after graduation.

What now?

At least we can find solace in the fact that it is never too late to tap into curiosity. So for me and many of my cohort, begins the onerous task of pulling ourselves out of the pit that we’ve inadvertently dug ourselves into. Some of my friends are trickling back to business school to re-brand themselves with an MBA in the hopes that that will set them on a more enjoyable path. As for me, if it weren’t for following my curiosity for storytelling I likely wouldn’t have tried my hand at writing or have started a podcast with my sister. These projects energize me and fuel my hopes for a meaningful and purposeful career.  A comment on an interesting article I read on Psychology Today (The Problem with “Follow Your Dreams”) resonated with me and I think is worth sharing here, “Each day, every person who has dreams and desires should take steps, big or small, to FOLLOW THEIR DREAMS intelligently. A commitment to do so is an act of great self-respect.”

Power Pose: 10 Ways To Take The Best Photo Of Yourself

September 30th, 2015 - By Tanvier Peart
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The cast of Oxygen's "Pretty. Strong" strike a power pose (Courtesy of Oxygen)

The cast of Oxygen’s “Pretty. Strong” strike a power pose (Courtesy of Oxygen)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but in truth, the perfect shot can be priceless. Photos not only have the ability to capture an image but also power and intention. Anyone can capture physical beauty in a picture, but when the camera is able to capture your inner strength as well, that’s when you’ve got yourself an amazing shot.

It’s always important to make a great first impression, but in today’s selfie-obsessed society, peoples’ perception of you can be based more on image than anything else — especially on social media. But what does your public profile pic say about you?

Whether it’s a personal avatar that’s just for fun or a LinkedIn profile pic for business, any photo you share with the masses should reflect the best you possible. Here are some pointers on how to take the best photo of yourself every time.

Looking for inspirational women who exude that perfect balance of beauty, confidence and strength? Check out the premiere of Oxygen’s new reality series “Pretty. Strong.” Tuesday, October 6th at 10/9c.

Survive A Job You Hate (Before Somebody Gets Hurt) With These 7 Tips

September 17th, 2015 - By Christine Mwaturura
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Workplace Stress


You begrudgingly drag your carcass out of bed to face yet another day in the bowels of hell: the office. You near the entrance of the building and your intestines instinctively twist into impossible knots. You say a silent prayer, “Please God, don’t let this be the day that I sock my manager in the face like I’ve fantasized doing everyday this month. Amen.” It’s clear that your job is no longer for you but circumstances won’t allow you to quit quite just yet. In the meantime you’ve tried “thinking positive” and “looking for the silver lining” like all those helpful blogs advise. But what you really need are tangible ways to manage your daily frustrations and prevent a ratchet moment. Fortunately (or unfortunately), many others have already suffered before you so that you may benefit from their wealth of knowledge. Here’s what they recommend to help you survive a job you hate:

  1. Have an exit plan with definitive timeframes

If you do nothing else, do this one thing. Whether you plan to completely shift careers or make a simple switch to a different department, having an exit plan with defined milestones and timelines will tremendously help you remember that your current situation is only temporary. Equally important, an exit plan will help you regain a sense of control over your career.

  1. Listen to music

The positive effects of music on mood and productivity are well documented. If your workplace permits music listening during the day, then the right playlist can help you focus on tasks by drowning out your annoying co-workers, and also give you that much-needed lift to sail through the day. Two of my personal favorite pick-me-up songs are: “Hi Hater” by Maino and “Happy” by Pharrell.

  1. Take timeouts

Small breaks (even five minutes) are essential for maintaining a calm and balanced mind. Try taking a walk outside in the sunshine. If that’s not possible, try stepping away from your desk and doing some gentle stretching. Movement will get your circulation going and make you feel better.

  1. Talk it out

Venting to trusted friends and/or family can provide some relief. Be warned though that blabbing to your co-workers may not be in your best interests! If you are truly working in a hostile environment then you might want to consider speaking with a professional on a regular basis. Deterioration in mental health can be hard to detect and we often underestimate the impacts of chronic emotional stress until we’re on the brink of burnout. If you are experiencing workplace harassment or bullying, it might also be beneficial to have a conversation with your HR department; at least in this way you will have a paper trail in your defense showing that you sought help through the appropriate channels at your workplace, should things go way left. 

  1. Let it out and twerk it out

Find an outlet to release your tension. Dance and other physical forms of exercise are excellent ways to convert negative energy into positive energy. Other outlets like journaling and coloring have been said to be helpful for some. Additionally, having something to look forward to at the end of your work day or work week can propel you through the week.  

  1. Laughter is indeed medicine

We all feel better after a good laugh and there is good scientific reason. Proactively incorporate more laughter in your day by watching funny cat videos on Youtube, listening to Kevin Hart’s latest stand-up set, or reading a David Sedaris novel during your commute.  

  1. Good enough is good enough

You don’t want to get fired for producing poor work, but also understand that perfectionism is for fools. For a lot of people, frustration stems from trying really hard to do everything perfectly but not getting the recognition that they deserve for their efforts. If you are not being rewarded for your efforts and there isn’t an opportunity to negotiate this, then maybe just apply less effort (unless you’re a doctor or paramedic – I’d still like you to do your very best in life threatening situations!) Do what you can at work but set boundaries for yourself in order to preserve some of your mental faculties for other endeavors that fulfill you. 

It’s rough when you’re going through it, but remember the wise adage: this too shall pass.

Don’t Get Caught! 10 Workplace Antics You Shouldn’t Pull (In Gifs)

September 10th, 2015 - By Tanvier Peart
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The next time you feel like acting a fool on the job, you might want to think twice before doing so. You could very well find yourself on hold to get unemployment benefits — assuming management doesn’t fire you for horrible behavior. A study from Careerbuilder already broke down childish behavior in the workplace that’s a little too common, but lets take things an additional step with these workplace antics that will likely get you booted from your job.

We Believe It: Study Says Workplace Stress Can Be As Deadly As Secondhand Smoke

September 9th, 2015 - By Tanvier Peart
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People have been saying for some time now to try and get a grip at work. Yeah, someone might test you and catch a professional beat down (side note: If you discover ways to do this without getting arrested or fired, come find me), but this isn’t the kind of stress researchers are focusing on. A new study coming from folks at Stanford University and the Harvard Business School has shocking revelations about workplace stress — including how deadly it can be.

Focusing on a series of common stressors that include schedules and hours, benefits and job demand — along with a cross-examination of other studies (oh yeah, they’re serious) — experts have determined the more stress an employee has, the worse off their health is. Well, um, obviously that’s nothing new for us as we know the perfect mix of stupid and deadlines can result in an ulcer. What’s worth a mention, however, is that most health outcomes are similar to those who suffer from secondhand smoke.

Did I mention death is one of them?

Hold the phones and take a message…what?! You mean to tell me being stressed on the job can lead to a headache and death? Obviously the deadly part isn’t common, but feel free to forward the study to your boss — along with a request to use a few personal days to reflect…with a glass of wine, some really good takeout and a DVR full of shows you need to watch.

All jokes aside, this study reiterates something most of us have known for years: Too much job stress can send you to an early grave, or at the very least, cause a ton of health problems. The fact that those with crazy high work demands are 35 percent more likely to develop a medical condition is some pretty scary stuff. Failure to give workplace stress the proper attention it deserves can not only lead to an imbalanced work-life situation, but also disease and poor mental health.

Hopefully companies and employers will take a look at studies like these findings and reconsider the current practices they have in place. Too many people are skipping out on much needed vacation out of fear of losing their job (this study also points out lack of employment security can increase your chances of poor health by 50 percent), or try their best to work unrealistic deadlines. There comes a point when something has to give, and hopefully for you, it’s not your health.

I know it’s easier said than done, but professionals who are working around the clock might want to rethink their hustle. Yes, there are bills that need to be paid, but running yourself in the ground is proving to be more and more detrimental to your health. The last thing any loved one needs is for you to be shut up in a hospital somewhere (or worse) because of workplace stress. This is one of the reasons I left my freelancing lifestyle for a full-time position (ironically, a freelancing gig I was working turned into a great opportunity that allowed me to stop being a one woman circus). Of course it’s no foolproof way of protecting myself against stress (it’s bound to happen), but luckily, I found a company that does its best to reduce job stress for the sake of productivity.

Remember, there’s only one life you can live and one version of you.

Related Does the Stress Justify the Paycheck? Signs You Work in a Toxic Workplace

The Need For Constant Recognition At Work Is Getting Out Of Hand

August 31st, 2015 - By Tanvier Peart
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Let’s just jump right into this thing because someone needs to make a memo and send it around the office. The workplace is not like the playground, or some kindergarten class. What do I mean by that? Stop expecting participation trophies for doing what’s required of you, and stop looking for nonstop recognition.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I, like many of you, enjoy having colleagues and the higher ups acknowledge the effort I put into my craft. Aside from making me feel good, it helps reiterate I’m on the right path. There’s just a difference (at least in my career playbook) of liking and practically expecting something to happen all the time. Can you see where this might hurt productivity and make you look crazy at the same time?

A national study reveals millennials crave constant recognition in the workplace. Sure a pat on the back from time to time will make you happy — or even more satisfied with your job for that matter — but what happens when you don’t get it 24/7? Will that make you want to rip the plug from your computer and give your two-weeks notice?

Given the “commitment issues” our generation has when it comes to jobs (which can be a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it), I wouldn’t be surprised if some were ready to jump ship because they didn’t get the attention they felt they deserved for every little thing. Fellow professionals in the millennial crew already have a target on our backs as many look at us as self-entitled and prideful individuals who expect a raise or promotion after a few month’s work. Something like this doesn’t do much to wipe away the scarlet letter from our chest.

When it comes to my hustle, I work my hardest because it makes me feel good. Yeah, I love to be thrown a bone, so to speak, from time to time (more like a filet, but whatever), but that doesn’t change the amount of heart I put into something. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel you should put all you can into a position, and not solely do things just to get recognition. What’s interesting about this study is that close to half the surveyed millennials who received a reward for their work were still disappointed because it wasn’t the type of recognition they wanted.

Girl, bye.

Do you honestly think a company (with good sense mind you) will keep an employee around who constantly needs recognition for what they do — sometimes to the extent of doing the bare minimum until they get praised for doing extra? Seriously, what does that say about your professionalism? Yes, you should think highly of yourself, but not to the point that you’re sacrificing productivity for a gold star. Not only is that ludicrous, but it’s also a great way to damage the career your building for yourself.

How much recognition do you need on your job?

Related: 10 Signs You’re a Millennial Woman

Do You Regret The Particular College Degree You Received?

August 27th, 2015 - By Tanvier Peart
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​I’ll admit that I kind of loathe hearing the word regret. In some ways, it feels like a stain on your life you’re unable to remove. While I have mistakes I’ve made along the way, I’d like to think they helped shape me into the person I am today.

At least this is what I tell myself that makes me feel better.

One question I often get asked is whether or not I regret my college degree. Now that might sound odd to some, but it is a serious question when you consider a little over 27 percent of those employed work in a field that uses their college major. If you stop and think about how much that wonderful degree set you back financially, it might make you scratch your head. I don’t want to be one of those people who are so frustrated with life that they actually try to sell their college degree on eBay.

So what degree, pray tell, do I have? Before you roll your eyes, it’s not theater — though I don’t have an issue with anyone who wants to study up on the arts. My bachelor’s is in art history.

Go ahead and gag.

Honestly, I love what I studied and don’t regret my decision. Growing up, I had no idea what I wanted to do — even when I entered college. Eventually I found my path leading down interior design but loathed the thought of studying architecture (it’s really beautiful to study but comes with too much physics and other stuff). Once I transferred back home to the University of Maryland, I found myself circling around the art history building and learning more about the classes. Now writing long papers and doing research might not be your thing, but for the two years I spent all up and through that department, I was in heaven. I guess this is one of the reasons I don’t regret getting my degree.

Do I use my art history degree in my professional endeavors? Nope. It’s one of those degrees that’s not commonly applied like others. I’ve had my fair share of Debbie Downers who called me stupid for getting a “bourgeoisie degree,” but at the end of the day you have to decide what works for you. The point I’m trying to make is that there are in fact college degrees that are more employable than others, but that doesn’t mean you’ll land employment. Heck, becoming a lawyer is one of the “golden opportunities” most of us heard growing up, and those with law degrees find themselves in the unemployment line — now more than ever.

Nothing in life is foolproof — including a college degree.

For whatever reason you might decide down the road to pursue a new passion that conflicts with your college major, and that’s OK. Sometimes it will require you going back to school, while other times you might be able to use your current experiences to get you where you need to go. Yes, I do have an art history degree, but I was able to find my passion and voice in the world of writing that led to wonderful freelance opportunities. I just recently inked a full-time position on the editorial team of a top parenting website…and that’s with an art history degree.

Sure you can’t decide to become a surgeon without having the proper credentials and education, but it’s not always like that with every job. The best thing you can do is be thankful for what you have and make it work to the best of your ability.

Do you regret your college degree?

Would You Tell Someone They Overpaid You, Or Keep It To Yourself?

August 27th, 2015 - By Tanvier Peart
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I know what you’re probably thinking: Life is too short not to make it rain from time to time. You can do what you want, but as for myself, I can’t take money that’s not mine.

I know, I know, life isn’t fair and us common folks are often the ones to have to pay for all the craziness. Yes, it’s true much of the wealthy do fatten their wallets from our hard labor, but I’m not talking about that (we can save that for another day). I’m talking about the company that employs you overpaying you by accident. Would you keep the money and play dumb if they eventually found out, or fess up immediately?

I found myself in this very situation a few days ago when a company I used to write for paid me more than the invoice I sent them. You know how you find yourself doing a happy dance at the thought of getting paid? Well imagine that times a few extra levels as I was surprised to see thousands more in my account.

“Is this a going away bonus?” I asked myself. Side note: I was offered full-time employment with one of the companies I freelance for that would make writing for said “generous” company a no-no.

Seeing as I checked my email in the wee hours of the morning (having a two-month-old to nurse will do that to ya), I had to wipe the sleep from my eyes to make sure my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me. It wasn’t. There in my bank account was a hefty direct deposit that made me want to dig out my pimp hat, queue up The O’Jays song “For the Love of Money” and strut in my pajamas.

Then, reality set in.

“You know you didn’t earn this,” my inner angel told myself. It’s true, I did work hard but didn’t write enough to command all of that extra cash I was seeing in my bank account. “It’s their fault, who’s gonna know?” asked the little devil on my shoulder.

In life, you have two choices: Do the right thing or make the wrong decision. I chose to do the right thing.

No matter how awesome the extra money would’ve been, it wouldn’t be honest or professional of me to keep. Plus, can you imagine how damaging the blow-back would be to my business relationship with the company — assuming I ever wanted to come back? There’s a pretty good chance the person who made the error is going to get spoken to (maybe even fired for their mistake), but the last thing I need is a corporation coming for me because I kept money that wasn’t mine. And so I feel confident that speaking up  and giving the money back was the right decision. Do you agree?

Have you ever been in this situation? If so, what did you do, and what was the outcome?

Let Them Kill Their Own Career: You Don’t Always Need To Respond To Craziness

August 11th, 2015 - By Tanvier Peart
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Shocked business woman


Do you want a spatula to help pry that egg off your face?

Folks better learn quick that foolish behavior comes to light and won’t be tolerated in the world of business. Just ask Donald Trump as he, once again, is making headlines for all the wrong reasons. The presidential hopeful was nothing short of entertaining during the GOP presidential debate, but it’s what the Don posted on his social media that has folks buzzing.

Now let me save you the trouble of scrolling through all the retweets this man decided to send past the midnight hour.

He called debate moderator and FOX News commentator Megyn Kelly a bimbo.

In case you’re wondering why Trump came for Megyn (I understand if you had better things to do with your time than watch these Republican candidates go back and forth), she asked The Celebrity Apprentice creator why he has referred to women he doesn’t like as “disgusting animals,” “slobs” and “fat pigs.” His response? “Only Rosie O’Donnell.”


Now I understand wanting to step out from the crowd — and even saying things for shock value  — but this has got to stop. At a certain point, you will get called on your BS. People who were once in your corner will be forced to distance themselves from you. While the GOP presidential debate brought in huge numbers for FOX News, some believe Trump lost steam with his sexist comments.

Sooner or later, your lack of professionalism will catch up with you. Have you ever been witness to karma coming back on someone in the workplace?

I have.

I can recall this nasty co-worker who was so vile, you had to question whether or not she slept with the boss to get the job. The least social around the office, whenever she did say something, it typically was nothing nice. In fact, she had no problem putting people in their place and giving her two cents where it wasn’t needed. You know how people tell you to stay away from controversial topics like race and religion in the workplace? Yeah, she didn’t really get that memo. I will never forget one argument she had with a colleague about how unfair it was for him to constantly take breaks to pray (he was Muslim) when she wanted to smoke a cigarette.

As you would expect, quite a few people had issues with her behavior and reported her. There were even some who took it upon themselves to challenge her and it didn’t end well. One thing I learned from that experience is to not to stoop to someone’s level. Even if they look like the boss’ pet, sooner or later, they’re gonna get what’s coming to them.

Not only did this woman get fired, but she was practically humiliated when it happened. I guess our manager at the time got tired of hearing the same old stuff before he sent her on her way. “And don’t you think about collecting unemployment!” he shouted. “You’re a** deserves no assistance.” Side note: Guess who took her place? The Muslim she complained about. Smoke on that.

One thing I constantly try to remind myself is the importance of maintaining my professionalism. After all, no one else represents my personal brand but me. Yes, people’s comments can piss me off, but it’s ultimately up to me to do my best and not retaliate…at least not in the public eye (kidding). There really is no point in going toe-to-toe with someone who clearly has lost their mind.

Sometimes it’s best to sit back, relax and enjoy the drama.

“You’re Hired, Just Kidding:” What To Do When A Job Offer Is Rescinded

August 10th, 2015 - By Tanvier Peart
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What’s the point of working on your resume, getting a stylish outfit and heading off to a job interview if you aren’t going to get the position? You might think this is a silly question but folks can get in their feelings after so many rejections. That’s why hearing “you’re hired” is music to your ears.

Now that you have a fresh job offer on the table, you’re probably thinking about how you’re going to quit your job. Will you give the finger, leave quietly, or do backflips to the front door? Hopefully you wait to do any of the above, lest an unexpected situation arise: The position you thought you were getting is no longer available.

Say what now?

Companies have been known to do this. Whether they unexpectedly run out of funding to make room for you, or work things out with the person they tried to replace, a rescinded job offer is an extremely painful blow. Even if you signed an employment contract, most businesses will treat you as an employee at will — and still have the power to boot you when they feel like it. While there might be little you can do to salvage your position, here are some tips that might help to provide clarity on your next course of action.

Ask why. Now is the time to ask questions, but make sure you do so in a professional manner. There’s nothing wrong with trying to figure out what went wrong. Did they run out of money? Are they taking a turn in a different direction? Were you not the candidate they wanted? Hopefully you’ll get a response, as companies aren’t exactly obligated to give the tea.

Think hard about job discrimination. There’s a big difference between being black and not getting a job, and taking a virtual job interview, getting hired  and having the position rescinded because they saw your LinkedIn picture. Or maybe you were pregnant and no one noticed until right before your official start date. Yes, it’s hard to prove job discrimination, but is still an option to consider — if you truly feel that’s what happened and aren’t just in your feelings. The U.S. Department of Labor has the rundown on Equal Employment Opportunity laws that protect you from job discrimination. Read up to see if any situations apply to you.

Ask for a refund. Just because this business said no thanks to your skills doesn’t mean they’re off the hook for any expenses you had to cough up in order to get the position. Kindly remind them how much you paid (and they approved) for you to relocate to take the job, as well as any other related expenses. If they want to act like they don’t understand your English, lawyer up. In addition to approved expenses that were paid, those who were promised a signing bonus for taking the position also need to inquire about the funds.

Ask for assistance. If you were supposed to be employed with this company and things fell through, see if they’re willing to allow you to collect unemployment benefits. After all, it’s the least they can do considering they dropped this bomb in your lap. If that doesn’t work, inquire about a possible severance package — even if it’s only for a week or two (e.g. paid vacation). You won’t know your options until you open your mouth.

Consider waiting. This can be good news depending on how you look at things. If a company’s reason for not immediately hiring you is because of budget, see if they’re willing to give you the job in a few months. Sure this isn’t the most ideal situation, but if it means you get the job, you might want to think about it.

Rely on your funds. Can you see why emergency savings and other streams of cash are important? You never know when you’ll find yourself trying to endure difficult times. Until you find another position, do your best to hold yourself over and pay bills.

Inquire about your previous job. Ain’t nothing wrong with checking in with your last employer. One can only hope you knew the do’s and don’ts to quitting a job — and actually did the right thing. This might make it easier to get your old position.

Learn for next time. Now that you know how the game is played, help protect yourself from future burns. It’s important to get the stipulations of you taking a job in writing once an offer is on the table. You want to include things like reimbursement should things take a turn for the worst.

Has something like this ever happened to you? If so, what did you do?