“Where Are You Going In Life?”: A Holiday Special

Premiering this Wednesday night and lasting all through the holidays, brought to you by Your Family, the inevitable interrogation: “What are you doing with your life?” or the various other ways to phrase that prying query.

It’s open season for your relatives to find you at family dinners and ask about life. Oh, it seems so innocuous at first: “What classes are you taking?” “How’s that job?” And then: “So what do you want to do with that?” “Where are you going in life?”

Well, right now I’m headed for the eggnog – unless there’s some gin and tonic available, because I’m going to need something stronger to handle that question.

Since preschool we have been asked “What do you want to do?” And now that we’re twenty-somethings, the question still persists (*heavy sigh*) – and in so many other forms. People are no longer content to hear you want to be a fireman or a nurse – or, like I used to say, an Egyptologist. Sorry, guys, I don’t want to dust off pyramids anymore.

They want concrete, “realistic,” relevant answers. Like, what do you actually want to do? And not just what you want to do, but what are you doing. I imagine (read: hope) the inquiries will stop when I turn 30, but I think that’s false hope. The cross-examination only ceases once you fulfill first world society’s ideal of what is success: Steady job, permanent location, married, kids on the way. And if after achieving this, the variables fluctuate – say, you divorce or you quit your job to go do something else, God forbid – the grilling begins all over. I’ve seen it from afar: Suddenly your cousin is the condescending “So, Joe, now that you’re no longer as successful as me, what are you going to do about that?”

What Joe should say: “Sorry, my mouth is stuffed with turkey and sangria, so I can’t answer you.”

Senior year of college, the most contentious question to ask your peers was, “What are you doing after graduation?” Some people ask because they’re curious and have no judgment (ha! Everyone has judgment!), and some people want to know so they can compare life paths (“Mine puts me at $10K more than you”).

Millennials ducked that hurdle by assuring our collective selves that “it’s okay” not to know what you’re doing postgrad – until you’re a few years out. Like me now. But oh wait, I’m in grad school/have an internship/I must know what I’m doing.


Maybe, just maybe, I went to grad school to avoid answering the question of my life path. I got a BS in statistics, not in Life’s Purpose. And just because I’m in grad school for something super STEM-y does not mean I might not go become a New York columnist (which is better than a Minneapolis or LA columnist, obviously) or work with Ebola in Africa (which is what I would really love to do, do you hear that, Mom and Dad?). “So then why are you in grad school?” I don’t know!

But oh, if you don’t know about your career, we can change the subject. My aunt will ask if there’s anyone special in my life, and my mom will answer for me – and then she will add, “It’s because he doesn’t know how to compromise.” Well, eff you, too.

Finally, to shush everyone, I’ll admit, “I’m just working toward a place where one day I can make a pumpkin pie and not feel compelled to Instagram it to show that I’m an adult.”

However, I’m guessing they don’t make pumpkin pies in Africa. Sorry, everyone.

Friend Your Mom

In college, lots of my professors warned about being cautious about what you post on social media. Despite your best efforts, employers can find anything they want about you online, including your social media pages. So how do you prepare your profile to be seen by people that potentially hold your future in their hands? The easiest way to to do that is friend your mom. If you don't want your mom to see it, you definitely don't want it on Facebook. That picture of you passed out after a long night of partying? Nope, momma won't want to see that. Don't put it on Facebook. That cuss-filled post sub-texting everyone on your feed? Mother won't be happy. Keep it to yourself.

I know when my mom first joined Facebook, I was nervous that she was going to be that mom who blows up the feed with "WHAT A CUTIE," and "WHO IS THAT IN THIS PICTURE," etc. But, it's actually really easy to avoid that. You know how?

You talk to her. I explained to my mom that everyone can see everything you do on Facebook, so comment sparingly. Please try not to "like" every photo in an album, especially if it's not even my album. If you have something disproving /inside joke-ish / mom-ish, please take it up with me in a private manner.

And my mom has been a Facebook gem. She comments on things, and it's always appropriate and probably only once or twice annoying. I say that now, though, and she'll probably read this and go HAM all over my wall just to be silly (hi, mom, still glad we're friends).

Perks of Having a Work Mom

So I’ve probably mentioned before that I’m one of the youngest employees at work (I can no longer say youngest because we just hired someone younger than me). Sometimes being young means that you lack authority, or it means that no one listens to you, but on the bright side, it puts you in perfect position to have a work mom! And, let me tell you, work moms are great. I started on the same day as one work mom, who would give me advice (not limited to work advice), bring me snacks, remind me about mom-ish things and even bought me lunch or breakfast from time to time.

But what’s even better is having multiple work moms. Everyone chips in to make sure I feel taken care of. And they complement me on my outfits because I’m so in-style, which is actually hilarious because nothing I wear is in style, but I have them fooled because they figure that must be what the kids are wearing these days.

My work moms also understand when I bring in cheetohs or brownies to our monthly breakfast, because "at their age they weren’t cooking either". Off the hook! And yes – I really did bring in brownies and cheetohs before to our breakfast.

Balanced with the fact that my work moms do actually trust me to do my job, and respect me when I am doing my work, being mom-ed is actually endearing. When I was talking about it with another younger co-worker, she said she didn’t like it. I get that they don’t treat anyone else this way, but let’s be honest; my work moms took care of me on my birthday when we barely recognize anyone else’s birthday at all. I’ll take the special treatment.

Forget Finding a Female Mentor Just Because You're a Girl

In college, I was told that in order to be a successful female at her job, you needed a female mentor to follow, to teach you in the ways of being a successful female in a business. And I bought it. Here's some research on the subject. I picked a job with the expectation that because it was a female-led business, I would get a better handle on how to function as a female in the business world. Now that I've worked under her and under a male, I can't say that the logic of having a same-sex boss to aspire to is necessary. Firstly, those females that we are supposed to be aspiring to more than likely trained under a man. My first lady boss was in the first graduating class with women. That means she studied under men only and was probably in a class dominated by males. She went on to create, invent and run multiple businesses as a woman without having female mentor. Why can't we do that then?

Secondly, we are reinforcing gender differences if we demand that women need to emulate women. You can learn just as much from a male as a female. Yes, I agree that the relationship is different and the experience a man has in the workplace is and always will be different than a female. However, that doesn't mean that what a male can teach you doesn't amount to anything notable. I'd even go as far to argue that learning from a male gives you a competitive edge, as males historically dominate the workplace and still live above our glass ceiling.

I'm not going to generalize and say that my experience with both is the general whole for everyone, but what I've learned from my male mentor is far more valuable than what I learned from my female mentor. My female mentor chalks everything up to being a female and fighting against the stereotype that people place on you inherently if you have a vagina. My male mentor chalks everything up to being right and fighting for what you believe in because you know best in that situation.

Far more empowering.

Additionally, working under a female created a lot of the Queen Bee syndrome, where my movements below were seen as a combative and manipulative, when they really were just new ideas that I thought might work. I didn't get any support and anything I suggested was so quickly squished, it almost felt like it was done purposefully to make me realize where my place was. Working with a man, my new ideas are welcomed and seen as me trying to challenge the status quo in an effort to better the system. I have full support and a booming voice behind me cheering me on.

More respect and more purpose.

I may be making feminists everywhere writher, but I'm just laying it all out in the table. Having a male back you up is still a good thing. Is it better than having a female back you up? No. It's just an option that people don't place any significance on, when in reality, it does serve as a benefit.

Lunch Break Confusion

Lunch used to be my time to get away from everything in the office and relax. It was my 45 minutes of sunshine. These two past weeks have turned that time into a time of confusion and struggles. Last week it was the stalker, as accounted in Why Can't you just Stick to Stalking Me Online, and this week it was autumn picking on me. I always take my lunch sitting outside at the picnic tables. However, it's rained and been cold every day this week, which poses a real problem for my routine.

On Monday, I was still wary that my stalker would be around, so my roommate brought her family to come eat lunch with me. By Tuesday, she was back working, so I needed to grow up and take lunch alone again. However, it was raining, so I decided just to eat in the office. I was surrounded by my work, so it wasn't relaxing in the least and I ended up working for the entirety of it. I went stir crazy by the end of the day, so I knew on Wednesday I'd need a new plan.

Since it was cold and raining, I knew sitting outside wasn't an option, so I left my office and ate in my car. I knew I needed to get out of the office, but I already had brought lunch, so i didn't have an excuse to go sit in a restaurant. So in my car in the parking garage I sat. It was weird, so I didn't want to do that again.

Thursday I decided to go pick up my birth control so I'd have a reason to leave for lunch. That excursion lasted all of 5 minutes, so I decided that maybe sitting in my car in a new location wouldn't be as bad. It wasn't AS bad, but still weird.

So here came Friday, where I ended up sitting in my car in yet another different parking lot. I don't want any businesses to think I'm creepy, so I'm trying to vary it up and park far away from the door. As I sit here, I wonder; what do people do for lunch breaks when they can't sit outside? My roommate goes to buy lunch everyday so she can sit inside, but I just don't see that fitting into my budget. There no lounge in my building. And staying at my desk for nine hours without reprieve makes me crazy. I miss in college when there were plenty of buildings you could sit in and wait around in without it being weird.

The only factor making me feel a little bit better about my car lunches is that there's a guy a few parking spots away also enjoying his car lunch. Here's to confusing lunchtimes!

My Experience with Lengthy Resumes

I used to help in the career and academic center in college and my favorite task was reviewing resumes. It's a really nerdy thing to love, but even now I throw myself at people writing resumes because I want to help them. Part of it is because it's fulfilling to help someone write a resume that will get them a job, and part of it is seeing how they interpret how to craft a resume. On the general whole, most young people don't know what to do on resumes. There are those that put nothing in their resume because they don't know what to put, and then there are those that have a 14 page resume.

Let that sink in.

14 pages.

She was a freshman in college too, so it's not like she was documenting her research qualifications and doctorate theses.

Not only did she have 14 pages, but she was emotionally attached to every page. To her credit, she was involved in a lot, but it got a bit ridiculous citing a D.A.R.E award from elementary school. When I suggested cutting out the dated information, it was like asking I was asking her to slaughter a puppy. I actually started to feel bad asking her if we could cut out her listing of participation awards.

What she didn't see what those 14 pages were making it difficult for anyone to ascertain the important aspects of her achievements. Essentially, she was a hoarder of information and it cluttered all the valuables to the point you didn't even know they were there. Instead of making it look like she was qualified, it made her look disorganized and desperate to prove herself.

After showing her what a one page resume looked like a highlighting the parts of her resume that I would keep, I sent her on her way and recommended bringing in her resume to an academic advisor after she fixed it up. A good ending to the story would be that she saw the light and brought in a one page resume, but I don't actually know that it ever happened like that.

I hope she did take my advice, but if not, I at least hope this memory is an inspiration to ensure that no resume you ever present to a potential employer resembles a novella.

How to Not Get a Job

Since I work in a company of three, I get to do the job I was hired for, plus other random jobs, such as recruiting! I spent Friday at my very first school's recruiting fair as an employer. I went to multiple back when I was in college, but I was exceptionally excited to be back at a fair as an employer. I was imagining flocks of people shoving their way to my table and rushing to hand in a resume. It was nothing like that. We got some great candidates, and we got a few who are perfect examples of what not to say to potential employers. Here's a list of real things real college students said to us while we were at the career fair that made me wonder if they understand how to get a job:

  • The very first person we talked to told us she was a marketing student and then we explained our company and she goes, "Facebook? So anyone can do this job." Maybe don't trivialize a company's job when you are trying to hand in your resume.
  • "I've never heard of your company. What can you do for me?" Ballsy. If her tone was a bit softer, that might have actually worked, but as she said it like she was entitled to get a job, I made a mental note that she was too pretentious to actually make me want to employ her. She also clearly didn't do her research like lots of her peers did, so she already distinguished herself as not as committed as her competition.
  • "I already have a plan for when I graduate, but I thought this could be a good backup." I appreciate the fact that this girl is honest, but why in God's name are you walking around essentially telling companies that you don't really want to work for them, but if their plan A falls through, you could be their plan B? No one is going to want to follow up with you if you are not ranking them a priority.
  • "I still don't see the value of my college education." This wasn't insulting in any way, shape, or form to me or the company I work for, but it is a huge slap in the face to the school he is currently attending, which is a prestigious school that people would die to go to. If he is willing to walk around insulting the education provided to him, I am sure he would do the same about our company if he was hired. Even beyond that, I greatly value my college education and if we are that fundamentally different on our views of education, it may be an indicator that we would not see eye to eye in the working world either.
  • "I just came from class so I don't have a resume and didn't see what your company is about." I understand having class, but you knew the career fair was today. They didn't announce it this morning and hope people would show up. Show some initiative and plan ahead, especially your outfit. This girl showed up wearing short shorts with her underwear showing, a cami on, and horrible tan lines. There was nothing professional or employable from her showing up not dressed and totally unprepared.
  • I wish I could quote this next exchange because it was hilarious, but I essentially do not even know what happened. We listed ourselves as not being able to hire international students (as we look to hire interns as a way to raise a future full-time employee and international students typically are not long-term options) and the conversation started off with the kid saying that he was an international student that wanted to talk to us anyways, even though he knew we listed as not having positions available. Then he had an unrelated major and no relevant work experience. I could hardly understand him, so I let my co-worker speak to him, and then he got frustrated and said something about how we need to find a way to involve more majors. Then he still didn't leave, so my co-worker told him more about our company and he said something about it not aligning with want he wants. AND HE STILL DIDN'T LEAVE. If you are pointing out that your needs and the company's needs do not align, why are you still wasting everyone's time standing there asking more questions? No matter how long you stand there, new positions outside of our needs are not going to materialize.

As Forest Gump said, "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get." Career fairs are just like that too. You never know if that student approaching is going to be absolutely nuts or totally sweet.

When the Life Plan Doesn't Happen

When I was growing up, I had my life entirely planned out. Now that I am at the threshold of my life that I was planning for, I have realized it is in no way what little me thought it would be.  While what I pictured for myself was pretty fantastic- depending on which version of now we are talking about- the "plan" I have for my life now is even better. When I was in elementary school, I had a plan that I was going to be married and be a meteorologist by now. I also envisioned living in a house similar to my Barbie's mansion, which was pretty cool. Needless to say, that version of my life didn't quite pan out.  While the Barbie mansion would be an upgrade, I must confess being unwed and not wrongly predicting weather is better than if this dream had come true.

In middle school, I thought by now I would be at NASA launching rockets into space. I'm not even kidding, I thought it was someone's sole responsibility to press the button to make the rocket go into space.  When I found out that those people are called "Rocket Scientists" and do excessively more than pressing a button, that dream died.

During my high school years, I did not have as much of a "plan" as before, but I did focus all of my energy on finding a way out of my town. I applied to no college within the state, except for my "safety" school. Then I proceeded to pick a college to go to based on how far away it was and how affordable it was.

When I was a freshman in college, I remember picking my major and knowing that by the time I graduated, I would have a job working for a huge public relations firm and in a serious relationship. I am 0-2 in that category.

However, working for a tiny social media company and selling makeup on the side (while not planned) actually perfectly fits me.  I have more leeway on creativity than if I was writing structured press releases all the time. I get to dapple in a bit more of everything because it is such as small company too, which keeps me from getting bored.  I am making less than I would elsewhere, but I get a whole lot more say in what we do, as well as more flexibility in what I am doing.

Despite having failed at every career and milestone goal I had planned out for my life thus far, I am glad none of my previous plans came into fruition. Sometimes you can't plan the life that you should have. It just happens and makes you happier than any other plan could have in ways that you couldn't have even imagined for yourself.