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Patience is a Virtue. Even in the Workplace.

November 10, 2009 2 comments

In every job that we take on – both professionally and personally – there is a bit of a learning curve. There is a time where we struggle, where we feel awkward, and where we could really just give up entirely. Gradually, if we stick with it, we learn and it becomes more comfortable than it was before.

Usually, this requires the patience of others to wait while you learn. The boss has to give you some time to get adjusted. The friend has to understand if you need time for your new relationship.

Nowadays, we have all been faced with the unfortunate reality that the only real thing we can control is the stuff between our ears. Our brains. Our careers are not fixed, our degrees are not as well-counted, and our experience is constantly shifting. Our resumes are not determined by what we are doing in life, but by what we are questing for – if that is even a term.

The reason I thought of this is because of the amount of people I see who have such a burning desire to help in the nonprofit world, but who are relegated to administrative, nonsensical tasks for eternity. They lose that drive, and perhaps even turn to another sector because of this idea.

There is no one there telling them that they are worth the wait. It will take time for them to adjust in their duties with a higher degree of responsibility, but why shouldn’t someone give them a shot?

Doesn’t passion matter?

In today’s world, it is hard to hold on to what you believe, and even harder to find those with patience to hold onto it with you. That is why in my life, the people I value the most are those that allow me the time to make mistakes, to try things out, and to recognize my flaws – both at work and at home.

If there were one message I could deliver to the nonprofit sector “Gods”, whoever they may be, it would be this:

Don’t walk around with blinders. There are tons of inspired, visionary young people who are waiting for their chance to change the world. We would all be better off if you let them.

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Categories: Career, Challenges

Why Running a Half Marathon is a Great Career Analogy

November 9, 2009 3 comments

Gynecologic Cancer Foundation RaceOkay. It’s finished. The 13.1 mile race that was dominating the anxiety-driven portion of my brain is over. And it was awesome. Well. Before I completely glorify the experience, I have to say that it was extremely tough. Anyone that runs, or has attempted to run knows that distance is the one thing you can’t really prepare yourself mentally for. Your thighs may be ready, but your head is not. (Sometimes it even works the other way around.) Either way, running is an intense sport. It pins you against yourself in a way that I believe is unmatched.

The race took us in three loops, which was mentally very difficult. As the top, elite runners were finishing, I was beginning my second lap. It was definitely not easy. I finished in a time of 2 hours and 18 minutes.

There are a few observations about this race that I simply have to share:

1) I found it extremely beautiful to run past the Capital the day after the healthcare debate. I am a strong proponent of public option healthcare, and even though I don’t believe that the current plan is perfect, I was happy that the dialogue was thriving. It was especially powerful to run past it for a cause like Gynecologic Cancer, whose treatment has been repeatedly denied by insurance companies.

2) Your positive attitude is really the key to nearly everything. Cliche, I know. But it is the truth. At mile 9, my husband left me to speed up, and I kept on trucking at my 10 minute mile pace, for the last 5 miles by myself. And I smiled through almost all of it. I even laughed at mile 12, when a group of spectators began singing “Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky.

3) People in life are really willing to do things for other people. Human capital is absolutely amazing. People cheering on the sidelines, people handing out Powerade and water, people waiting at the finish. They all were there to lend a smile at 7 AM on a Sunday morning.

4) There is something about completing something – start to the very last second of the finish – that is 100% inspiring and beautiful. It was beautiful to do it, and it was beautiful to watch so many different others do it too.

Okay, okay. Now I know that races are easy to write poetry about – but most of the weekend I was miserable. I was anxious and upset, I was imagining injury that I didn’t have (everything from appendicitis to a broken leg), and I barely slept the night before. I couldn’t bring my attitude to the level of belief in myself.

This reminds me of the ways in which I have been approaching my career, and why this blog, Brazen Careerist, and many other things have re-inspired me in ways I never thought possible. That race was the single greatest physical achievement I have done to date. And there is no way for someone else to take credit. No boss leaning over me telling me that it was their work. No negative comments from spectators. Pure adrenaline and living in the moment.

Could I really live my life and job the way I lived my half marathon? Not every second of every day, but maybe in some respects.

Maybe I wouldn’t have the deeply rooted joy that I felt throughout the race, but I would recognize that I can do it if I want to – if I try – and ultimately, that I can make it happen on my own.

After my husband left at mile 9, I was a bit scared. I had no I-pod (I don’t run with it normally, and wound up losing it in the porta-potty at the race) and now no one to run next to. It wound up being good. He didn’t hurt his knee by forcing himself to go at my pace, and I found my rhythm, and he was even there with time to spare to videotape my finish.

In life, a career is kind of like a half marathon in the sense that at the end of the day, you can take credit for all that is yours – and there’s no need to look around you to know what it is you have and haven’t done. There are benchmarks and ideals, but you set them for yourself.

I ran a 15 minute mile in highschool and throughout college. I was teased constantly in gym class because I was one of those skinny girls that was weak – physically and mentally (Or so they thought!)

So I encourage everyone reading this to go out and run – or even walk – a mile. See what you learn, in however long an amount of time it takes for you to learn it.

 

Categories: Challenges, Running

A Healthier World

November 5, 2009 1 comment

The health care debate is usually an issue I stay away from in my blogging. It is ultimately extremely complex, and such a complicated and politically charged area of policy that it is hard to cover in my mere contribution to the blog world.

In the New York Times preview of its Magazine, which usually appears on Thursdays, the Times covered a hospital called Intermountain in Utah. The hospital itself is one that has implemented a system of set protocol to administer care, as opposed to relying solely on a doctor’s “intuition.”

Wait! Before you scream at me! I love doctor’s intuition. My mother is in Oncology, and I have always relied on her intuition about things – and not just because of the fact that she is my mom. A doctor’s ability to diagnose and remedy a situation is paramount, and many patients blindly follow physician advice.

At Intermountain, the goal is to utilize well-researched and documented illnesses to learn about what the most cost-effective and low-risk treatments are for patients. The intuition plays a role – but the role of statistics is also there.

Normally, I wouldn’t really agree with statistics over a person’s particular view. But I have had a biased experience.

In May of this year, I developed really awful bronchitis. I couldn’t talk, and I couldn’t touch my chest because the pain was so bad. I had health insurance through work, but had never set up a primary care doctor in Manhattan – the land of 4 month waiting periods for appointments. So I opted for the Beth Israel D.O.C.S. clinic on 34th Street, where doctors can see you (briefly) and write you a script as a walk-in patient.

The doctor didn’t do a xray, and sent me away with a prescription for an antibiotic. I had an upper respiratory infection. (DUH). So I take my first dose, and I get so sick that I wind up almost on the floor of the Time Warner Center Borders Books trying to call him to give me something else. He finally agrees, and I take it for 10 days, and go back to my running, my moving out of New York, my life.

Fast forward to mid-June. I am freshly new to DC, and am full-on into the job hunt. All of a sudden I feel really tired. So I decided to make the same mistake twice, and go to an urgent care center near my parent’s house. They decide they want an x-ray (Imagine!) and – ack! – the doctor calmly tells me she sees “a little somethin'” and I should probably go to the ER to check it out. You know. To be safe.

TEARS! What?! I was just going in there for another quick and easy prescription fix!

We get to the ER (the husband, the mom, and me.) and we wait. And we wait. And all of a sudden there is a needle. And a cat-scan with some weird dye. And then this woman comes in and sits down. She calmly explains that “you have a blood clot in your lung. And if you leave here, you will die.”

TEARS! Okay, there was also some cursing, and another radar x-ray of my legs, and then some overnight admission to the hospital, and 2 injections of blood thinners into my stomach.

Fast forward to 3PM the following day, when they finally get the actual lung doctor to see me. He comes in, takes two seconds look at my scan, and says “What are they talking about? This isn’t a blood clot. It’s bad pneumonia. Looks like that wasn’t bronchitis after all.” He wrote me a script for heavy medicine, and I was better within a week.

Phew. My wrists actually hurt from typing all of that. Are you still with me?

Basically, my tale of woe relates back to intuition for the following reason: The woman in the ER saw my x-ray, and knew I had a risk factor (birth control) and assumed blood clot. She could have gotten sued if I had gone home and died. Her intuition was more focused on not getting sued, than on simply bringing in a lung specialist in the first place, and getting a correct answer.

I was left with: A large bill (thankfully covered by insurance), PTSD from the entire thing, and a complete distrust of the healthcare system. Not to mention the fact that all day I took up space in a room that could have gone to someone who really needed it.

Intermountain is controversial in its approach, and it is not the only answer to our woes. But we must rethink healthcare in this country. We spend so much, and gain a fear of cost – rather than a desire to do what is best for ourselves in the long-term.

I welcome comments on this issue – it is one I am just starting to learn more about, and I would love to hear from some experts.

Categories: Challenges, Economics, Politics

Can We?

November 4, 2009 Leave a comment

obamaToday is just one of them days. Remember that song, by Monica in the mid-90’s? If you’re a girl I bet you do. Today is one of those days where I got to work and felt like I had just swallowed mud. Like if all of the computers suddenly crashed and the internet failed and I could go home, I would celebrate.

We can’t always be happy with our jobs. Or our world. Today I also woke up to the news that gay marriage has been deemed illegal in Maine, two Republicans have taken back Democratic seats, and all the media seems to want to talk about is whether Obama’s “charm” has worn off. It seems like the world is calling for me to be in a bad mood.

What do these large political decisions and ramifications have to do with work? Not a lot, at least in the more immediate sense. But in the American sense, I find a lot of tangible connections.

1) At many nonprofits, the bottom line has become a major concern. We are a nonprofits by name and tax status, yes, but ultimately, the vibe has become to answer to whoever holds the funds. Some programs have become slaves to foundation dollars. What happened to hoping?

2) There is less of an emphasis on team building or personal connections, and more of a “let’s get it done” mentality.

3) Many believe that those in senior positions always know best.

One thing I have learned from blogging is that  it is important to express when one feels like their work environment is just oblivious to the role it plays in the lives of those that work there.  What about the simple act of caring for one another? Has this really been swallowed up?

The New York Times ran an article this morning on the ramifications of office gossip. What does this say about our society as a whole?

I am working hard to recognize the good and bad in everything – and ultimately, this means putting up with annoying things at work.

How do we make work a little more personal, and ultimately, should we?

 

Categories: Career, Challenges

Profit Vs. Pollution?

November 3, 2009 1 comment

Alternative EnergyI work for a nonprofit that deals in climate change and environmental issues. The organization  almost always walk the fine line between trying to do something positive, and doing something in its’ own self-interest. Can it ever be both?

Today, the New York Times ran an article entitled “Gore’s Dual Role: Advocate & Investor.” It essentially looked at the crucial role that Al Gore has played in the introduction of green issues, as well as the entire climate change debate, into a more centralized realm.

Essentially, after leaving office and participating in many different environmental activities (founding his own nonprofit, producing An Inconvenient Truth, and many more) Gore has become the public political face of the Environmental Movement in the U.S. He has taken a lot of criticism for this from the right, but ultimately remains a fairly respected figure.

He has, as the article explains, also invested heavily in alternative energy companies, as well as venture capital firms that are awarded government funds for “Green Jobs” grants. Many have felt like this is Gore’s attempt to profit from the very climate change legislation he hopes to help pass through Congress.

In response, Gore explains that he is simply following up with his money what he has already done with his beliefs. He is taking an investor risk now where he took a political one before. Even though he may profit, he is profiting with something that is actually eliminating environmental harm and degradation, as well as leading the U.S. towards a more self-sustaining energy future.

Now, I know that I actually really liked the idea behind this article – because it is important to address the links between private and public sectors. But in personal belief, I am siding with Gore. It is his right as a private citizen to invest, and to invest smartly. Any average citizen that invests in alternative energy at this juncture is most certainly set to make financial profit – and this is something positive that should be celebrated.

Of course he has advantages as a public figure, but I like to see famous people doing good things with their money and their time.

Well done, Al.

Categories: Challenges, Environment

Daddy, I Want My First Credit Card!

November 3, 2009 1 comment

Ah, yes. The ultimate request from someone looking to start their own spending. I myself didn’t receive a credit card for my own use until I was in college, and even then, I could not escape parental wrath. They were seeing and receiving statements, and therefore knew exactly what type of spending problems I could get away with.

At first, I used it sparingly – staring at it like some sort of H1N1 flu carrying entity in my wallet – right alongside my NYU ID Card and my license. Then, it became amazing. Did you know that you can have sushi every night of the week? Did you know that you can pay someone to bring you toilet paper from around the corner at the deli?

In New York,  it is all possible. At the end of my sophomore year of college, I had a formative money experience. I went to the ATM machine at the local market, and when my receipt came, I peered over the edge of the paper – afraid at what I would see. There was something I had never seen before: zero was the balance. Not $10, or even a more respectable $100. Zero. But it had given me the money anyways! I was so confused.

Being the Einstein that I was at the time, I called my  mother frantic.

The conversation went like this:

Me: What does it MEAN when it says you have zero??!

Mom: WHAT?!

Me: I took out 20 dollars and it gave me a zero balance. Did I have exactly $20 in my account?!?!

Mom: IT MEANS IT’S OVERDRAFT! I JUST GAVE YOU MONEY! THIS IS INSANE! WHAT DID YOU SPEND IT ON!?!

Me: Bad static, gotta go.

….in any case, it was bad news. It was the first time I realized the following 2 lessons:

1) It is better for banks and credit card companies (for the most part – bankruptcy not withstanding) when you tend to spend more than you have. This means you will incur a fee. A fee that when paid, goes directly into the profit pile.

2) Unless you have a lot of money, a job usually is required.

The second part may seem like DUH do you – but really, my 19-year-old head was just not caring about those things. I had gotten into my favorite school, was out every day in my favorite city, and those pesky things called “bills” simply weren’t on my plate.

Little did I know that my college was paid for all in loans that we are now paying back, and the money that my parents gave me at the time came out of whatever money my mom worked 60 hours per week to make.

Allow me, blog readers, to make a point – I know that I sound like a spoiled brat. And I was. I wasn’t caring about consequence, and I was trying to live the life that my rich Long Island friends could live that I could not.

My mother has a great job – a job that puts her in a bracket among many people. But she definitely couldn’t afford to pay for my irresponsibility.

Now, I know some of you must be saying – “But it was college! We were all dumb!” It’s definitely true. But those lessons really made me learn the accountability and control and freedom that can come from making your own money. No, it is not as fun. No, it is not as much. Yes, I struggle every month to pay my bills on my nonprofit salary – but that day was the last day I ever took money from my parents without realizing what it meant.

I got a job babysitting, began interning, and volunteered at a homeless shelter – a decision that ultimately led me to the nonprofit sector.

Today as we watch many people who took mortgages they couldn’t afford, had credit card bills they couldn’t pay, and even more debt accumulate around us, I think back to that day. There are times when I am stretched very thin, but I have become an anti-borrower. I hate lending, even when people classify it as “good debt.” It leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth.

As I grow and learn more in this industry, and ultimately, in this global culture, my relationship with money is ever-changing.

So, thanks Mom & Dad. I really liked the Sushi, but I am becoming a better cook. Lessons learned.

Climbing Out of a Ditch?

October 29, 2009 Leave a comment

 

Economic Graph

Credit: BBC News Website

 

So today, I awoke to a buzz from my cell phone indicating new email. The CNN Breaking News of the day was that the U.S. economy has actually gone up for the first time in a year. Our fabulous and ever-reflective GDP has risen 3.5%. We didn’t have a dance party to celebrate this at work, but maybe they did on Wall Street.

Why the lack of dance parties? Mostly because all of us in the middle or lower end of the spectrum can still feel the pinch. We can still see the empty retail stores, and the lack of raises, and all of our countless friends and family that are unemployed, underemployed, or just plain broke.

When Barack Obama came into office, many people foresaw recovery. They foresaw change and had – gasp – HOPE. Including me. I still do. I am a hopeful person when it comes to the state of the world, because I like to study the reality, and draw lessons from it. As opposed to hiding in a corner. I don’t want to give Mr. Obama all the credit for this resilience, but I want to give him some. He did many things that were good for our economy.

The fact remains, though, that there is a real worry among us young people who the economic turn-around may be long in coming in our day-to-day lives. We won’t all get raises or get our jobs back right away.

Ultimately, what does this mean for us and for where we are going?

I think the recession has been an incredibly valid and interesting lesson. I myself have been affected by it. I left NYC in June to move to DC, mostly because of the job prospects available here for myself and my husband. This was definitely something caused by the recession. I cut back spending, but I have never been a huge spender anyway.

I cook almost every meal, and I think I will continue to do so as the economy changes. In most ways, I have remained the same, if not a bit wiser. There are people though who have been drastically affected. They have lost homes. They have lost careers, and they ultimately have lost faith in a system that failed them.

Our age group – from what I see on a daily basis – is becoming more and more creative with our skill sets. We are learning new languages, writing more and more, and trying to use the downturn to our advantage.

Farmers markets, Freecycle, and tons of other business models based on direct exchange are thriving. We are learning to evolve.

My hope as today’s statistic reaches global ears, is that we continue to stay on this evolving path, and that we don’t get complacent.

We need to stay on a road that will lead us to the new challenges, and not be counting down to the return of yesterday. Barack wouldn’t really like that very much.

Categories: Challenges, Economics