Forever (Not That) Young

It wasn’t until I visited my sister, a sophomore in college, that I realized how tiny college students look –adorable, baby-faced freshman who either grip my inner cougar or remind me of a 15-pound-less version of myself. There is a large crossover that a freshman feels after his or her first semester of college. That was us just a few years ago. We were most likely hauling backpacks the size of small children and donning our fresh Greek letters every chance we could. And now, still a freshman to the real world, I’m starting to feel that same crossover. Button-ups and blazers have replaced bid day tanks and spirit jerseys (long live the spirit jersey), and I feel like I know immensely more about the world than I did this time last year; however, I’m still finding myself in a constant state of debate.

I want to be taken seriously, professionally. Having made another career(ish) jump and move back to Minneapolis this past week, I decided I was over being the eternal intern. Cover letters were sent with the credo that I’m ready to commit to my next job because I owe it to the company and I owe it to myself. So here I am in every facet of my life – not just work – declaring that I am not that young. It’s okay for friends to get engaged because we’re not that young. It’s okay to apply as an associate instead of an intern because we’re not that young. And it’s okay to not tell your parents everything because we’re not that young.

But we’re also not that old.

As soon as some sort of responsibility or autonomy is doled out, I’ve found myself recoiling and wishing I were just a little bit younger — still a senior, still spending hours creating an away message, still calling and hanging up on the ~**cUtEsT**~ boys during a sleepover.

But in this reality, it’s just as easy to qualify the same statement with either phrase. Using, “Well I’m not that old,” when we need to defend ourselves and, “Well I’m not that young,” when we deserve more freedom. So potentially we could go one-on-one against middle school Miley and argue that we’re the ones with the best of both worlds. Or it just means we have more decisions to make. Obvi I prefer the former, but personally I’d be emotionally and professionally stuck with that sort of mentality. I think it’s okay for us to gravitate toward the younger, day drinking friendly version or older, “let me check my Outlook calendar” version of ourselves as long as we can still be defiant in the present, confused, awesome version that needs a life too.

The Thing About Needing 3-5 Years Experience

Where are you hiding, all of you 25 to 28-year-olds? How does it feel having your three to five years experience underneath you? More importantly, which companies actually hired a freshly graduated individual and how do I get in contact with them? “Needing more experience” has been, overwhelmingly, the parting words from potential employers. I’m not saying that companies should be handing out jobs to any college grad who’s looking, but my question is: how the hell are we ever supposed to get 3-5 years experience  if no one takes a chance to let us start building that experience?

I feel like we’re all doing the right things — interning in a field we want to stay in, networking with successful and smart people, speaking with upper-level co-workers who have reached some magical level of being able to have stand-up work spaces or big bouncy balls for chairs…

I have this nightmare that I’m going to be 30 and feeble with nowhere to work because I’m still lacking this looming requirement. I’ve known too many friends who haven’t made the cut because they lack proper experience, even if they might be the better person for the job. Is there something we’re doing wrong? PLEASE SHED SOME LIGHT ON THE DARK VOID THAT IS MY FUTURE. I promise we have more work capacity than a baby and a more extensive vocabulary than Taylor Swift.

Until an answer presents itself or I stumble across one, I can only revel in what the three to five years experience club must enjoy every day. (This is a working list. Additions are welcome!)

3-5 years experience, duh.

3-5x mo’ money, not problems.

3-5  more inches in height, probably.

3-5 things they can laugh at us about, externally.

3-5 more high fives they give each other, definitely.

3-5 Keurig cups they go through per day, because they obvi DGAF about how much they cost.

3-5 drinks they purchase when they’re out, because having a real job (I can only imagine) should be a full-time celebration.

“Dad, are you there? How do I get my oil changed?”

Picture 3Nothing makes a girl feel more like a girl than asking about any sort of mechanical anything. I raced to Jiffy Lube (there’s a first time for every phrase) right after work, as I was already 4,000 miles over when I was supposed to get an oil change. Hey, how was I supposed to notice that little sticker on the corner of my windshield? That is so not in my peripheral.

Once arrived, I’m greeted by a man in a jacket who clearly mugged Danny Zuko, and he says an oil change is a quick job and I can wait in the lounge. I’m speculative until he tells me the coffee is free and the magazines are fresh. Not 15 minutes later, I’m greeted by the mechanic and facing an internal challenge wondering if I can call him a grease monkey. It was our first meeting, so I decided against it. He’s telling me about my car and I’m nodding my head, vacantly staring at him wondering who set him up to this. (Old math teachers, probably.) Okay he’s talking to me for longer than he actually worked on my car. It’s gotta be $15 tops.

$50?!!!!?!!????. Um, excuse me JOHN-whose-name-I-know because it’s embroidered in cursive on your onesie, I am not made of diamonds. Sensing my distress, John told me my license plate lights were also out, but he had replaced them fo free. “Better to be safe than sorry, especially after having a few beers,” he said. Ugh, John. You’re adorable. But everyone knows I’m a G&T girl.

(Seriously though, thank goodness for John and his Jiffy Lube hospitality.)

My desire to learn about cars reached a forceful halt at age 16 when I realized I didn’t need to know anything. I took my car to the place I always took it when my parents told me to. I didn’t know after how many miles I brought it there, I just always knew it was at a super inconvenient time usually when the Bachelor was on. See, my car and I have been like FB friends. We’re a little awkward around each other because I don’t know much about who they really are, but when the time comes and I’m craving McDonald’s and need someone to get me there…yeah, I’m gonna FB message them and pretend we’re besties.

I thought about oil changes the way I thought about 1st cuts of Varieties: why have them? But do you know what kind of things happen to your car if you don’t take care of it?! It can wreak more havoc than Vodka_Sam in a distillery. Something I’m now face-palming for not doing: ask around! I know we’re all conditioned to resort to Google, but ask around your office to see where they go to get oil changes (or hair cuts… massages… Gateway Market salads for a black market price…) because people have a one-up on Google. They have experience.

So from here on out, I’ll pay more attention to my car because I feel kinda violated when it blinks and makes noises at me to change it. Like, can’t you just be you, oil? Why do you want to change? But cars need a check-up just like we do. Pass the oil can and the credit card – God knows I don’t just have 50 bucks on me.

Explaining a Selfie to My Middle-age Co-worker

Picture 3I got caught mid-snap this morning. How foolish of me to think that my own cubicle could be a safe haven. We know how to click out of Facebook as fast as humanly possible; we know the perfect amount of time to put a Pop-Tart in the toaster; we know just how many times we can hit snooze before we absolutely have to wake up. Yet we somehow can’t bring our bodies to stop the selfie  – it’s a chemical unbalance, probably.

Luckily the awkwardness alleviated itself by a random act of God. My co-worker a.k.a. the witness a.k.a. the spy didn’t bring up any questions. The following is only what I can assume may have pursued if the situation went in the other direction:

“It’s like a greeting card. Of your face.”

“No I don’t think Hallmark feels threatened. I haven’t asked though.”

“It’s just a more interesting way to communicate your emotions.”

“All the kids are doing it.”

“What do you mean how am I going to explain selfies to my future kids?”

“Snapchat? It lets you send a photo for a selected amount of time before it deletes itself.”

“Yes it’s an ‘app.’” (air quotes included.)

“No it’s not illegal. Except in somewhere foreign. Like Vermont maybe.”

“You’re right, selfies probably do deserve their own documentary or at least a Lifetime movie warning teens about weird forms of cyber bullying.”

“No I’ve never been cyber bullied. No I’m not a teenager.”

“Seriously. I have a degree, like from college.”

“I don’t think cats take their own selfies. I think humans help them out.”

“You bring up an interesting point – I’m not sure if that still qualifies as a selfie.”

“I’m not sure why cats got so popular on the Internet.”

“Yes I made that face on purpose.”

“No you can’t be in the next one with me.”

So, You Had an Off Day

1237774093240_fOf course it was cute when Rachel Green messed up at work. Everything she did was cute — even wearing overalls didn’t suppress her success. She brought bagels to customers who asked for tea, sat down on the job, and still had her boss drooling over her. And then she got a job at Ralph Lauren. What. Just like Monica being able to afford that amazing apartment in New York City, the real world doesn’t exactly work like that.

You hear it time and time again — learn from your mistakes. You have to make mistakes in order to succeed in life. The phrase gets annoying, but you can’t deny that it’s true; however, that phrase leaves out one of the most important parts of making mistakes (apart from simply learning from them.) People want to see how you bounce back – your boss, in particular. I think I’ve recently just gotten old enough to realize that doing well doesn’t make you a suck up. Unlike your fifth grade classmates, your co-workers don’t get mad when you start doing more work than you should or asking others around what you can help them with. Bad days in college consisted of waking up late for class, forgetting a paper was due later that afternoon, or running around your apartment wondering where you put your mug. Though all relatively life-ending threats, they all seemed to be fixed by a night out with your crew or a night in with your girls. Faltering at work now leads us to pose questions like, “What if I get fired?” “What if they decrease my hourly wage to less than the minimum?” “What if I’m taking a step backward in the company I’ve been dying to work for?” I’ll still say that a night either out or in with the people you love will still solve more problems than you think, but it’s more than imperative to get your shit together and prove everyone around you wrong.

Do you have to go about this in a head-rearing, no apologies sort of manner? Of course not. But you need to get focused any way you know how. Don’t wallow. Don’t send emails to your friends about how ridiculously mean your boss is. And do not spend the rest of the day doing half-ass work. Shake it off, and know that it happens to everybody.

If you’re still feeling down, know that there was someone out there today who actually asked me how to copy and paste.

Flying Solo

eecdc0ab1d129ddebb5293a5f42cc566The problem with landing in Minneapolis is that it takes everyone a million years to get off the plane. Everyone is too busy being polite and telling others to “go ahead.” I know I’m not exactly ahead of the curve when it comes to globe-trotting (this has just been made obvious by the example of actually using the word “globe-trotting.”) But this past weekend was the first time I had traveled alone. Luckily, my departure from Minneapolis to Boston and then back again didn’t have any complications. Ironically enough, I was seated next to a kid named Danny who was also traveling alone. He sat there in his middle seat, telling me how he thinks seventh grade is going to be “chill” and how much he hates the Yankees. Naturally we bonded. He also had a mohawk that all the flight attendants were giving him shit for, so we crafted some smart-ass responses that we’d never actually say back to them.

My dad travels constantly for work, and he knows the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport like Paula Deen knows bad PR. So we talked over a few things (my dad and me, not Paula Deen and me, ya’ll) before I headed off to my Boston excursion.

1. Don’t worry if you forget to put your liquids into Ziplock bags. Most airports, MSP included, offer plastic bags at security for you.

2. It’s super easy to just get your boarding pass sent to your phone. You don’t have to worry about losing a ticket, and that smartphone is glued to your hand anyway. (The security line is also usually faster if you do it this way.)

3. If someone is picking you up from the airport (and you only have carry-on luggage), meet them at the departure doors instead of around baggage claim/arrivals. There isn’t nearly as much traffic, and you’ll get out of the airport way quicker.

4. Ninety minutes is usually a good amount of time to be at the airport before your flight is scheduled to take off. Having too much time to sit at your gate leads you to linger over the magazines, and you begin to truly contemplate if that is the best bikini for your body, or you find yourself taking a stance on sexting after you were enlightened by a Cosmo quiz.

5. Remember your phone charger. Remember your phone charger. Remember your phone charger. Dude. Seriously.

I know a lot of this isn’t going to be new information to you guys. But wanna know something else I learned at the airport? There are a lot of slow-moving (both mentally and physically) people at the airport. Many of them are so enamored with the fact that there’s something called Chili’s Too that they can’t see the traffic jam they’re causing. There are people chasing their kids – who you’re praying you don’t get sat next to on the plane – and bribing them with Frosty and Subway sandwiches that cost 11 percent more than they do anywhere else. Babies are riding suitcases like they’re horses and businessmen are cutting you in line at Starbucks because they have much more important things to attend than you. Being in an airport is like being in a sub-culture. There are ways you act and ways you do not; some things make the cut and some do not. Help everybody out and be aware of your surroundings — that’s the most important part about being in any setting by yourself.

Monday Make It or Break It: The Final 14

plannerhotoAs terrified as I was about entering post-grad life jobless, I’ve come to appreciate how great internship programs can be. I haven’t completely signed the rest of my life away, but I’ve gotten some awesome real-world experience and enough money to fuel my car (or at least my coffee addiction.) The tricky part about internships is knowing that they have an end date. Like many of my friends, we’re all on a 12-week summer internship program, which means a lot of us are wrapping up this week or next. With two weeks (okay, 13 days but who’s counting?) ahead of me, the number seems both daunting and minuscule.

The only time two weeks seems like eternity is when they’re leading up to spring break. But now, two weeks also seems like it may be a while — until I think about everything I have to do within those two weeks. Though you know there’s an end to your internship, project, work-experience, whatever it may be, that doesn’t mean you should act like it. This company has hired you for a specific amount of time with the understanding you’ll be doing a specific task or amount of work. Even if you’re weeks ahead of your project or assignment (even though you tried your hardest to procrastinate like there is a tomorrow), ask around your department and see who else needs help. Your days will go much faster if you’re working on actual tasks. A girl can only be consumed by Pinterest for so many hours, AMIRIGHT?

So on that note, here are a few ways you can either make or break the final days of your internship. Breaking It may include but is not limited to the following:

1. Decorating your desk with those construction paper chain-links that symbolize how many days you have left

2. Showing up to work at a casual 9 a.m.

3. Texting during work like your fingers are falling off tomorrow

4. Taking awkwardly long walks around the office building

5. Frantically downloading Ryan Gosling “hey girl” PDFs

6. Running a side-business out of your office

And a few ways you can make it:

1. Be helpful! Ask anyone, even if it’s the receptionist or the shipping manager, if they need help with something.

2. Organize or clean around your desk so it looks better than you did after a fraternity formal

3. Think about what you’d like to include in thank you cards to your manager, mentor, etc.

4. Stay hydrated – it will help you keep your focus longer

5. Bring coffee or muffins in for your department one morning (grown-ups love that shit)

6. Set up meetings with other people in your office. People love talking about what they do, and you’ll gain some real-world insight.

Monday Make It or Break It: Making a Name for Yourself

167754970-1982159809787308By now it’s old news that Princess Kate had her baby. (Yay, a boy!) My future 40-year-old self marrying an 18-year-old isn’t that creepy. But the news we haven’t yet heard is a name. Having been stuck with a rather unusual name, I spent most of my childhood years wanting a new one. I wanted to be just like everyone else. I figured the world was out to get me and my weird name, until more unusual names starting popping up – Apple, Timber, Blanket, North… these parents know they’re setting their children up for some serious paralyzing self-doubt, right? North West is never going to know which way she’s going.

The truth is that we now all have the chance to reinvent our name in the sense of self-branding. I feel like that term got thrown at us a lot in school – “what’s your personal brand?” And instead of actually thinking about it, we probably just tweeted about what a waste of time it was. But I think that’s because many of us (myself included) were still working on figuring out who we were in college. I’m not saying I have my life together and everything’s figured out (I literally don’t know where I’m going to be living three weeks from now) BUT after spending a few months in the real world, I’ve started to get a sense of what “branding yourself” actually means.

Look at this way – would you rather be introduced as, “This is North West. She’s great,” or, “This is North West. She’s driven.” ‘Great’ and ‘driven’ aren’t necessarily synonymous, but the second intro gives you more cred, you know, the street kind. In this case, North West clearly, yet ironically, values direction along with a sense of motivation. So even if you are the intern who everyone might not know yet, you can at least make them know something about you. The people around you are smart enough to realize if you’re organized, relentless, risky or a ceaseless-texter-during-meetings.

I doubt someone is going to come up to you and ask, “Hey man. What’s your personal brand?” Nobody talks like that. But you are going to get asked what you’re good at. And if you don’t have an answer, they probably won’t ask again. Maybe look to your friends as a good starting place – where do you fall in that group? The social planner, the mom, the partier, the problem resolver – each has its place. Royal Baby might only be able to brand himself as royal. North West might only be able to brand herself as hopeless. Be realistic about the name you can make for yourself. “Frickin’ awesome” may or may not be a good place to start.

Monday Make It or Break It: Happy Hour

how_i_met_your_mother_1It’s early afternoon on a Monday so naturally we’re thinking about when we can have a glass of wine. A great aspect of adult life that coincides with college life is how willing people are to socialize amid drinks. I think it’s natural for people to feel a need to enjoy a cocktail, especially after a hard day’s work. The difference now is that instead of rewarding ourselves with our own pitcher of beer for not texting exes over the weekend, we’re sipping  due to “getting our ducks in a row” or “bringing home the bacon.” Or whatever.

I can’t speak for every college student, but I can speak for myself and my friends in saying we were no strangers to the bars on week(days)nights, and we went out to enjoy each other’s company over a drink that tasted better than milk. The same concept is true in our post-grad realm: people want to spend time with other people, talking about work, family or anything else they deem important during an hour that is supposedly happier than all the others. But drinking with co-workers is different than drinking with friends. The reaction you get after taking three shots for your hole-in-one on Golden Tee or perfect sites on Big Buck Hunter may not be the same you’d get from your college buddies. Though undoubtedly impressive feats, you might want to put it in perspective. I went to a happy hour hosted by my boss’s boss, who was celebrating the acquisition of a multi-million dollar company… like, I get excited finding $20 in my purse. Needless to say, my critter bonus slowly crept down the importance slope.

The good news is that there are a few quick guidelines to help you make it instead of break it. We do not want you to be the new employee who gets overly happy over an hour.

1. Just because you’re out with co-workers or someone higher in the chain of command, don’t expect them to buy your drinks. Even if it’s been communicated that drinks will be paid for by someone else, it’s always kind to offer.

2. Order a drink you know you like. It’s always great to try new things when you’re out with friends, but you might have a weird reaction to martinis. An evening out with your boss is not the place to discover that martinis make you walk like John Cleese.

3. Keep a drinking pace. You could argue that you’re used to the pace of a beer bong, but where has that left you? (Probably still lost in South Padre from spring break.) Be aware of others around you, and keep on the same level they are. It might even be a good idea to stay one drink back if you’re conversing with important people. Your call.

4. Don’t get freaked out if happy hour literally only lasts for one hour (or less.) Though social drinking is something that starts in college and carries through professional life (more commonly known as eternity), the time spent drinking may decrease. While some of us may be used to nine-day benders, know that it is okay – and way more normal – to have one drink and be done.

5. Offer to organize the next happy hour. It shows both initiative and that you can be fun. Choose a place you’ve been to before. Nobody wants to be led blindly to a skeezy bar that was once a pet store.

Dear Potato Skins, I hate you. xoxo, Garbage Disposal

When fixing a garbage disposal:

1. Stick your hand down the drain. If it doesn’t come back up with anything, the problem is deeper. If it doesn’t come back up at all, then you’re kinda screwed.

2. Listen to the sound the garbage disposal is making. Be able to mimic this sound. (You’ll need it for when you call your dad later.)

3. Call your dad.

4. If you disposed excess of a product (like we did with potatoes), there’s a good chance it’s stuck in the pipes. Place a bucket underneath the u-shaped pipe.

5. Unlatch the u-shaped pipe.

6. Most of the content should empty in the bucket. You might need to do some digging otherwise. (Gross, but true.) Make sure you’re wearing rubber gloves!

7. After all contents/food has been emptied into the bucket, reattach the u-shaped pipe.

8. Toss the bucket somewhere. I don’t care where.  Just not down your sink again.

9. Soak up any water from the pipes, especially if you have wooden cabinets/cupboards around your sink.

10. Wash your hands.

The story:

Ah, adventures in home owning. My older sister Elyse and I put together a spectacular meal last night. But joyful weeping over the fact that we made garlic mashed potatoes that tasted just like Dad’s soon ended during the clean-up hour. How was I – a non-assuming, non-cooking, Noodles & Co. and Chipotle connoisseur – supposed to know the cardinal rule of kitchen amenities, ergo, garbage disposals? Garbage disposals hate potato skins. Now so do I.

Elyse and I (and by that I mean Elyse) got down on hands and knees to check out what was going on underneath the sink. We (and by we I mean our dad whom we texted in panic) determined we would need to unlatch the u-shaped pipe from the sink and empty the potato skins out into a bucket (and by bucket I mean a hot pink mixing bowl.)

Well. He was right.

There they were – swimming and sloshing around in what looked like an over-served party girl’s worst college memories. The unlatching, emptying and re-latching of the garbage disposal was about a 30-minute event.* After vowing to never make plumbing a profession, Elyse and I made sure to wipe up any liquid that found its way onto the wood cabinet – wet wood will come back to haunt you.

So what can you take away from this? Obvi potato skins aren’t made for garbage disposals (neither is steak – we found that out too.) So if you’ve already tried sticking your hand down the sink’s drain – a tried and true attempt – and have come to no avail, the problem may rest in the pipes.

*Fitz added time, as we had to keep him from sniffing (and by sniffing I mean licking) everything that went into the pink bowl.