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How Some of the Worst Jobs Have Made My Career Better

how-some-of-the-worst-jobs-have-made-my-career-better

For anyone who has worked summer jobs, internships, entry level jobs and hey, even high-profile, but highly demanding roles within a business, you know this to be true. There are drawbacks to every job you’ve ever worked.

The hope for a happy career is to ultimately find a job where the positives outweigh the negatives and maybe you even learn to embrace the negatives a little. But until you’ve made it to this point, you’re likely compiling a bunch of horror stories of jobs that make you consider moving to a remote island and living off the land.

To offer you some inspiration and encouragement that you’re not alone, here’s a breakdown of some of my worst employment experiences and what I learned from each of them along the way.

The Job: Under-the-table lawn work

The Lesson: It’s no one’s responsibility but your own to make the job enjoyable (or at least bearable). I learned this at the age of 16 when I spent hours in the hot sun, by myself, pulling weeds and moving mulch for a neighbor. At first it sounded great. I could set my own hours, work as much or as little as I wanted in a week and get paid in cash. However, I hated every hour I spent in that gorgeous lawn as the minutes barely crept by. I realized if I was going to survive the summer – and earn my spending money – I needed to find a way to make it more enjoyable.

I started to bring a radio with me, set goals and mini rewards (snack time, anyone?) to breakdown the work day and work efficiently so I could knock projects off in a fraction of the time they estimated it would take. The lesson I learned was if you’re bored or miserable with your job, first think about what you can do to make it more enjoyable. Little changes can make a world of difference!

The Job: The dining commons on a college campus

The Lesson: Everyone needs to share in the sh*t work. At the dining commons, I mostly had the same shifts in the area I enjoyed working the most. But one Sunday each month, I (and every other employee) was assigned to work in the wash room where I would clean the gunk off plates and trays next to a steamy industrial washer. Not glamorous at all. I hated when this shift came up on my schedule and good luck ever finding someone to switch! The lesson I learned here was that in order for the sh*t work to get done, everyone had to take a turn. In the grand scheme of my work schedule, this was such a small fraction of my time, and I got to spend the rest of my work hours doing something I actually felt was fun. Because we all took our turn, it lessened the load for everyone.

The Job: A desk job in state government

The Lesson: Give every job an earnest effort, but if it’s not taking you the direction you want to go, have courage to change courses. This pretty much sums up my short, but life-changing experience in state government. Coming off a statewide political campaign and being dumped into a snail’s pace desk job, felt like falling off a speeding train. At first the set hours, more than manageable workload and low expectations seemed great. But it didn’t take long before I realized I couldn’t do this for another month, let alone another 9 years to get vested.

I realized that this job would waste the precious early years of my life, the ones where you have unjaded ideas, unlimited energy and a mindset to take on the world. I couldn’t risk suppressing the talents I know I had to be an entrepreneur – so I made the leap…and never looked back. God, I’m grateful for that job that pushed me over the edge!

The Job: A virtual writing position

The Lesson: Don’t let anyone undervalue your talent or monopolize your time. This was a gig I actually took on as I was simultaneously running Bennis Public Relations (and working from home with my 6 month old son). I thought it could be like any of my other consulting clients where I had set monthly deliverables, worked virtually and could provide what they needed. Simply put, I was very, very wrong. This client monopolized all of my time and because I was technically on payroll (and not a contractor), it’s not like I was getting paid more for the additional work they threw on me.

It felt eerily similar to my political campaign days and my gut told me it was all wrong. Not more than 6 weeks in, I made the hard decision to give my notice and leave the position. Up until this point I never “fired” any client or left a gig, but in retrospect I am so grateful I had the support of my family and the confidence to get out when I did! As fate would have it, not more than one month later, two awesome clients cold-called me and we’re still working together today!

What terrible job experiences have you had that have actually had a positive impact on your career? Share your stories by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2016 in Business & Success

 

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How to Take Advantage of Working From Home in the Summer

Working from home in the summer

Taking full advantage of working from home in the summer by taking client work out on the back deck.

If you’ve ever had the experience of working from home, you know there can be some unique challenges. However, there are also some pretty cool benefits, particularly during the summer months when working from home can allow you to get outside and enjoy the season as much as possible.

Here’s our guide for taking full advantage of the perks of working from home in the summer.

Take your work outside

Make sure to take advantage of the nice weather in the summer! Taking your work outside with you for even just a small part of the day, like checking emails on the porch, reading from a park bench or taking a phone call from an outdoor café, helps to recharge your focus. Better yet, being present in nature can even offer you some great inspiration!

Do work earlier or later in the day to carve out free time during the best daytime hours

Working from home often gives you more freedom and flexibility with your time. During the summer months you can take advantage of hitting popular attractions like a waterpark or amusement park when they tend to be less crowded. The key to finding time for these mini “day-cations” is to get your work done earlier or later in the day so you have free time during the best daytime hours.

Multi-task by picking an outdoor meeting location or taking a call from the park

As we mentioned in a previous point, taking a business call outside can give you that extra time in the sunshine. Whether you’re a single adult working from home just looking to get out and enjoy the summer days, or a work-from-home mom trying to entertain your kids while taking care of work, getting outside is a great way to multi-task!

Work hard and efficiently to maximize your free time to enjoy summer activities

It’s always important to work hard and efficiently to make the most of your time and earn the respect of your clients and customers. However, the summer months offer an additional incentive for maximizing free time – you can spend it doing fun things outside. This means giving your work your complete focus until the tasks are complete, and then fully enjoying the time you get to unplug!

Do you work from home? How do you take advantage of summer weather and activities with your flexible work schedule?

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

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What Building a Home Has Taught Me About Project Management

Right before we broke ground after a long and cold winter.

Right before we broke ground after a long and cold winter.

I feel fortunate and excited to announce that we are just two months out from the completion of our new home. Building a custom home has been a long-time dream that was made possible only through sacrifices and hard work from both my husband and me as well as through many generous and talented people in our lives.

It’s been quite a process that I can only describe as thrilling, overwhelming, humbling and surreal. It required meeting at least once per week with our project managers to make countless decisions and to attempt to balance a budget that was expanding faster than our toddler during a growth spurt.

Although each home our builder creates is custom from start to finish, there is a clear process in place that keeps things moving while allowing for adjustments to be continually made as needed. It’s quite impressive! My husband’s background is in civil engineering, so he had a better understanding of how this whole “construction thing” worked. Still, it was an equal learning experience for both of us.

And I learned a lot.

As a Public Relations consultant, I often play the role of “project manager” for my clients. I scope the project, divide tasks, manage budgets and meet deadlines. While the soft skills of PR are different than the hard skills of the subcontractors working on our home, I found many similarities as to how they effectively approached each project.

Through our personal home building process, I developed a deeper understanding of what it takes to be a good project manager and how to advocate for your client’s best interests. Of course I want to take this knowledge and use it to benefit my own clients. Here are the most valuable lessons I now plan to further incorporate into my own business:

The decision to start a project is only the first of countless decisions

When we made the decision to build a custom home, we took a deep sigh of relief that this variable was now a known. However, it’s foolish to praise yourself too much for this major life decision. It’s merely the first of countless others you must make to complete the project. The best piece of advice I gained from this experience was to stay committed to (and interested in) the project – even when there are setbacks and standstills.

This applies to my clients, whether we are working on new website content, implementing a social media strategy or creating marketing materials, remember that all of these projects will require many, many decisions. If you are not in a position to give the project the attention it requires, consider whether now is a smart time to begin the project altogether.

A picture of the stone in progress.

A picture of the stone in progress.

Know Your Critical Path

In construction, there is a clearly outlined critical path of smaller tasks that must be completed in a specific order and meet specific deadlines in order to keep the project as a whole on track. The importance of knowing your critical path applies far beyond construction alone.

I now have a renewed appreciation for beginning each project with a shared understanding of its critical path so that the client and any outside vendors are aware of the valuable role they play and how their deadlines affect so many others.

Be prepared for setbacks – and to hustle to make up time

So often the phrase that runs through my mind on projects is “I’m hurrying up only to wait.” What I mean is I often feel like other people involved in the project delay critical pieces and then when they finally deliver, they expect an immediate turnaround from me. You can surely see how this would be frustrating.

Through home building, I have learned that this is far from a unique problem. Whether it’s Mother Nature or another subcontractors holding up the show, inevitably other workers will be expected to expedite their results to make up for lost time. And sometimes this rush is for nothing as other factors hold up the next piece of the project anyways. Frustration – yes this is a shared feeling across all projects regardless of size or industry!

“Now” is always the best time to voice a concern

One day on site, my husband was walking through our home and had an idea to make the opening to our dining room even more “open concept.” This would, however, require cutting down the existing framing that had been put into place not a day or so sooner. We hesitated, considering the small inconvenience this would cause a worker; however, our project manager quickly spoke up. Within the next few minutes, the wood was cut back and repositioned to create the larger opening. That’s all it took at this point in the project.

What I learned was had we waited until there was drywall in place before voicing our concern, the fix would have required far more time and manpower. Worse, we may have chosen to live with the wall as it originally was and always wondered “what if.” From this example, I gained the lesson that right now will always be the best time to voice a concern. Waiting until you send the project to print or hit send on the email is too late. Speak up now – and don’t worry, people will be sure to weigh the pros and cons for you if the request is going to require more than just a few minutes to correct.

These blueprints show both the bare bones of the project as well as some special details we hand selected.

These blueprints show both the bare bones of the project as well as some special details we hand selected.

The framework provides structure, but the details provide character

Finally, the process of building a custom home gave me an appreciation for both the framework and the finishing details. While I was happy to finally break ground, I wasn’t overly excited about a big cement hole. Nor was I particularly excited to select an HVAC system or frame out our low voltage wiring. When I finally got enthusiastic with the project was when I was able to select things like the marble for our kitchen or the style of our built-ins.

I realize now, more than ever, that these less than exciting details will be the ones that keep me comfortable in our home throughout the years. I may not always see them, but I will certainly appreciate the value they add. The framework and more technical details to any project may not be artistic, but they are necessary for achieving the end result. The details are where you truly define character and add personality. Regardless of what gets you excited, both must work in unison to deliver a functional and attractive finished product.

What other pieces of advice on project management could you add to this list? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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Special Post: Re-Living The Wedding Of Our Dreams

It’s not often that I delve too deep into my personal life on my blog, but as many of you may recall I’ve shared several key moments of my engagement and wedding that both took place in 2012. The profound impact these milestones have had on my life was simply too big not to share with you in some way. And so I want to now share with you the full story of my happy ending. The story of how I met Scott, his creative engagement and our fairytale wedding were all beautifully captured by the talented Dream Weddings TV crew and aired live on our NBC affiliate on Sunday, February 10, 2013. Words alone can’t express how grateful we are to our vendors and generous family and friends who all shared a role in making this possible for us. And as for all the creative details and special touches, I’ll let the video tell the story!

Whether you’re also planning a wedding or are just looking for some creative inspiration, please check out these wonderful businesses and individuals who helped to create our beautiful day!

Baldy Beard Brew – Signature beer creation, “The Dirty Shirley”

This nano-brewery is the next big thing to hit beer! Not only do they create a delicious product, they deliver it with a big dose of personality and humor. We had a great time getting to know the Baldy Beard guys as we brewed our own beer for our wedding. And now I’d love to help them reach their dream of opening their own brewery in York, PA–consider supporting their Kick Starter Campaign here! #DrinkWithFriends

CARMINA-CRISTINA Professional Makeup – Bridal makeup

A fabulous friend and an even more fabulous professional makeup artist! Carmina created a wedding look for me that I could have only dreamed of. And with the rain–her expert products and techniques were a day-saver. Her international background and training really shines through her work. I still use her products and techniques almost daily.

Dennis Baker Photography – Engagement and wedding photography

The day’s rain made no easy task of capturing the stunning wedding photos that Dennis did. It takes a truly talented professional to work under such extreme circumstances, organize a wedding party of almost 20 people and keep posed photos to just an hour. Not more than a day after we said “I do” our wedding photos were already uploaded and ready for viewing!

Dream Weddings – Filming and TV production

We feel truly lucky to have had the opportunity to work with the Dream Weddings TV crew. They were just as excited about our love story and our wedding plans as we were and their enthusiasm helped to make the whole planning experience that much more special. Be sure to check out their site where you can watch episodes from all their seasons! Also–a big shout out goes to host Martine Cajas who also runs House of Clarendon, the premiere cakery based in Lancaster, PA

Flowers by JDK – Wedding flowers

The professionals at JDK rose to the challenge of a tight floral budget and a big wedding! All we gave them was a color scheme and described the feel of our wedding and they did the rest to be sure our bouquets, centerpieces and accents were anything but expected or ordinary!

Hess Tent Rentals – Tent and dance floor rentals

When you’re planning an outdoor August wedding, you have to plan for heat and rain (and we experienced both in extremes). This is why we were so lucky to have a huge tent big enough to accommodate “Plan B” and the professionals of Hess Tent Rentals to work with us up to the last minute to see that we were covered–literally.

JoS A. Bank – Groomsmen suits

Among the most common groomsman complaint for a wedding is spending a good amount of money on renting a tux that you’ll never see or get to use again. With the help of a very generous contact at the JoS A. Bank store in State College, PA, we were able to get our groomsmen (and almost every man in our families) a top of the line suit for under the price of a tux rental. It’s worth thinking outside the box here! Though I may not get to wear my wedding dress at any upcoming occasion I can think of, Scott has gotten a ton of use out of his wedding suit in just the past 6 months.

Lavon Films – Wedding videography

Derek and his crew put some major hours into our wedding filming and editing. The pressure of capturing every intimate moment from a wedding is a lot to manage, but they made it look like it’s what they were born to do (and maybe because it is)! Thrown into the midst of tears, rain and last minute changes in plans – they somehow turned this footage into only peaceful and happy memories on film!

MixedUp Productions – Wedding ceremony and reception music

There’s no doubt that music can make or break the mood of any event – and for a wedding the stakes are even higher. Damian from MixedUp Productions rose to the occasion with a perfect blend of music to match our ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner and dancing late into the night. Owner, Mike Miller also made a guest appearance at the end to add a very personal touch!

Mountz Jewelers – Engagement and wedding rings

I won’t deny that when I get a particular vision for what I want, it’s hard to settle for anything else. Lucky for me (and especially Scott) we had the perfect hometown jeweler to meet our every request. From a custom built engagement ring where Scott got to hand-select the diamond, to a one-of-a-kind wedding band designed to perfectly match it’s unique shape–Mountz provided our sparkle.

Salon Evolve – Bridal hair

You can’t beat the convenience of a salon that’s located within walking distance from your front door. But more than location made this the perfect fit for our wedding party. Owner, Dana met our every (even last minute) request and his stylists quickly and beautifully styled our hair to exact specifications. There was no stress, no drama and more than enough time to even enjoy some wine before the ceremony!

7 Layer Designs – Custom created wedding invitations

Owner, Jess is one talented lady! She had no problem offering me a ton of options for custom-designed wedding invitations that were anything but “out of the box.” I wanted the invites to match our style, our wedding colors and to stay within a tight budget. Jess hand-stamped, cut and folded nearly 200 invites and helped me get them out well before the 6-week time frame (even with wax sealing involved)!

Tara’s Bridal – Wedding dress

My wedding dress buying experience would have been very different had I not been recommended to Tara’s Bridal shop in Camp Hill, PA. They only sell samples and there’s usually just one of each dress, so unique and couture is their specialty. But what really made my first dress stop also my last, was that the prices start as low as $300 – making high-quality wedding dresses extremely accessible for every bride and budget. I don’t want to think about what I would have paid elsewhere for a much lesser dress…

The Harrisburg Senators – Rehearsal dinner reception

As we mentioned in the Dream Wedding video, so much of our wedding was about relationships. Scott’s special relationship with the Harrisburg Senators baseball team allowed us a very unique rehearsal dinner where we rented a suite in the stadium. Guests enjoyed some upscale ballpark food, baseball, fireworks and Scott throwing out the first pitch!

Weddings by JDK – Food, rentals and event coordination

Amanda and Steve with JDK were our heaven-sent helpers who worked tirelessly to create our dream wedding while staying within our very real budget. It helps when your friends are also talented professionals who work for the premiere catering/wedding company in Harrisburg! JDK handled everything from design, event rentals, menu creation and flower coordination to day-of event set-up and all the clean-up afterward. Let’s just say it takes a dedicated army to pull off that type of work!

Weddings by Paul V – Engagement photography

Paul is an extremely talented photographer based in the Harrisburg, PA area. His work is found in a ton of trendy publications and he can also be found snapping shots of downtown night life on the weekends. We were so lucky to have Paul’s talent capture the exact setting of our engagement at 4 different locations along the riverfront of Harrisburg.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2013 in Life

 

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