Category Archives: Career

3 Steps To Improve Your Online Personal Brand

Personal Brand

Your personal brand  online is just as relevant as your resume —  if not more.

Nowadays, companies want to know who you are. People hire other people that they’d like. A brilliant digital footprint is a great platform to let your personality shine bright before you step foot in the interview. Your resume may be stellar, but it won’t capture their interest like your online persona can.

Here are 3 ways you can improve your online personal brand: 

  1. Enhance your social media strategy

According to the Pew Research Center, 86 percent of people aged 18 – 29 use at least one social media site. No matter what site(s) you’re on, it’s important to tell a digital story that you’re proud of.

Start by reflecting on what you want people to think, feel and know about you when they look at your social media profile. Try this exercise — set a timer for three minutes and write down words that describe your personality, interests, aspirations, experience, societal roles, etc. Then write down the type of content you could post based on those keywords. This all makes up your personal brand.

Next, do some spring cleaning to your social media profiles and delete anything that doesn’t fit into the descriptors that you outlined. Photos and posts about your drunken college nights,  F boy exs, or dreadful coworkers don’t belong in your new and improved online presence.

Also think about how you want your social media feed to look. You can really get creative with your Instagram by strategizing what type of posts you publish when. For instance, you could have an entire row that has quotes, or create a border around certain photos for consistency. You could also use a certain color theme or create art with your photo layout.

Think about what you want your personal brand to be, and then line up your social media profiles to look like your vision. It’s your story, so tell an authentic narrative.

Personal Brand

2. Spruce up your LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn makes networking, especially reaching out to strangers, much easier. It’s a must to have a profile, but there are ways to take yours to the next level.

Start by reading your profile from top to bottom as if you are viewing it for the first time. Then think about what copy you can make more concise or engaging, and what sections need to be improved or updated.

Customizing your professional headline is a great way to spruce up your profile. This is the line that appears directly below your name. Although it’s common to list your work role, that isn’t a must as long is it captures who you are and what your brand is. Use keywords and traits that are specific to your industry in your professional headline to make your profile stand out.

Personal Brand

3. Create or update your website / portfolio

Make sure the basics are on the website — a well written bio, professional photos, work experience, contact information and social media presence. You can also add more personal photos of your hobbies and interests to your site, such as traveling or volunteering.

If you already have a website, review these elements to make sure they are still on-brand for you based on the exercise previously mentioned. Jazz up your bio with those keywords that describe you.

No worries if you don’t currently have a website! There are many easy-to use platforms to create one including WordPress.org, WordPress.com, Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, AboutMe and so many more.

Your digital footprint is an extension of who you are, so make sure it’s something you’d be proud of no matter who found it online.

10 Gems Every GirlBoss Can Learn From R.Kristi

popbliss

Photo courtesy of Kesha Lambert Photography

It’s not often that someone disrupts a $50MM industry — but that’s exactly what entrepreneur and girlboss Racquel Kristi has done with PopBliss, a pop-up destination wedding for unconventional couples. Her team thoughtfully selects up to 10 adventure-seeking couples to tie the knot during a luxury group wedding celebration. They take care of all of the details — including the location, vendors, decor and food. The couples don’t know anything until their wedding weekend — they just book their flight, show up in their attire of choice and prepare for the royal treatment.

popbliss

The New York native has learned a lot about being a #girlboss since launching her event planning company RKristi Modern Hospitality in 2009 and executing the first PopBliss event in 2016. She also coaches entrepreneurs on how to make their dreams a reality.

Here are 10 gems she dropped for Becoming Brilliance:

1. Being a girlboss starts with the right mindset — so take yourself seriously
“It’s either you will or you won’t — there is no try. Make the decision to follow your dreams and then be hungry and focused on making it happen… We all already have everything we need, we just have to tap into it.”

popbliss

Photo courtesy of Racquel Kristi

2. Don’t jump in before you’re ready.
Kristi stressed the importance of researching your industry if you work for someone, but it’s even more essential if you’re an entrepreneur. She also recommends staying abreast of what’s changing, and having a clear business plan — something she wishes she would have done first to avoid a lot of stress. Kristi also recommends creating a road map for your career journey. It can be tweaked along the way, but it’ll help guide your business ventures and keep you on track.

“The intent to start a business is to stay in business, therefore you need to do your homework and be in it for the long haul,” she says. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor or an event planner — we’re in the people business and you have to know everything about your industry so your client wants it from you and only you.”

3. If you aren’t willing to make sacrifices for your dreams, then you don’t want it bad enough
“You may prepare mentally, emotionally and physically, but there are certain aspects you’re not prepared for until you’re in it,” says Kristi. “It takes strong willpower, determination, and sacrifices. Every day you wake up and go harder.”

4.A girlboss should always keep a notebook handy
Like some of her other ideas, PopBliss came to Kristi in a dream. She woke up and scribbled down her thoughts before the slumber knocked her out again.

Even if you don’t sleep with a pen and paper like Kristi does, make sure you have a small notebook or use a digital notetaker like Evernote around to capture your thoughts.

popbliss

5. Your ideas are golden
Whether your ideas are small or lofty, it’s essential to have confidence in your brilliance. You bring a unique perspective to the table, so Kristi recommends basking in that.

“There’s no need to copy or duplicate someone else’s idea. That’s basically stating that you’re not creative enough to come up with something yourself. So if you don’t believe in yourself and your potential, why would someone else? Trust in your ability.”

6. Be intentional about everything
We can’t get our time and energy back, so Kristi suggests being intentional about everything that we do.

“If you aren’t working towards your goal, then you’re working against yourself. Every decision, interaction, and movement you make needs to be connected to your reaching your goal. You have to be intentional about the reasons why you do everything that you do.”

7. Do not count the bad … count the good
“Don’t get caught up in the number of family members or friends that support you, your social media following or amount of clients. Remember that your journey is unique and therefore it will look like nothing you have seen before. Count all the great things happening for you to help stay focused on the road ahead.”

8. Pay attention to your childhood interests
Before Kristi was a girlboss, she grew up in New York around a lot of West Indians and Hispanics. She’s of West Indian descent and noticed that her culture didn’t typically have big birthday celebrations like their Hispanic counterparts did for a young lady’s Quinceañera. This inspired Kristi and her friends to plan their own birthday celebrations and she’s loved event planning ever since then.

Our childhood interests and hobbies can shed light into our passions, so think about who you were as a child and how that can impact or personalize your business ventures.

9. Be able to say NO
“Never make a decision out of desperation, fear or lack because it will turn out to be the opposite of what you wanted in the first place. Say no and be confident that what is coming next is exactly what is for you.”

10. Strive to make an impact
Celebrating is a common thread in all people no matter what culture or background they have. Kristi is pioneering a new way of thinking regarding what marriage and celebrating is all about. She hopes her events allow people to have fun, stress less and lower divorce rate if possible.
popbliss

The next PopBliss ceremony will take place October 17 – 19, 2017 in Las Vegas! If you know a couple that’ll be interested in having Kristi coordinate their wedding, direct them to register here and use offer code “luv17” to receive a special gift that’ll jumpstart their journey to matrimony.

The Millennials Guide To Managing Up

The best power move you can make this year is to learn how to manage your boss.

In short, managing up is making your boss shine and getting what you need from them. Managing up is especially crucial if your boss is uninvolved or not tending to your work or career needs.

When done respectfully, managing up helps you build a relationship with someone in your industry and ensures that you get what you need out of your job while you’re there. A lot of us Millennials don’t see ourselves working at the same place for years — we tend to bounce around and explore other opportunities. Instead, utilize the resources and relationships that are available where you are now, knowing that it’s temporary.

Some may say, “But it’s not my job to manage my boss. I don’t get paid enough to do that.”

Managing up is for your personal gain. At the end of the day, your manager has someone to report to that they want to please. Do your job well and find ways to add value to make your manager look good. Plant seeds by being a hard worker and team player now, so you can reap the benefits later.

Here are a few key ways to master the art of managing up:

#1. Make Them Shine

The first step to managing up is to be a superstar employee — get your work done, meet deadlines, flag issues ahead of time, and slay daily! This not only makes you look good, but it also makes your manager shine to their boss.

No matter what type of manager you have, they want to keep their job, so find simple ways to help them. See what admin tasks you can take off their plate, like printing the agendas for a meeting or copyediting documents. Pitch in so you make your manager’s life a tad bit easier.

#2. Understand Their Management Style And Preferences

These psychological concepts are key elements to mastering the art of managing up. To have a better working relationship with your manager, learn their management style. Are they hands off and laid back? Or are they a lowkey micromanager who wants to know everything you’re doing?

Also, understand their communication preferences and writing tone. Do they prefer to send emails or talk in person? When reviewing your work, do they prefer a digital version, a hard copy, or both? Study your manager’s writing tone, especially during the first few months of working with them. Is it friendly or direct? Are happy faces acceptable or inappropriate?

Another helpful way to understand their management method is to take the DISC Assessment together to better understand each other’s work styles. This personal assessment can help improve work productivity, teamwork, and communication by analyzing conflict resolution tactics, motivations, stress triggers, work preferences, and more.

The assessment analyzes where you fall on the spectrum of dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness. I took the assessment with my coworkers and found that my boss and I were more similar than I thought — we ranked high on the conscientiousness scale and I learned that he also is motivated by opportunities to gain knowledge and appreciated details and independence. Knowing his DISC Assessment helped me understand how to approach him and work with him throughout the year.

#3. Check in regularly and have open communication

One of the biggest issues that people have with their manager is poor communication. If you don’t already have recurring meetings with your manager, be proactive and schedule them.

The frequency of the meetings depends on your needs and working relationship with your manager. If they are involved in your day-to-day work, you might want to meet weekly or biweekly. If they are hands off or travel often, put a monthly invite on their calendar to touch bases on everything. Even if they are busy — they are obligated to give you time and attention when necessary.

Have a brief agenda or a few key points you’d like to touch on during your meetings, such as current work, career goals, raises and promotions, or recent events. Be prepared so you get the most of the meeting.

To build trust with your manager, it’s important to have open communication. Be sure to flag issues early — if you’ll miss a deadline or be late to work, tell them as soon as possible so you aren’t leaving them in a bind.

#4. Be personable and seek guidance

The key to winning people over is to have a genuine interest in their lives. Get to know your boss by allowing them to talk about themselves (people usually LOVE to talk about themselves). Work appropriate topics include hobbies, children, weekend plans, holiday plans, favorite books or podcasts, and lessons they’ve learned through navigating their career. If you’re traveling to a city that your boss has visited, ask what their favorite restaurants or attractions were.

While some people may still be cold despite your efforts to be personable, this is usually a great way to build a good relationship with your boss.

#5. Help your boss help you

In life, but especially at work, it’s important to speak up! Have an open dialogue with your manager about your career goals. Don’t expect your manager to know what you want to do. If you aren’t feeling challenged, or if you’re interested in other projects, it’s up to you to bring it to your boss. Also pick their brain about their career experiences to see if it can shape your journey somehow.

Navigating your career is challenging, but understanding how to get the most from your managers is a skill that you’ll always appreciate! In what ways do you build a relationship with your manager? Share in the comments below!

Also published on xoNecole.com 

One Year of Becoming Brilliance

We’re so excited to celebrate our one year blogiversary for Becoming Brilliance! On this day last year, we launched our blog baby that has served as a therapeutic and reflective creative outlet. We’ve loved sharing our journey with you as we navigate through life as twenty-something year old women pursuing our passions and purpose.

We started this blog to help other women, especially our fellow Millennials, unleash their brilliance. A woman that is becoming brilliance knows that she has a purpose in life, and is trying to discover or currently walking in what she was called to do. She understands that she has a role to play in the advancement of humanity, and by stepping into her light, she gives other people permission to do the same.

We hope that our posts over the past year has helped you on your brilliant journey. Here are 10 of our favorites from our first year of blogging, and why we love them so much:

1. We Need A Resolution: Improving The Nature of Your Friendships

Before we were blog partners, we were friends. Becoming Brilliance wouldn’t be as special for us if we didn’t have that foundation first. We know first hand that having a tribe of people who are supportive, trustworthy and on a path to greatness is essential to your brilliant journey.

2. Dear Me, I Love You…

Self-love is an integral part of Becoming Brilliance.  And reflecting on how far you’ve come is pivotal in how you’ll view yourself and your growth over time. Writing a letter to yourself is a great tool for measuring progression.  It’s guaranteed that after a substantial amount time has gone by and you re-read your letter, you won’t be in the same position as when you wrote it. And that will be an amazing feeling because you’ll see that your life is coming into fruition.

3. 2016 Holiday Gift Guide

There’s no better feeling than supporting brands that we believe in, especially small businesses! We loved highlighting some of our favorites in last year’s gift guide. Although the holidays are over, our round up has gift ideas that would be great for birthdays, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, so be sure to keep these in mind throughout the year!

4. 25 Travel Adventures That’ll Give You Serious Wanderlust

Author Hans Christian Andersen said it best, “to travel is to live.” And we couldn’t agree more! This was one of our favorite posts to write because we loved living vicariously through the jet setters that we featured. The round up helped us expand our travel bucket list and connect with other people who shared reasons why they love to travel locally and abroad.

5. #BeautyBeyondTheBeat

Besides us having so much fun doing the photoshoot for this post, it was truly a passion project that was so well received. We love to beat face every now and again but our best characteristics can’t be seen with the naked eye but rather felt. And that’s what we never want to forget, the beauty beyond being beat.

6. #ExploringEgypt 5 Take-A-Ways From My Egyptian Excursion

It was simply amazing to have this platform and be able to share this experience with our Becoming Brilliance family. We’re all about jetsetting and living beyond what’s just outside your front door. This post was dedicated to all the aspiring wanderers and travel enthusiasts. Where will we go in 2017? There are no limits!

7. 7 #BlackGirlMagic Lessons To Learn From Simone Biles

2016 Olympian Simone Biles is small but mighty and her hustle is definitely inspiring! While watching her take home the gold at the Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Simone taught us the importance of teamwork, believing in yourself, being consistent, and leaping towards your dreams.

8. Demanding Queen Treatment

Millennial women, especially Black Millennial women, are truly channeling the queens that reigned before us and carrying ourselves in high regard in many aspects of life.  However, we relax certain standards we would normally demand from others when it comes to relationships (or situationships). This post is the pep talk we all need from time to time as a reminder of just how valuable we are and to demand what we require in every interaction.

9.  How To Build Your Network Like A Boss

Networking is all about who you know, who knows you, AND the connotation that they have about you. Fortunately, awkward networking events aren’t the only way to build your professional circle — in this post we highlight five other ways we’ve expanded our contacts, including joining professional organizations, volunteering, utilizing our alma mater and tapping into the power of social media to build our network like a boss.

10. Walking In Your Purpose

Now, this is what Becoming Brilliance was created for and this is why we share our journey with you all. Defining our purpose isn’t easy, implementing it sometimes seems impossible.  But the beautiful thing is we’re in this search together and we’re dedicated to sharing the steps we take in defining our destiny, in hopes that it’ll help you do the same.

Was there a certain blog post that you really identified with? We’d love to read what posts impacted you in the comments!

The One Gamechanging Journal You Need In Your Life

I hate to admit it, but I’m a journal hoarder! Every time I’m at a store and I find a cute journal with an inspirational message on it, I pick it up knowing that I have many more at home waiting to be used. A gal can never have too many journals! Haha.  

Each of my journals serves a different purpose — daily reflections like a diary, prayers to God, blogging ideas and random notes. While I loved having countless blank pages to jot down my thoughts, I was yearning for a journal that would help me reach my full potential.

The Sanity + Success Journal was that gamechanger for me! With prompts to help navigate daily life, cope with stress and doubt, and shift my mindset, this is hands down my favorite journal.

Digital strategist, blogger and my online big sister Emmelie De La Cruz created this reflection journal for anyone who needs a confidence boost or clarity on their calling. The prompts help you manifest the things you want and make strides towards goals that may have previously felt impossible.

One of my favorite aspects of this journal is how reflective and self-aware it encourages you to be. There’s a space for you to write your daily lessons, wins and losses so you can keep track of your experiences and use them as learning opportunities. I love that each page also has a section for you to write your mood which Emmelie says can help you “become conscious of certain trends in your moods and how they are affecting your life, your outlook, and the people around you.”

I tend to have tunnel vision with my goals. I clearly see what I want to accomplish, but sometimes I struggle with breaking it down into actions. I love that the Sanity + Success Journal has a section on each page for your goals and the baby steps that will help you get there. Goal-setting is essential for productivity, and this journal helps you make strides towards your vision.

Because I love you brilliant beauties, here’s a sneak peek of some of my favorite prompts from the Sanity + Success Journal:

  • What did you achieve in the last 12 months that you are proud of?
  • What does happiness look like for you?
  • List things you are grateful for.
  • What do you want to accomplish, and why does it need to be accomplished this year?
  • Remove mental and emotional clutter. List five ways to simplify your life.
  • What experience changed you for the better?
  • Describe a failure that turned out to be a blessing.
  • What are you most afraid of?
  • What does bloom where you are planted mean to you?
  • How does your relationship with your mom impact your relationships today?

That is just a glimpse of the gems that you’ll find in the Sanity + Success Journal! It’s the perfect tool to write your vision down and reflect on your past experiences so you can attract your heart’s desires.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks for an exciting opportunity to discover the greatness in the Sanity + Success Journal for yourself! I promise that it’ll change the game and help you reflect your way to a better life, business and career.

5 Ways to Invest in Your Career This Summer

5 ways to invest in your career this summer

If you want to create the career of your dreams, you have to invest in yourself professionally, and take a moment to reflect on what you’ve done.

I truly understood this when I recently updated my resume, and noticed that it hadn’t been updated since I was a freelancer – more than a year ago! I gave my resume an entire face-lift and I love it! I’m happy at my current job, so I wont be using it soon. But it felt good to capture all of my experiences.

While you’re enjoying the beach and barbeques this summer, also carve out some time to invest in your career. Here are a few ideas:

1. Update resume

Every resume needs to be dusted off once in a while. When updating yours, start off with a brain dump. Write down all responsibilities and accomplishments, and use numbers when possible. Saying that you “increased a companies social media followers by 25%” resonates more than “managed social media account.”

The Internet is your friend when updating your resume! Use it to find examples from your industry to shape yours. See how to word the sentences and find creative, yet tasteful, design ideas to give it some flavor. The old school plain text resume is dead – we’re millennials! A little personality is ok, just don’t overdo it. It’s good to use industry lingo as key words in your resume to show employers that you’re abreast of the field.

2. Improve your digital footprint

One of the best ways to set yourself apart is to have an online presence! From my experience, companies want to know who you are. Your resume may be great, but it won’t capture their interest like a website would.

There are many easy-to use platforms to create a personal website or portfolio. We use WordPress.org, but you can also use WordPress.com, Wix, Weebly, AboutMe and so many more.

Also make sure your social media platforms are a reflection of your personal brand. It’s an extension of who you are, so it should be something you’re proud of.

3. Write a bio

You never know when you’ll need this, so it’s good to have. Include your education, work history, hometown and personal interests. There’s no right or wrong way to write a bio, so make sure yours is unique and expresses who you are. Use this as an exercise to find your writing voice if you don’t already know it.

4. Take a webinar, workshop or class

From cooking to photography to real estate, there are so many ways to learn and find information in your industry. If you’re serious about a subject like entrepreneurship or digital marketing, look into Master Mind classes where you can learn and network with people in your class.

5. Network

Attend events, participate in Twitter chats, invite someone on LinkedIn to get coffee… just do some type of networking opportunity! Investing in your career means connecting with people in your industry, so take advantage of every chance to meet someone new.

Read It & Reap: 5 Books to Add to your Must-Read List

Read It & Reap                           

“A well-read woman is a dangerous creature.” –Lisa Kleypas

We think it’s safe to say that summer is an exciting season for all ages.  Kids are out of school, college students may be studying abroad, and there’s surely a family vacation planned that everyone has been counting down the days to since it was booked.  However, in the midst of all the rousing adventures and opportunities for relaxation that the summer offers, it’s also a great time to rekindle the flame with hobbies you love but just haven’t had the time to cultivate anymore.  If you’ve been waiting for the right time to get back in the “groove”, there’s no better time than now with the summer season quickly approaching!

So for us, reading for leisure is something we truly enjoy but rarely do enough.  We have growing wish lists on Amazon dedicated strictly to books we want to read, so the desire is real.  And some selections even make it into our possession…the intent is SO real.  But this vicious cycle ends here!  Reading is intellectual exercise that we all can benefit from.  Now, I know some people are going to say “Oh, I read everyday…” but Facebook posts, Instagram captions and blogs (unless, it’s Becoming Brilliance…*giggles*) doesn’t qualify for the reading we’re referring to.  No worries though, we’ve got 5 good reads to get you started with:

  1. Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes
  2. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
  3. The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae
  4. Fit for Your Assignment: A Journey to Optimal Health Spiritually, Mentally, and Physically by Reina Olmeda
  5. The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter–And How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay, Ph.D.

We’re ready and committed to reading more but we want you to join us. Thus, we’re working on an exciting initiative to not only hold each other accountable but to make reading more interactive and have the opportunity to engage with you Brilliant Beings!   Stay tuned for more details but we hope you all will join our Becoming Brilliance Book Club!!  We hope you’re as excited as we are.

What are you currently reading and loving? We’d love to hear your recommendations to possibly incorporate into the book club!

How Starbucks Can Help You Land Your Next Opportunity

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Networking is a necessary evil that many people love to hate. Meeting people at networking events can feel forced and awkward for some, and others just don’t know where else to turn to make connections with people in their industry.

One hobby that I picked up in college that helped me build relationships is doing informational interviews. As a public relations major eager to break into the industry, I often invited people to grab a cup of coffee at Starbucks so I could pick their brain and learn more about their experience in PR. This tactic helped me cultivate relationships with some of the movers and shakers in my field, and hone in on what I wanted from my career.

Here are a few tips to help you set up informational interviews over coffee:

  1. Invite your guest

For the most part, people love to talk about themselves and are more than happy to share their experience and expertise. Don’t let their insight go unused! If there is someone in your industry that you admire, ask if they have 20 minutes to spare. If you don’t have someone in mind, use your current network or LinkedIn to find people to learn from.

Below is an example of how to word the ask:

“Hi xxx — I see that you have a lot of great experience in the xx field. I am aspiring to break into the industry, and I’d love to learn more about your journey as I navigate my path. Please let me know if you have 20 minutes to grab coffee sometime soon. Thanks!”

Easy-peezy. Keep it short, friendly and to the point. And people are just as busy as you are, so adding that the coffee chat will be quick is a nice touch to show that you are respectful of their time.

  1. Be prepared

After confirming a time and location with your guest, be prepared. Search for them online and check out their social media profiles to get a better idea of their work, and personal and professional interests. The more you know about them ahead of time, the better the informational interview will be because you can skip a lot of the basic questions and dive into the meat! Make the block of time you’ve asked for work for you!

Another way to be prepared for your informational interview is to have a list of questions ready. It’s best to do this after you’ve researched the guest so the information you find can shape the questions. Here are a few to consider asking:

  • What’s been the biggest challenge working in the xx industry?
  • Is there anything you wish you would have known before you started working?
  • As a newbie in the field, what do you recommend me doing to get more experience and make connections?
  1. Treat this like a real interview

Be on time… actually get there early so you can get settled before your guest arrive. You should also dress nice – you don’t necessarily have to have on business attire but look presentable to make a good impression. Smile, make eye contact and be friendly and engaged.

  1. Capture the moment

Decide how you’re going to capture the advice and insight that your guest will give. Bring a notepad and pen if you’re more of a writer, or ask if they are comfortable with you recording if you want to playback the audio.

  1. Remember to be human

Although you may be seeking advice about a certain topic, don’t forget to appeal to our human nature and ask about their personal life. Whenever I do an informational interview (which I still do now even though I’m in the working in my industry), I always start off asking how my guest is or what they did over the weekend. It’s a simple question that shows that you’re interested in getting to know them as a person – not just what information they can share with you.

  1. Follow up

Email the guests thanking them for their time at least 48 hours after the coffee date. Share one of the key takeaways from the conversation and how you’re going to apply it to your career. Not only does this show that you appreciate them taking the time out of their busy schedule to help you, but also that you’re serious about your career and building your network.

Have you done an informational interview before? How have you been successful in making connections?

Confessions of a Flourishing Graduate Student

Confessions of a Graduate Student-2

“Your faith ain’t never small, that’s what brought you this far.” -Mary Mary 

In 19 days, I will be closing a chapter of my life that I’ve easily identified as the most challenging phase of my journey thus far. On April 30th, 2016…I will graduate with my Masters in Public Administration. *cues confetti and twerk music* And I couldn’t be more proud of myself for achieving this accomplishment but it’s a different kind of pride than I’ve ever felt before. Yes, I’m going to be hotter by “two degrees” but what I’ve learned and improved about myself along the way, is what I’m truly grateful for.

I lived in my sorority’s house during my first year, and then elevated to renting an apartment in my name and by myself the following year. I had times when I was more broke than I‘ve ever been but often times didn’t ask for help or if I did…I’d beat myself up for not being more independent.   I also fought falling into depression while getting adjusted as a full-time graduate student, part-time graduate assistant and balancing all of my responsibilities while I was struggling mentally and emotionally as I dealt with personal heartbreak. But while my knowledge grew as an MPA student, my FAITH was cultivated even more.

As crazy as it sounds, I learned to embrace struggle.   My mantra throughout my graduate career has been “Pray more, worry less. If you’re going to worry, then don’t bother praying.” I would literally say this out loud to myself when I felt anxiety creeping up on me. There were times where I was stressing over course assignments while broke as a joke with payday a week away or waiting for “refunds to drop” but I would just pray and smile because even during those times my car had gas and was running fine. I had means for food and a kitchen full of it. And I had my books for class and the supplies I needed to excel. I had what was ESSENTIAL. Furthermore, growing up as mommy’s little princess, I’m used to having necessity AND luxury; however, for the first time in my life I had to do without the luxury occasionally and I’m a better woman because of it.

Moreover, to be successfully cleared to graduate from my MPA program we are required to write an exit paper and defend it orally to a committee of faculty. Every page of the 41 pages that make up my exit paper has my tears on them…lol To say it was a challenge would be an understatement. My undergraduate journalism program did not prepare me for what I’ve now endured as a graduate student. The amount of writing, required length for assignments and the depth of research was eye-opening. And the fact that I pursued my Masters in a discipline that I was not introduced to during my undergraduate career, presented an obstacle for me in comparison to my colleagues with undergraduate degrees in political science. However, I succeeded along with them and now I feel that I’ve tapped into a new level of intellect because I not only challenged myself but I also exceled at it.

Ultimately, my favorite lesson throughout this time is I’ve finally stopped comparing my journey to those I surround myself with. For as long as I could remember, I wanted to pursue a Masters degree shortly after graduating with my Bachelors. I didn’t want to take a break but rather keep pushing through to avoid any chance of never returning to school. Yet, when my closest friends graduated from college along with me and began full-time careers in their desired fields, I questioned where I was in my life. “Shouldn’t I be working full-time too? Should I have attended graduate school somewhere besides my alma mater? I don’t want to get stuck here.” I was offered a graduate assistantship upon being accepted into graduate school, my tuition was waived entirely. I got to be a helping hand for those who seemed to need me the most. And I met the most amazing man. For every time I questioned if I was where I’m supposed to be in my journey, God showed me every reason I was right where he wanted me. So, now I’m too busy watering my own lawn to notice if someone else’s grass is greener.

Trials and tribulations mold us into who we’re meant to be. Pursuing my Masters was the furthest thing from easy but that’s why it was worth it. Everything I endured throughout my graduate career has given me a new found confidence because if nothing else I’ve learned if and when you hit bottom, view it is a blessing because although you’re low…the beauty is there is nowhere else to go but up!

What has been a defining moment during your journey to Becoming Brilliance?

How To Build Your Network Like a Boss

Network

“Your NETWORK is your NETWORTH!”

I heard this saying when I started college and it stuck with me ever since. Most people don’t get a job just by filling out an application and handing in a resume. It’s all about who you know, who knows you, AND the connotation that they have about you. In other words, it’s about your reputation.

Expanding your network can lead to a plethora of opportunities. But many fail to realize that networking is about building relationships, not just having a bunch of contacts. You don’t want to be the person with 500 LinkedIn connections but no one willing to vouch for you.

It’s important to maintain the relationships that you’ve made and utilize every opportunity to expand your network. But building relationships take time. When someone refers you for an opportunity, they are putting their own reputation on the line. So it’s essential to build trust and rapport from the start.

Networking is much easier, and less intimidating, than many realize. Obviously attending networking events are a way to expand your professional circle, but there are other things that you can do, such as:

  1. Joining associations or organizations in your industry

From accounting to engineering, every industry has various professional organizations that you can get involved with to network and learn more about your trade. I work at MSLGROUP, a global public relations agency, so I joined organizations that are relevant to my industry, such as the Public Relations Society of America and ColorComm, an organization for women of color in communications. As a member I’ve gotten a chance to mingle with other communicators, learn more about my craft, and get exposure to different career paths and skillsets.

Being a member of an organization is an easy way to meet more like-minded people. Just be mindful of the costs of joining organizations – some of them cost a pretty penny! Look at these organizations as an investment, so don’t be a member just to put it on your resume. Get involved! The more you put into your membership, the more you’ll get out of it!

  1. Volunteering your services

The catch 22 with entry-level positions is that many companies expect candidates to have work experience, however it’s their first job. To combat that dilemma, volunteer your services while in college or when first starting out to build your network and portfolio. If you’re a graphic designer, partner with a local nonprofit and redesign their logo or organization brochure. If you’re a photographer, offer to take your mentor’s headshot to get more practice. Volunteering gives you much more creative leeway and it’s a double win for you – you’re adding value to someone in your network and building your portfolio.

When building relationships, it’s always a best practice to share how you can benefit someone else. If you can volunteer to help with something, or refer a stellar contact, you’ll be more valuable to your network. And in turn, people will want to help you when they can.

  1. Tap into your alumni network

Most people like to work with people that they have something in common with. When networking with those who came from your alma mater, you already have a similarity. Pick their brain and learn from their mistakes and experiences. So many alumni are eager to help grads from their university so reach out to them!

I interned in NYC the summer after graduating from college, and I met a few fellow Bison that helped me navigate my post-grad journey. By simply grabbing a drink at Starbucks or meeting up for happy hour, I got valuable advice from people who were once in my shoes and wanted to see their Howard family thrive.

Even after you graduated and started working, maintain a relationship with your professors and the people in your career center. Many of them have another life outside the classroom, so it’s beneficial to become apart of their circle.

  1. Be social

As a millennial, social media comes natural for us. Use your channels as a networking tool to learn more about your industry and connect with like-minded individuals. Make sure all of your social channels are professional (i.e. no hangover pictures, obscenities), but still showcase your personality. Post about your industry, culture and news, and participate in Twitter chats and other discussions where you can connect with others.

Keep your LinkedIn profile updated and use the site to connect with people in your industry or in fields that you want to learn more about – even if you don’t know them. Customize the LinkedIn request and let them know your interests. It’s a chance that they may not reply, but I’ve learned from experience that they more than likely will!

  1. Cultivate your relationships

If you take advantage of the opportunities listed above, you’ll likely meet tons of people in your industry but they won’t really be apart of your network unless you maintain those connections. You probably won’t make deep connections with everyone, so start off by being selective of the relationships that you put extra effort into maintaining. Here are a few things that I practice to cultivate the relationships that I made:

  • Keep up with them: Treat your network like a professional circle of friends. Do they have a birthday coming up? Have they recently been in the news? Did they win an award or get a promotion? Show that you’re genuinely interested in them. LinkedIn and social media in general is a great source to keep track of others.
  • Touch base with them at least three times a year. Keep the college mindset and shoot them an email during the spring, summer and fall semester.
  • Send holiday cards or emails
  • Update them on major milestones in your life (i.e. new job, graduation)
  • Send articles that might be of interest
  • Ask to volunteer on any projects their working on
  • Create a spreadsheet of your contacts to keep track of their contact information and other details

Networking is the most valuable investment that you can make in your career, especially as a young professional. Get out there and start building relationships!