Taking on the World Post-Graduation!

The past six years of my life have been dedicated to academics and growth based on education combined with leadership.  I have found my self-confidence grow as I became more knowledgeable about the world and my place within it.  I have led student organizations, attended conferences, found success with my writing, and discovered my strength in public speaking.  I became passionate about advocacy, and learned ways in which I could use my skills to make a difference.  This is what I gained with my education because it was a strong liberal arts education with a focus on creating women leaders.

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Now, I am a graduate.  I was proud to be the 2015 commencement student speaker at Cedar Crest College, and when I walked across the stage, I knew it was symbolic for walking into a new phase in my life.  Graduation is exhilarating, but also an emotional time.  One journey is ending, and this is bittersweet because while endings lead to beginnings, life will never be the same.  A few days later, the realization of that loss is prevalent, and fellow graduates begin new phases of their life, or post panicked comments on Facebook because they do not know where they are going.

I am in the job search mode as many of my friends are, but I know my college provided me with the skills I need to be successful.  That, combined with my confidence and determination, will lead me to a rewarding life.  I know I may start in a position that is not what I hoped, but I also know I may very well find the position that will be rewarding and lead to a career I will be happy with.  This is the roller coaster of post-graduation.  It is the next phase, which requires just as much work and dedication as the previous educational phase, if not more.  It is the time for graduates to prove themselves.

While this can be a time of anxiety and fear, it can also be an exciting adventure and another learning experience in life.  For those fellow graduates out there, those who are searching for their place in the career world, do not forget your worth.  Remember that you worked hard for your degree/s and you should embrace this new challenge just as you embraced the challenges of college.  Be proud of your accomplishments, and bravely put yourself out there.  Be confident and explore what this new path has to offer!

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Follow Your Passions!

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I learned a great deal from the PLEN seminar in Washington D.C.  One of the greatest lessons I took away, that was echoed by many of the speakers, was that if you follow your passions, it doesn’t matter what path you take, you will accomplish great things.  Every speaker found their way into careers that were challenging, rewarding, and personally fulfilling.  They may have started on very different career paths from degrees in English, political science, history, and so much more, but they found their way to nonprofit, advocacy, or policy work.

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When I look at my path through education, knowing I am about to embark on an even greater adventure, I realize that the more I follow my passions, the more I will be fulfilled.  I have found that stifling passion merely leads to a life of monotony, and an existence plagued by regret.  I choose to never regret again.  I choose to take opportunities to make a difference in the world when I find them.  I choose to make opportunities where they do not currently exist.  I choose to initiate social change for the betterment of caregivers, even if it requires small steps to reap small rewards.  I choose to be an advocate for those who need one.  I choose to empower other women to lead, as these women have empowered me.  Most of all, I choose to be myself and represent my values and morals in the career decisions I make.

You have this power as well.  You can choose the person you wish to be and you can empower yourself to follow the passions that make up your spirit.  Be strong, be willing to make changes when necessary, and be open to the advice of others.  In the words of Caryl M. Stern, “Don’t be afraid of lateral moves today to get to where you want to be tomorrow.”

PLEN Seminar Experience Taught Me How To Better Advocate, Lead, and Pursue My Passions!

I have not posted a blog entry recently, but I have a good excuse.  I was attending the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) seminar, Unlocking Nonprofits: Innovations and Careers!  For anyone who is not familiar with PLEN, I highly recommend you check out their site.  http://plen.org/

Cedar Crest College regularly sends a handful of students to PLEN seminars, and I was lucky to be one of the ones chosen this year.  While I will be covering some of the information I feel I received from this truly enlightening seminar throughout the week, I want to offer an overview.  PLEN is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering women as leaders.  They seek to connect women in top level roles throughout various areas of health, science, nonprofit, advocacy, government, and other agencies with high-achiever undergraduate and graduate students wishing to make their mark on the world.  PLEN provides multiple sessions with a panel of women, who not only detail their own experiences navigating their career path to reach their current positions, but who also inspire students to seek out their passion, to work hard, and to never give up.  This was one of the most inspirational experiences I have had.

These sessions were broken up by practical workshops to help students build better resumes, to enhance their LinkedIn profiles, and to gain necessary networking and interviewing skills.  Overall, I feel I walked away from this seminar with more than I could have expected.  From the pages of notes that are filled with detailed information from each speaker, to exceptional quotes, and a feeling of enhanced self-confidence, I believe PLEN went beyond the experiential, into something life-changing.

The seminar was off to a rocky start initially, because of the snowstorm that hit the east coast.  Below is a picture of Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. where PLEN headquarters is located.

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That was just the beginning, but PLEN was able to continue the seminar despite a few speakers who were unable to make it.  We also had to miss a planned field trip, but they filled that time with an activity that was also rewarding, and gave us a chance to think about the use of social media marketing as a tool in nonprofits.

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Our keynote speaker, Caryl M. Stern, President & CEO of UNICEF was one of the most incredible women I have listened to.  She spoke about her own family, and how she made decisions about her career, that while unusual, were exactly what she needed to get to a place where she was satisfied.  One quote that really stuck out to me was, “Don’t be afraid of lateral moves today to get where you want to be tomorrow” (Stern).  While we tend to think of how we can move up the career ladder, sometimes we need to stay on the same tier while moving to a different career or organization.  We should in fact, follow our passions because that is what will make us feel complete at the end of the day.

Caryl Stern was just one of the many speakers who left me with great ideas, plans, and thoughts to mull over.  The women who dedicated their time, helped to make a change in the lives of the students who attended.  Based on the wonderful group of women who attended with me, I believe they will take this knowledge and use it to make a difference in the world.  This is one thing I can say I have take away from PLEN, every person who spoke fanned the flames of passion I have for advocacy, and this passion will lead me to initiate necessary social changes.  This goes to show that as I move into a career in advocacy and leadership, I can do the same for others, and if we all did this, our world would become a much better place.  This is just one of the many bits of information I took away from PLEN.

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I will carry this experience with me, and continually look back at what I learned so I can apply these lessons to my life as my path shifts.  I will also build upon the networks that were started and hope they lead to valuable connections.  And, I will continue to work towards my goals to make a difference in the world one step at a time.

Below is a picture of the great group of women who attended this seminar, it came from the PLEN Facebook page which I have linked below.

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https://www.facebook.com/plennetwork?ref=br_tf

Thank you Cedar Crest College for your support and for sending me to this seminar, and thank you PLEN for all of the hard work that went into planning.  I was also chosen to receive a PLEN scholarship, and for this, I am truly grateful!

5 Steps to Focus on Friday and Motivate for Monday!

Everyone who works a regular workweek of Monday through Friday, dreads Monday. The weekend is a nice buffer between the two days, but it gives us a sense of a freedom, a chance to remove ourselves from the humdrum of work life, so we can live life.  We may get more family time if we have kids.  We may just look forward to sleeping in.  We may find ourselves enjoying a mix of fun and catching up on work.  The point is, we usually have a choice about how we want to use our time on the weekend, so when Monday rolls around, we rebel.  How can we make our Mondays more manageable?

Here are the top 5 ways to make Monday easier for us to handle:

1.  The one thing that can be done to make Monday better is to utilize Friday a little more appropriately.  Many people fall into “it is the end of the week, it is Friday, I am so done mentality,” making Friday the least efficient day.  The problem with this is that this means it is time wasted.

2.  Tie up loose ends for the week so you are not worrying about what wasn’t completed over the weekend when you should be getting a break.  This will also keep you from starting Monday out already behind.

3.  Work ahead a little on next week’s work if you have already finished everything else you have to have done for the current week.  This could put you ahead and make your time on Monday less rushed.

4.  Make a list  of things that need to be completed, started, or planned on Monday.  Having a to-do list will make your day easier because it is already planned.  Just make sure you leave room for things that come up last minute.

5.  Prioritize Monday’s work so you will know what is the most important thing to be done first.  If you get the most difficult or dreaded items out of the way right off the bat, you will find the rest of the day will go smoother.

If we used our Friday better by focusing on the details and preparing for the next week, we could make Monday less of a monster for us.  Now is your chance to start as Friday winds down, and the weekend is looming ahead.  Plan for a better Monday today!

Need Inspiration? Take a Class!

I have found myself losing inspiration at various points in my life, but over the past few years, the inspiration has been growing.  I can honestly attribute this to the classes I have been taking.  Continuing my education was one of the best choices I have made in my adult life.  Of course, having two special needs children at home made this decision a little more difficult, but with my incredible husband as my partner in crime, we have been able to accomplish great feats.  On nights I am in class, he handles the daily duties, dinner, and helps the kids with homework.  He also handles the job of referee as the children are bound to fight.  The point is, we made this work, and it has been an incredible journey.

I am now about to graduate with dual bachelor’s degrees, and I have found the various topics of the classes I have taken have provided me with a wide range of perspectives.  I am more open to topics I would have never considered before.  I can see the world in many ways, and I am truly inspired.  I do not struggle to find topics to write about because ideas pour from me everytime I sit down to write.  I can write in various genres and I enjoy writing more than ever.  I have also found that attending educational  and leadership conferences, or really any conference, can incite even more inspiration.  I always walk away from conferences and classes invigorated and ready to change the world with my words.  That may be an exaggeration, but I do believe words have great power, and I believe in my ability to affect change, even if it begins on a small scale, is possible.

If you are struggling with your creativity, if you need inspiration, take a class, go to a conference, and surround yourself with new perspectives.  Look at the world through the eyes of another.  You can even do this through good literature.  Open your eyes, your mind, and your heart to the world beyond yourself and you will find there is more to consider, to question, and to write about than you could have imagined.

Moving From Victim to Victor!

Just about everyone becomes a victim at some point in their life.  In fact, many of us will use the victim role to avoid life, tasks, projects, or work.  There are various reasons for this, depending on the type of victim you have become.  If you were seriously hurt or injured, obviously, it will take a toll on you, but there are too many situations where something trivial occurs and victimhood seems eternal as it is drawn out for weeks.

Examples:

– A co-worker got a promotion that you feel you should have had.

– A paper that you put months of research into has been rejected or received a bad grade.

– Perhaps you have had a rocky road with relationships, and you let this become a failure that seeps into every other aspect of your life.

– You are broke and can’t afford the same things your co-workers have.

– Your car continues to break down and you can’t afford the repairs.

Not that these situations are good, but there is a point where one must move from being the victim to becoming a victor in their life. Everyone has bad moments, we are all wronged, and we all struggle at some point.  The difference is that those people who come out on top do not allow these moments to rule their life.  They deal with it, struggle, and find a way to fix the problem.  It may take years to fix the problem, but dwelling on it without trying to solve it will not get anyone anywhere.

Everyone has the choice of which direction their life will go.  Each challenge can make or break you.  You can choose to be strong, fight the situation, and overcome it, or you can wallow in self-pity.  Be the victor.  Do not let situations keep you from solutions.

Dare to Dream, and Embrace Inspiration!

The moment I stopped dreaming is the moment I ended up in some of the lowest point in my life.  From wading through the oppression of an abusive relationship to entering the focus of caregiving for a while.  I have found that life is full of inspiration, and some of it comes out of those darkest moments.  Then, the light emerges once more and dreams become possible again.  Without the struggles, I would not have the experience or inspiration to write.

What it boils down to is that dreaming leads to great things if you have the will and determination to pursue those dreams.  Everyone should dare to dream, and embrace the inspiration that pours from the wounds of their life.  This is what makes us human, relatable, and interesting.  We all have great springs of stories that fall in tears, and everyone must climb through trenches that were created by mistakes and poor decisions.  However, not everyone can turn these moments into inspiration for dreams and goals.  Many will live and die in tragedy.  Those that are able to tell their stories or create a masterpiece from the various colors of their life journey are the ones that become authors, entrepreneurs, leaders, and motivators.

I have learned this lesson, and I am taking the many sources of inspiration in my life to create something inspiring.  I have been a dreamer on and off, but as I have overcome more, my dreams have grown, and I will not stop until I reach my goals.  I have made it to that point that many may never get to, and I hope to inspire others to get to this point as well.  It is crucial for people to have a dream, but without the willingness to take action and to take a risk, it will never become a reality.  Be one of the stars that lights the way for others.  Take your dream and make it whole, tangible, and real.  Become the inspiration for others who are still trudging in their self-made trenches, seeking a light to guide them.

Communication is Crucial!

To lead others, to inspire, to write, to speak, to manage, to work with, or to do anything, you must be able to communicate.  In fact, communication is a key aspect to success overall.  If you cannot convey your ideas to others, you cannot lead them.  From words, to writing, to body language, and facial expressions, we communicate our thoughts, needs, ideas, and perceptions regularly.  However, it is a skill to communicate effectively.  This type of communication takes time and work to improve.  It requires you to be able to read others, to know how to shift your tone and expressions for specific situations.

One of the greatest ways to improve your communications skills is to read a great deal, and to have conversations with a diverse group of people.  Attention to detail is critical to picking up subtle cues that will help you to reach an individual.  As a leader, or in a position at work, this will help you to work with the diverse corporate climate or to reach people you would have been unable to clique with previously.

Do not underestimate the power of the written word and the ability to edit your work.  Bad grammar can remove credibility quickly and create a problem for you in your career.  Know how to write well, and how to sound professional.  A good first impression often comes from a written communication, like email, and can make or break you in a professional setting.  The most important thing, is to seek improvement.  If you know your communication skills need some work, do not put it off.  Opportunities may open up, and you want to be able to present yourself in the best way possible.

Servant Leadership and Success!

One of the keys to great leadership is the ability to focus on the growth and success of others.  When you follow leadership principles that allow you to focus on giving to those around you, you will find that success follows.  This type of leadership style can be beneficial in many ways.

1.  We all want to succeed.  However, we also need to be able to have a strong group of people around us who can also succeed.  It is like the phrase, “a team is only as strong as its weakest link.”  If there is someone who needs more skills to grow in the workplace or to be successful, by mentoring this person, you are essentially strengthening the outcomes of your team.

2.  To be a strong leader, you must command respect from others, but the respect that is earned is worth so much more.  When your employees or team knows you will be there to help and guide them, and that they can trust you, you will earn more respect.  This will bring about positive, professional relationships that lead to more communication and better team dynamics.

3.  Giving time and attention to the team you work with can help you to grow and learn as well.  Even the best leader can take lessons from those who work with them.  Each team will be different and the learning possibilities are endless.  In fact, teams can change drastically just by replacing one person, or from project to project.  This focus on the team will also help with observation skills and enable a more intuitive approach with others in the future.

4.  When a leader spends more time focusing on themselves, the bottom line, or success, they miss the details, and while they may be able make strides and find success in the short-term, they may lose out in the long-term.  There are so many elements that make up the whole picture of success, and a good leader will focus on how they can give to the team and enhance the growth of the team as a whole.

5.  Servant leadership is the best way to help the team participate and it will enforce the growth of individual and group skills, as well as help the team reach their full potential.  There is less limitation, therefore, more growth.

While there are many leadership styles, and every leader has a specific way in which they operate, in many situations, servant leadership should stand out as a highly productive way for a leader to guide and encourage a team.