How To Get What You Deserve

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on May 28, 2008
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trish ryan book.

I had been reading Trish’s Dishes — Trish Ryan’s blog — for a few months before her memoir, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, came out. When I was picked at random to receive an advance publicity copy, I was thrilled. After all, Trish’s blog is always entertaining, and her protracted quest for a spiritual home reminded me of my own.

When I sat down with her book, though, I was still wary. My own spiritual journey had led me away from my Roman Catholic upbringing, while Trish’s had led her to salvation through Jesus. I was blown away by her memoir, however, and ended up immediately ordering two more copies to use as mom’s-day gifts for my mom and mom-in-law.

I’ll be posting an interview with Trish at a later date. For now, though, I wanted to mention one of the lessons Trish learns as she delves into Christianity…something she mentioned — and which resonated with me — at her NYC reading last week.

In speaking of the message God had for her when He first appeared in her life, Trish mentioned the lesson of not throwing pearls before swine. In short: Realize your worth, and for the love of god, act accordingly.

For Trish, this meant not giving every good-for-nothing who crossed her path a chance at mucking up her life. But the “pearls before swine” lesson can be applied to just about any aspect of life. I’ve found several areas in my own life where it took me perhaps a bit longer than it should have to learn this lesson:

Love: Trish found herself caught in an abusive marriage, which she eventually escaped from by going into hiding. I myself once allowed myself to become embroiled in such a relationship, one that was emotionally, verbally, and sexually abusive. Dealing with the aftermath of this relationship only made me stronger, but I can’t help being angry at myself for not knowing better than to let something like this happen to me. In short, if someone is not treating you the way you deserve to be treated (lovingly and fabulously), then this is not the person for you. You cannot save a person. You cannot change a person. Being in such a relationship taught me to raise my standards, considering things such as education, thoughtfulness, bad recreational habits, and more when looking for that deal-breaker.

Career: Many people look at their jobs merely as a way to pay the bills. I look to my career for something more: a means of creative and professional fulfillment, and sometimes even fun, not to mention a huge part of my self-identity. When my job was making me miserable, I owed it to myself to take the risks necessary to find career fulfillment elsewhere. Now, I struggle with actually putting a price on what my time and talents are worth. I’m still in my first year of full-time freelancing, and am just now finding out that I’ve been screwing myself over when setting my rates. It’s tough to ask for more money when you’re on a larger staff. In some ways, it’s even tougher to ask for more money when you’re your own boss. It shows a certain level of belief in yourself to ask for what you deserve.

Health: Many people lament their lack of time for things such as working out or cooking. I’m guilty of the same thing. When it comes down to it, though, it’s necessary to make yourself the higher priority. Things such as home-cooked meals and regular workout sessions need to be scheduled into your life, in much the same way you schedule in business meetings and happy hours and choir rehearsals. Such reprioritizing will only benefit you and your health in the long run. At the moment, I have dedicated myself to attending weekly hoop classes, but once a week is not enough. I also find myself living off of ramen and Pizza Hut, which is admittedly horrifying. Don’t follow my lead, for the love of god. Put your physical and mental health above all else. You deserve it.


How To Manage Your Professional Persona

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on April 30, 2008
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business card.My resume winds through the wilds of publishing, including entries within the newspaper world, academic book publishing, new media, and even a brief stint volunteering at a print mag startup.

Now that I’m a full-time freelancer — more than willing to take on just about anything to make some extra cash — it’s proven even tougher to pin down a professional identity.

My business card reads: “Writer/Editor”

The reality is a bit more complex. At the moment, my responsibilities include proofreading, publicity, review collation, and blogging.

So I introduce myself as a freelancer, crossing my fingers that people don’t ask “a freelance what?”


What’s On My Bookshelf

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on February 4, 2008
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Before I summarize the following book, I want to thank for giving me a mention on their site this past Friday. They totally linked to my post on accessing your inner child! My hubby says that now that I have the attention of the hula hooping community, I should post more often. Hi hula hoopers!


You’re most probably sick of all my career-centric books, but it’s sort of an obsession of mine. Most recently, I flew through Do What You Are, which I received as a Christmas gift from my little brother (he knows me well; or he knows how to access my Amazon Wish List).

The book was written to aid readers in discovering their ideal career based upon personality type. The beginning of the book helps you figure out your type, and lordy, those personality type profiles are spot-on. The remaining chapters are devoted specifically to each type, helping you to harness your new knowledge in order to figure how what type of career would be best for you.

If you’re curious about your personality type, you can also take this quiz.  Both it and the book are based upon the Myers-Briggs test, and this quiz actually ended up giving me the same results as the exercises in the book! So I’m pretty sure it’s a good’un.

Be sure to share any insights you have once you figure out your type!


Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on January 17, 2008
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If you’re in the NY area, and interested in the concept of test-driving your dream job, Brian Kurth of Vocation Vocations is appearing at the Paramount Hotel Mezzanine/Library Bar (235 W 46th Street) on Tuesday, January 22, 5:30-7 p.m.

I can’t make it, as I work till 6 p.m., and I’m supposed to be going to a networking event that evening, but I’d love to hear what it was like!

How to Switch Careers the Smart Way

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on January 17, 2008
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Back when I first graduated from college, I was feeling pretty aimless. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I had student loans and the credit-card-debt-of-the-truly-stylish to pay off.

(For further reference, I suggest you purchase an mp3 of the Avenue Q song, “What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?”)

After a couple months of sending resumes into the void, I got a job as editor for an environmental engineering firm through a lady in my callanetics class. While it paid well, I was miserable and, when I lost my job six months later, it was actually a relief. Finally! I had a chance to find the right job for me! One that wasn’t taken on out of pure desperation!

After seven months, however, of handing out caramel swirl iced latte samples at Dunkin’ Donuts, spending more than I was making doing nightlife reviews for Shecky’s, and burning through my unemployment checks at a rapid pace, I realized I had to try a different tactic. Hence the post-college internship.

My internship at the Feminist Press — a nonprofit book publisher housed in the CUNY Grad Center — was a revelation. I was in love with books already, fired up about the content, and even enjoying my menial temp duties. I felt that this was my dream career path, and I began to work out a hazy plan, in which I would eventually become an acquisitions editor.

A past FemPress intern eventually got me my editorial assistant job with an academic book publisher. I was pretty happy for the first six months, but began to feel I wasn’t comfortable moving upward, as I didn’t have a firm knowledge base in the subject area I was working on. When a marketing position opened up within my department, I jumped for it, as I had a passing interest in book publicity, based mainly on my love of lit events.

At first, I was exhilarated by how challenging this new position was for me, and I garnered several promotions/raises over a short period of time but, after awhile, I realized that this, also, was not the job for me. I had lost touch with my initial creative writing ambitions. In addition, I no longer wanted to handle communications with authors. Marketing was just not my thing. I longed to lead the full-time freelance life but, with a new mortgage to deal with, it just seemed impossible.

When I began to be depressed about my job, however, I knew I needed a plan. It took me about another six months, but I eventually found myself a freelance proofreading gig with part-time hours that would allow me to leave my full-time job, and afford me the extra time to work on my writing/pitching and even squeeze in a magazine internship! I began interning at Material Media three days a week, where I just loved the web magazine environment, and the intensity of staffers working on a project they believed in. I began writing pieces for the site, and also made valuable contacts for the future. When my internship ended this past Friday, I immediately started pitching story ideas to various publications, and have already gotten my first assignment.

The reason for this detailed story, which has grown ridiculously long? I wanted to illustrate for you the benefits of taking risks for eventual career happiness, and also of test-driving a career before committing yourself to a full-time job.

In much the same vein, Brian Kurth created Vocation Vacations, an organization that provides clients with the opportunity to test-drive a variety of careers via intense, short-term mentorships. (Yes, I thought this was an awesome idea as well.) The company launched in 2004 but, just recently, Kurth also published Test-Drive Your Dream Job.

Throughout the book, Kurth and co-writer Robin Simons provide a step-by-step guide to finding mentors on the way to one’s eventual dream job.

Some words of wisdom:

  • Pretend you’re a kid again. Do you remember your younger days, when you’d flip through magazines, cut out the images that appealed to you, and then paste them into a binder so as to remind yourself of the life you eventually wanted? Was that just me? Kurth suggests a somewhat similar exercise, by advising readers to create collages using images that appeal to them. In this way, one may be able to pinpoint what, exactly, it is one wants in a career.
  • Nurture your anger. Anger can actually spur one toward action. I know that I’ve been more liable to make a change when I’ve felt angry about something. It helps overcome the fear of leaving someplace familiar, or starting over again. So harness any negative feelings you may have and use them for the greater good.
  • “Are we going to die? If not, let’s do it!” This is a quote from the book, made by a woman replying to her husband’s money concerns. I think it’s a great way to keep perspective when considering all the possible negative outcomes of a risk.
  • If something is truly worth it, no obstacle is insurmountable.

    • “One day [Sandy] was talking with a friend who was lamenting her own career dissatisfaction and the many reasons she couldn’t change direction, and Sandy heard herself say, ‘Your problem is you just don’t want to give anything up to get there. It’s the “yeah, but” syndrome: “yeah, but I’ll have to work different hours; yeah, but I have credit card bills.” Well, you pay off your bills. And your job isn’t the end-all job.; if you really want to do something else you can give it up. It’s just easier to say you don’t know what you want to do than to take responsibility for what you have to do to get there.”

Kurth also gets into how to find and approach possible career mentors; how to decide whether or not a career is worth pursuing; what questions to ask your mentor about your dream career; and how to move forward with a career once you’ve made the decision that it’s the right one for you.

He also tackles the tough issues, such as what to do when your dream career isn’t everything you thought it would be, leaving you feeling directionless and shattered. Or how to talk things out with a family member who’s not feeling quite so psyched about all the risk associated with the career move you’re considering (“We have spouses and/or family members whose needs matter enormously, and we can’t just decide to run away and join our own personal circus”).

Are you feeling a bit…stagnant…in your present career? What types of dream careers do you have floating around inside your head? If you’ve already made a big change, how did you go about it? Were you scared? What did you learn about yourself in the end?

Was it all worth it?

How to Juggle Multiple Careers

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on October 31, 2007
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On a particularly busy day last week, I did all the usual waking-up stuff, worked five straight hours on a review collating project for a Boston-based publisher, and then took a bus into the city, where I freelance nights at a daily newspaper downtown. In between proofing copy, I checked my e-mail account for my web mag internship, to see if I had received additional responses for a column I was putting together. I eventually made my way home and, unable to turn my brain off right away, did crossword puzzles till I passed out.

My husband accuses me of having no focus. I keep telling him that I have no interest in focusing on one thing. That only makes me bored and fidgety.

The other week, I picked up a book that put, quite eloquently, into words what I had been trying desperately to express to my husband. One Person/Multiple Careers, by Marci Alboher, is about those who balance multiple careers (totally on purpose), and how they do it without going off the deep end.

Appropriately enough, Alboher starts off with beginnings. Specifically, “having a slash career requires being comfortable with beginnings,” as the switching to or adding on of new career paths may require you to start from the very bottom all over again, or embark on a new sort of hands-on education.

New beginnings excite me. If they excite you as well, there should be no problem with making the leap.

Alboher goes on from here to talk about:

  • using previous experiences to get ahead in your additional career (“contacts and knowledge from one career can give you a leg up as you build another”)
  •  the four slashes that can be applied to most any area of interest: “writing, teaching, speaking, and consulting — the black pants of the slash wardrobe.” For example, if you happen to have a slight obsession with self-help manuals, you can:
  1. become a book reviewer
  2. start up a blog
  3. pitch self-improvement stories to all your favorite glossies
  4. teach a class on your favorite source of self-improvement
  5. become a motivational speaker
  6. become a life coach
  7. etc.
  •  owning your new identity, even if you feel like a neophyte (“Tell everyone you’re a writer,” one of Alboher’s subjects advised. “I mean everyone you know, everyone you meet, and everyone who asks what you do. Pretty soon it’ll be true.”)
  • marketing platforms, such as the needs for multiple resumes, web sites, and business cards depending on how closely your various careers are related to each other
  • connections among your slashes; they can give you an edge when/if they add a dimension to your experience that others in the field don’t have
  • finding slash-friendly employers, where you can negotiate flex time, sabbaticals, telecommuting, and other alternative work arrangements
  • juggling your multiple slashes without burning out: As one subject said, “Basically, I know how to say no and I do it any time something would upset the equilibrium of life.”
  • parenting as a slash
  • and more. Much more, really.

Reading this book got me retardedly excited, thinking of all the things I could do now that I had left cubicle-world behind. In fact, I recently wrote a post about it on my personal blog, in which I started frantically listing all the things I wanted to do, such as working at a small press again, in an editorial capacity; becoming a celebrant; starting a reading series; or volunteering with Girls Write Now.

“…why do slashes seem more satisfied with their careers — and less oppressed by them — than those who hold just one job?” Alboher asks. And for me, it’s because I can’t stand being still…I’m constantly interested in learning…I’m interested in so many damn different things…

My schedule has caused problems at home, as I haven’t yet mastered the art of the work/life balance. I rarely eat regular meals, never work out, have erratic sleep times, and don’t have a heckuvalot of time for my husband (or friends or family; I’m sure mom will be thrilled when she hears I’ve volunteered to work on Thanksgiving). But I’m working on it. Career is just too much a part of my identity to push aside.

“I used to think it was all about boundaries — about turning off the cell phone, leaving work at the office, and making time for vacations. I now think it’s just the opposite, that it’s not about respecting boundaries at all, but rather about letting your various vocations and identities commingle so that it’s sometimes hard to tell when your working and when you’re just living.”

This is the goal for me: to have working and living become so similar as to be indistinguishable.

This book is worth picking up if you feel the same.

How to Escape the Seven Circles of Cubicle Hell

Posted in self help by Steph Auteri on October 10, 2007
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mike c.

If you could judge the usefulness of the books on my bookshelf by how many pages in each are dog-eared, this one has a score of 22 (I just counted). Though the freelance life was something I had dreamed about for quite some time, being able to reach that dream had always seemed too daunting and super-impossible. Then I saw Michelle Goodman’s The Anti 9 to 5 Guide in the Career section of B&N, and my awesome-self-help radar started twitching.

Now look at me. I have large amounts of credit card debt, my interest rate is astronomical, and my husband worries that I will drag him down with me into the depths of bankruptcy!

Yet I’m happy.

Before I go on, let me point out that I did not follow the author’s very first bit of advice. I did not build up a monetary cushion before making the leap into self-employment. I am far too impatient for such things.

But I did get going on the rest of the steps Goodman walks the reader through and, as a result, I now spend my lunch breaks three days a week wandering Soho with a strange grin on my face, thinking of how lucky I am to be…where I am. The rest of my days, when I’m spending my mornings and afternoons at home, I use my lunch break to become more intimate with the inner workings of America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway. Life has never been so rich.

Please please please buy this book if you are at all interested in making your moolah in an unconventional way. Let me walk you through the steps I took:

  1. Get Your Social Network On
  • Create or update a profile that includes your work history on LinkedIn or another social network. (I think I must be on just about every online social network that exists. Check me out on Tribe, StumbleUpon, Flickr, LiveJournal, MySpace, and Facebook. God, I’m sure I’m missing something here. I left out a few that I haven’t updated in awhile.)
  • Call your friend the resume queen to help you update your resume in exchange for a six-pack. (In my case, the resume queen is my husband [sorry honey!] and I totally stole his entire resume format and stuff. I didn’t give him anything in return, unless you count the pleasure of my company…for all eternity!)
  • Get business cards made (if you don’t already have up-to-date ones). (I always get my business cards done through VistaPrint, which is awesomely cheap. Which is important, especially when you’re starting out. You can choose from one of the pre-made designs, or design your own.)
  • Update your resume or portfolio on your website or blog (if you have either). (Voila!) (Except that it totally needs to be updated again.)
  • Select three networking events to attend in the next two months. (In addition to classes and workshops, which I find to be a great opportunity for networking with like-minded folks and generous professors, I tend to attend the MediaBistro cocktail parties here in NYC. When interviewing at a staffing agency the other day — for the purpose of obtaining some additional freelance proofing work –I found out about a Jersey-based group that has monthly events as well! Troll the websites of your local professional organizations to fid events near you.)
  • Aaaaand, I never got past stage one. A contact I had made through a writing class forwarded a job ad my way, and I got myself a freelance nighttime proofreading gig that provided enough hours and income to allow me to resign from my full-time job. Since then, I’ve also signed on for a web magazine internship and have several other freelance projects coming my way via former colleagues and old friends. (Remember, everyone is a possible career contact. For the love of god, network the hell out of yourself with every damn person you come across, including your mom. My mom got me my first job out of college through a lady in our exercise class.)

I still refer to Goodman’s book, however, when I’m feeling nervous or lost or in danger of having to go full-time again (god forbid). She goes into detail on informational interviews, patchwork paychecks, “pimp[ing] your personal office,” business plans, flex time, and more.

Goodman actually has a blog associated with her Guide, so be sure to check that out, as well as the book itself.

And just so you know, it could be a rough road ahead, but it will all be worth it in the end. Lately, this is the only view I get of my husband:

michael sleeping.

but someday, after lots and lots of work, we will surely find ourselves miraculously awake at the same exact time.

How inspirational is that!?