Networking in the Age of COVID-19

I think we can all agree that it’s not a good time to be looking for a job. Openings have disappeared from job boards, and many companies are laying off employees, not looking for new ones. However, if you’re looking for work there are still options out there for you. Though I have struggled to find interviews, I have been working to widen my network and adapt my skills during this time.

I used my university’s online job board to find people with similar career backgrounds to my own interests. You can also search for fellow alums using keywords on Linkedin. After finding connections, I reached out to these people, expressing interest in their careers and asking if they had any advice to offer.

One connection was particularly helpful, helping me to get in contact with important people in a field I am interested in–higher education development. Through her, I set up a call with a professional who had a plethora of advice to offer on the skills I would need to learn to be successful in this field. Many universities currently have hiring freezes, but this contact promised to stay in touch once future roles opened up. She also suggested that I become certified in Grant Writing through online courses, using my extra time to gain an important skill.

Websites like Handshake and job boards from your alma mater are great resources for this type of networking. You can also try to reach out to connections at the career services office at your college, or try larger networking sites like Linkedin, or, if you’re looking to network with other women, sites like Girlboss. Use this time to gain new academic and professional skills, as well as to grow your portfolio or online presence. Eventually, the work you do now will lead to a job.

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Confessions from a Personal Development Addict

It’s true, I’m addicted to personal development and self help media of all forms. Podcasts, books, even meditation apps and organizations. At a time when everything can feel like its falling apart, this gives me a sense of holding myself together and keeping things organized. Read on for my thoughts on my current favorites.

From Rachel Hollis:

I found out about Rachel Hollis because of the success of her book, “Girl, Wash your Face”. I’m working my way through that one now, and finding a lot of motivation and positivity. There is a good amount of advice for mothers that I cannot relate to, but the rest of it is great.

I am also currently working my way through Rachel and Dave Hollis’ Next 90 Days challenge. Each week, a new lesson is emailed to you. The lessons include an instructional video and typically a task to complete for that week. This week, the focus is on habits–how to change them and adopt better ones.

Lastly, I finished the audiobook of Rachel Hollis’ Girl, Stop Apologizing, and found some great tips for those looking to improve upon their mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.

The Hollises run a podcast where you can find plenty more tips, it is titled the RISE podcast.

From Brene Brown:

Brene Brown is a popular researcher and motivational speaker as well as professor at the University of Houston. I have been loving her books and podcast recently. I listened to her narration of Dare to Lead on audiobook, which helps listeners to become better leaders in their careers and personal lives. I also love her podcast, and have listened to nearly all of its episodes, which include a recent interview with Alicia Keys discussing her new book.

Other Podcasts:

I’m obsessed with self help and personal development, and some of my other favorites include:

Optimal Living Daily

Life Kit by NPR

Optimal Health Daily

Happier with Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness Lab

What are your favorite self help and personal development books or podcasts? Let me know in the comments.

Review: Riley Sager’s The Last Time I Lied

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Move over, Friday the 13th, there’s a new king of summer camp mysteries. Riley Sager’s The Last Time I Lied takes a successful stab at the well-known trope of deaths and disappearances amongst the backdrop of cabins and bug juice. In the novel, Emma returns to the re-opened Camp Nightengale, this time as a full-grown art teacher. She can’t help but paint the same thing over and over again–images of the girls that disappeared from the camp years ago, back when Emma herself was a camper. Emma’s return brings back dark memories and clues to a still unsolved mystery. Yet happenings at the camp start to eerily mirror that year from her childhood. When an unexpected event strikes, Emma is tasked with preventing yet another tragedy.

This mystery pulled me in quickly, and I couldn’t let go. It was definitely one of the best mystery novels I have read in a long time. Though it takes on an at-times cliche plot line, it updates in a fresh, entirely enthralling way. I was very impressed with this novel, and the reveal at the end was chilling and unexpected. The characters were detailed and complex, and the mystery complex as well.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Maintaining a Health and Fitness Routine During Quarantine

So, it’s been a while. Last time I posted on this blog was a sunnier time, with only a slight fear of pandemic looming on the horizon. Now, no matter where you are, COVID-19 is probably the top thing on your mind.

As I maintain a regular exercise routine at a local gym, I was skeptical about my ability to continue this while also social distancing. However, I’ve found a plethora of resources that have made it easier than ever to stay fit.

Many gyms have begun to offer online courses. My local gym started offering live online yoga and HIIT classes. They even rented out their spin bikes and now run online spin courses as well.

The internet is great resource to find classes like this, and more. Look at fitness influencers or local gyms on Instagram. Currently, I am following an online ab challenge from @fit.like.krys on Instagram. Turn to MindBody to find class schedules for online, typically zoom, courses.

It’s important to get outside during this crisis. It can help both mental and physical health. Try to bike, run, walk, or just sit outside for a bit. Just remember to stay 6 feet away from anyone else.

Eating healthy is also imperative to maintaining a healthy routine and immune system. Stick to vegetables and other whole foods. Currently, I am making my way through three days’ worth of healthy meals delivered from a local restaurant. Look around to see if there is anything like that near you–it allows you to stay healthy while helping local businesses.

Many fitness companies are currently offering freebies to those cooped up at home. Pure Barre is offering an extended free trial of their video courses, as well as Peloton. There are plenty of workout videos you can find on Youtube, as well. Favorites include Yoga with Adriene and Blogilates.

What have you been doing to stay fit and sane during the past few weeks? Let me know in the comments below.

Review: Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age

Such a Fun Age is all the rage (no rhyme intended) these days. The novel packs a story of backstabbing and coming of age amongst heavier topics of race, class, and gender.

Image result for such a fun age

The novel follows Emira, a recent graduate of Temple University with a degree in English Literature. Emira is somewhat disappointed to find her only position after college to be a babysitting gig for Briar, the daughter of Alix Chamberlain. Alix runs a “female empowerment” brand called Let Her Speak. Alix is obsessed with own influence and blind to her disregard for the actual humans around her. With this character, Kiley Reid pokes fun at white female influencers who proclaim their own “wokeness” while continuing to uphold their privilege over others.

The story begins when Emira is stopped by a security guard who doubts that she’s actually a babysitter, and accuses her of trying to kidnap Briar. A bystander videotapes the encounter. His name is Kelly, and, after Emira begs him to delete the video, they begin a romantic relationship. But Kelly has secrets of his own. After the video mysteriously resurfaces, tensions rise to the surface and erupt on a televised interview.

This was a quick, intense read. It was well-written and contained nuanced, detailed characters. This was a really great read for our times, and a way to change our perspectives on the beliefs and positions we’ve held to be the norm.

Rating: 4/5 stars

How to get Freelance Writing Jobs

So you want to get paid to write–Where do you start? There are plenty of online and in-person platforms out there for you to get connected with online publications and those looking to fill their content creation needs. Of course, you must hone your skills and create a portfolio first, but afterwards, these are some of the places where you can find work:

Upwork

Upwork is a great resource for freelance jobs of any kind. You can find personal assistant, blogging, or other writing jobs on here. I’ve written freelance for multiple blogs and publications through Upwork. It’s a website on which companies and individuals can post freelance job offerings. You need “connects” to apply for jobs. You can pay for these, or you are given a set amount for free. You can pitch a price or follow the employers offering. You also create a profile where you can display your portfolio and past projects. 

AngelList

AngelList is a job board, like Linkedin, for startups. You can search for freelance content creation positions on here, though there are typically more openings for tech-related jobs on here. I currently work a freelance content marketing job through this website. 

Linkedin

Though Linkedin primarily posts full-time positions, you are also able to find part time work or freelance work on the website if you are searching for the right things. 

Pitching on your own

If there is a publication that you want to write for, and they accept submissions, try going this route. Unfortunately, a lot of online publications won’t pay well or at all for submitted pieces. Try to start smaller in order to build your portfolio, then pitch to bigger companies.

Send out your info

Another way to get freelance writing work is the old-fashioned way–you can create business cards with your information and links to your portfolio on them, and leave them up in coffee shops and other local businesses. 

Creating a Portfolio

In order to gain freelance writing work, you have to get your  voice out there. This can be through a portfolio website, like clippings.me, or a personal blog. A personal blog is your best bet, as it allows you to start publishing work yourself, and maintain a carefully curated internet presence.

Do you have any experience freelance writing? Let me know.

Why it Helps to Have “Range”

Every so often, there comes around a new career book that disrupts everything we’ve commonly held to be true. Take the highly popular Grit by Angela Duckworth, that helped to dismantle beliefs in inherent skill and genius, and instead placed emphasis on the importance of effort, coining the term “grit” and starting a movement. Or Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, which similarly examined the circumstances, not inherent genius, that contributed to success, turning our conceptions of billionaires and historical figures on their heads.

David Epstein’s Range looks at the importance of what, and how much, we focus on. It criticizes a one-track pathway, and instead looks at the ways in which having a range of skills helps people to succeed. Range explores this through a variety of case studies–initially following a comparison between the training of Tiger Woods and tennis player Roger Federer. Like the books that came before it, Range also dismantles what we have commonly held to be true and/or good–that being the best in one specific pursuit is something to brag about and tout. Instead, it is increasingly more helpful to have a variety of skills. In science, education, etc., this helps people be more prepared for the problems they have to tackle.

I really enjoyed Range, and it provided me with helpful advice as I continue to develop my own skills and plan on entering the work force. I found it to be written in a straightforward, conversational, and easy to read way. The case studies and experiments outlined in the book were interesting and clear to follow. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in the subject of skill and anyone looking to examine their own “range”.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Review: Evie Dunmore’s Bringing Down the Duke

If historical fiction and/or romance is your thing, Evie Dunmore’s Bringing Down the Duke is a must-read. The new novel follows Annabelle, a member of a suffragist movement and one of scarce few female students at Oxford University. Annabelle is charged with following Duke Sebastian Montgomery, in attempts to sway his political beliefs and convince him to vote for an amendment that will allow women to vote.

It is not long, however, before Sebastian finds himself unable to resist Annabelle’s charms. Yet a relationship between the two, who come from different classes and different aims, seems impossible. The two continue to come together and apart until some form of solution is found.

I absolutely loved this book. The romance was very similar to Pride and Prejudice–bickering turns to love and back again to bickering. The relationship between Sebastian and Annabelle is intense and swoon-inducing.

The historical aspects of the novel are interesting and important, as well. It illustrates the ways in which women were restricted from making their own decisions and owning their own property, and the ways in which they were treated by the men around them. The struggle for the vote comes through in scenes of protests and back-stage political calculations. The women in the suffragist group serve to both entertain and inform readers, their conversations at time humorous, and at others poignant messages on the ways in which women were prevented from leading their own lives.

One complaint: the political aspect of the story at many times took a back seat to the romance, and Annabelle did not seem to be doing much real work for the cause. It may come across as problematic that her romantic relationship with a man is what serves to truly help their efforts in the end, not her own individual work. Though her intellect and passion for the cause is what serves to change Duke Montgomery’s mind.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical romance!

Rating: 5 Stars!

My Best Books of 2019

2019 was my year of audiobooks. I eagerly consumed book after book in audiobook form after getting into knitting. I’m so glad to have found a way to multitask and get in more reading. It was also a year of book clubs, and some of these are from those as well. I read a combination of new and old, fiction and nonfiction, and I am excited to share them here with you. The following are my top ten books, in no particular order: 

Olive, Again

I must confess I never read the previous book—Olive Kitteridge. But I am currently almost finished with the audiobook version of this and I am in love. It is written as the combination of many different lives and experiences in the same small town in Maine and has such a genuine and true heart. 

Dominicana

Dominicana explores the history of immigration to America through the fictional story of one woman. This was a quick and entertaining yet powerful read. 

Miracle Creek

Miracle Creek was one of the best audiobooks that I read this year. It is at once a thrilling mystery and emotional exploration of family, immigration, and raising special needs children. 

Christmas Shopaholic

Though I have never read any of the other books in the Shopaholic series, I really loved this one. It put me in the Christmas spirit like nothing else. Becky’s personality and her shopping habit are unique, lovable, and hilarious. 

Educated

Tara Westover’s Educated was definitely my favorite memoir of the year. Westover overcomes extreme odds, growing up in a fundamentalist mormon family and experiencing abuse at the hands of her brother. Yet she overcomes this to become a highly educated, respected academic. 

Maybe you should Talk to Someone

In a year when everyone seems to need therapy, this memoir was a great exploration of the practice through such a personal point of view. The book explores a therapist’s perspective of going to therapy herself after a particularly painful breakup. 

Children of Blood and Bone

This was my favorite fantasy book of the year. It is a very popular YA novel that explores clashes between groups, kingdoms, and family members, with a little magic added in. 

An American Marriage

I read this for a book club and absolutely loved it, though it could be heartbreaking and frustrating. An American Marriage asks whether or not newlyweds can stick together after one of them is falsely accused of a crime, and spends five years in jail. 

Where’d you go, Bernadette

I may be a little late to this party, but I only recently listed to this on audiobook. I loved it for its humor, warmth, and ability to stay down to earth while tackling big issues. 

Ducks, Newburyport

The most experimental book on this list, Ducks, Newburyport is essentially one extremely long sentence. It offers a glimpse into the mind and life of one women, and explores pressing issues of today from a warm and personal standpoint. 

What were your favorite books this year? Let me know in the comments. 

Affiliate links to Books a Million. I receive commission for purchases made through these links. Great hardcover books for only $5! Shop now!

How Joining Groups on Meetup.com can Improve your Professional and Personal Skills

Why join?

In my adventures after college graduation, I needed something to fill my time both socially and productively. I had heard a lot about the meetup.com app and website where users can create groups and events, and decided to give it a try. I completed an account and took a look at the events in my area. In the central New Jersey area where I live, there were a lot of hiking clubs. This is where I started.

two person walking towards mountain covered with snow

Immediately, Meetup provided me with a way to explore my hometown and home area in a completely new way. I was introduced to people and trails that I had never heard of before. Thanks to Meetup, I found plenty of new hiking areas around me. This helped me get outside and active, but also become more social.

What does Meetup have to offer?

Each group I joined introduced me to even more groups. From my first hiking club, one specifically for 20s and 30s members in my area, I met a woman who also ran a book club that met at a local Panera. It did not take long for me, a long-running book devourer, to join. One Tuesday a month, we met to discuss new books, typically fiction that spoke to the female, 20s and 30s audience. Many of them ended up being from Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club.

people tossing their clear wine glasses

Another club I joined was called the “Wining Women”, ha ha. It was a group of women in their twenties and thirties who go together to drink wine or hang out at other fun events like bowling alleys and axe throwing. My first event in this club was at SM23, a hidden gem of a cocktail bar in Morristown, NJ. We shared stories of work, listened to music, and got creative drinks at the funky bar.

Through my book club I was introduced to yet another book club, this one a more personal theme–each month, we met at a member’s house, and each participant was charged with bringing a home-cooked dish relating to a chosen theme. We brought “food that reminds you of the water,” for Where the Crawdads Sing, and “southern food” for the Georgia-set An American Marriage. Our conversations hit deep into the meanings of the books, and friendships were forged. This club even inspired an article that I wrote for The Attic on Eighth about pairing books with food.

What does this have to do with a career?

All of these clubs have provided opportunities not only for friendship but networking and professional development, as well. I gained contacts in fields that I was looking for jobs in, particularly higher education and publishing, and receiving great help on applications from the willing and selfless new friends. They also inspired me to get outside, and gave me a schedule to make up for a lack in productive use of time.

I enjoyed these clubs so much that I have since started my own in a way. I have begun teaching basic knitting skills to members of my original book club. This is something that has, as well, encouraged me to break out of my shell and taught me valuable skills.

Have you ever tried meetup.com? What did you think?