Blog in Review

Lost in a sea of informational interviews, job applications, preparation for graduation and work on my internship’s “Rachel Coussens Memorial Media List,” my blogging has suffered! But I am back, just in time for graduation. Time is going by quickly. I graduate next Monday–officially. This is an exciting time in my life, but it is overshadowed by not having post-college plans! Yes, this week I am a student and next week I join the unemployed. A degree does not guarantee a job. I know this. I plan on working full time, starting next week, to find a job. I have locked down eight hours each day to do so. Finding a CAREER, not a job, is a full-time affair.

Part of my job finding process is to reevaluate my brand. Yes, Rachel Coussens is a brand. Part of my brand is this blog, which I plan on redesigning. I started this blog awhile ago–years ago–under a different blogging site. It was originally under Blogger. Then, I tried Tumbler for a short period and then finally ended up on WordPress, which I love. But, it has always been Coffee with Rach. I liked the informal idea of having coffee with my readers, but now I am ready to take the next step in blogging. I am ready to launch a formal blog that will discuss social media, marketing, public relations and journalism. I have had the opportunity to show my blog to professionals and peers in the last two weeks, which yielded valuable feedback. In the next couple of weeks, I will redesign the blog from its appearance to its content. Feel free to give me feedback every step of the way! Thank you for reading!

Today’s Fun Fact: Glass containers are 100 percent recyclable.

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Book Review: “You Majored in What?”

Most of us have questioned what we decided to major in. We wondered if it would become a good job or if it was the best choice for us. Well, wonder no more. Katharine Brooks puts us at ease in her new book, “You Majored in What? Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career.” She shows us that no matter what we majored in, we can still reach the career of our dreams.

1–A Butterfly Flaps Its Wings and You Find A Job: Chaos and Your Career Path

To be fair, I consider myself an experienced job hunter. Being from a journalism background, I have completed a pile of research on how to get a job and what my career path will look like. That being said, I was not impressed with the first chapter of Brooks’ book. I felt that I could have written it. She starts off by explaining that our career is not a linear path by matching up people by their major with the jobs they ended up in that were distantly related to their major. This is suppose to be shocking, but I believe that the average college graduate knows that it is likely that they will end up in a different field from their chosen major. She goes on by explaining the chaos theory and how it works into your career.

2–Connecting the Dots: Uncovering the Power of Your Wanderings

This is what I call the soul searching piece of the book. Brooks challenges readers to create a web of significant things that you have done and things that are of interest to you. When you have completed this task, she has you put them into categories and identify the themes. This is a wandering map. I found this exercise useful, even though it is very simple. How many people actually take the time to complete this exercise? The idea is to find the career that you didn’t know you took an interest in, but was right under your nose!

3–Mental Wanderings: Your Mind Can Take You Anywhere or Nowhere

This chapter is about good thinking, which is key if you are looking for a job. In this economy, it is even more important than ever to have a positive attitude. If you think that an employer is going to hire someone that is down and depressed because they haven’t found a job in the last six months, think again. Your attitude plays a big role in whether you get the job or not. Keep that negative thinking away. Brooks explains the 10 mindsets that employers are seeking, which include: problem solving, systems, creative, strategic, positive, global, collaborative, analytic, reflective and flexible.

4–Wandering Beyond Majors and Minors: Make Your Education Relevant to Any Employer

The idea is to make your classes and experiences relevant to any employer. This seems like common sense, but how often do job seekers miss this opportunity? Brooks helps you capitalize on your experiences and pull material out of classes that you have taken. If you haven’t realized this from the previous chapters, you will want to get a journal or large pad of paper to use while reading this book. It is a hands on, workbook style read. You will need a journal to discover what your past experiences yield to future employers.

5–Why Settle for One Career When You Can Have Ten: The Wise Wanderer Explores the Future

Brooks challenges readers to identify their possible lives. What if you became a writer or a FBI agent? No matter how apart careers are on the spectrum, they are attainable. Get out your journal and create another map. This time about all of your possible options. Are you considering graduate school or the Peace Corps.? It is time to create a vision and see if you can picture your life in that career. This would be a good exercise to do when deciding upon a major when entering college and when choosing a career after college.

6–Even Wanderers Make Plans: Where Are You Now and Where Do You Want to Go?

This chapter works on assessing the present and choosing a future based off of past exercises. Brooks leads readers through creating a possibility plan. This plan consists of a goal, what it takes to attain the goal and the time frame for completing the goal. For example, your goal can be to take the GRE. Brooks pushes you to work on your plans. She goes as far as asking what you will do in the next 24 hours to promote your plan, which she does at the end of most chapters. In this sense, Brooks works as an inspiration to accomplish your dreams. Since it is only a book, you have to push yourself to act.

7–Paging Dr. Frankenstein: Experimental Wanderings with Big Payoffs

Brooks has readers explore the fields that they are interested in. What are the jobs in that field? What are the entry level jobs? All of these are things that I wish I had thought about before graduations, which is why I recommend buying this book before you are a graduate. You will get more mileage out of it this way. Brooks tells you how to engage with people to make your dreams come true. She asks readers to be curious and let people know what they are interested in. I felt this chapter was a little to late for me, since I am graduating in two weeks! It gave suggestions for summer jobs, internships and study abroad experiences that would help your wandering. These ships have sailed for most graduates. But the idea of interacting with people and networking is timeless.

8–My Job as a Krackel Bar: Creating Irresistible Resumes That Will Get You the Interview

Brooks is your personal resume adviser as you put yourself on paper. She asks if you can visualize your writing and if you have spelled everything correctly. She just might save you a trip to the career center, though if you were smart you would still book yourself an appointment. She asks readers to keep in mind who they are writing to. This is an important step that I feel many college graduates miss. They write up one resume, call it good and send it out like a massive text message. Resumes and cover letters must be custom tailored for the job.

9–Channel Jane Austen: Writing That Will Get You Hired

Its time to write that cover letter! Brooks will take you through her five-step method for crafting a cover letter and help you format the letter accordingly. While this chapter was a good review, I knew most everything that was in it. If I had read it a couple of years back, I would have found it more helpful. Hence, why I think this book should be marketed to a younger, still-in-college crowd.

10–Wandering Into the Workplace: Interviewing and Impressing

So your resume and cover letter did the trick and you have the interview. Now what? All of Brooks’ past exercises and strategic planning should already have you a leg up for the interview. That kind of deep soul searching will come in handy when you are faced with questions about yourself and your future plans. But, Brooks is back with more insight and advice to get you through the process. She outlines different types of interviews and how to create compelling stories at the interview. She will help you create strategies to best communicate your experiences and ultimately land the job.

11–Wandering After Graduation–You Mean the Chaos Continues?

The last chapter is all about graduates. My favorite part was, “It’s September and I still don’t have a job.” This is very appropriate for the economy that graduates are facing. The statement is remedied by the fact that this negative attitude is not helpful. Brooks is right, yet too many of us fall into this trap. She answers other common questions and then recaps the highlights of the other chapters.

The end of the book is filled with resources such as websites and blogs for job seekers. This is only 18 sites to check out, including ones that should already be known such as coolworks.com, linkedin.com and jobsearch.about.com. In my eyes, this is not a real help, but you might find a website or two that you didn’t know of before. In the hit or miss category, I say that this book is a hit. I recommend buying it well before graduation, perhaps even freshman year. It is important to start the career exploring process early as to get in those internships and summer jobs that can add experience or let you know that that it is not the career for you. I also recommend purchasing a fat journal to help you personalize your read. For more information and job advice, visit Brooks’ blog on the Psychology Today website, called Career Transitions. To order yourself a copy of Brooks’ book, check out Powell’s Books or Barnes and Noble. Also, check out the book’s website with special sections for educators, parents and students.

A Lifetime of Classes

As my college classes come to an end, I cannot help but want more classes. Classes that are not required—hobby classes! I know that I am not alone. For an icebreaker the other day at my internship, we went around the room and told each other what class we would take if we could. Many people said that they would like to join a chore or take cooking classes.

My mind was racing with several things that I want to do. Since I didn’t come from a family that hit the mountain on the weekends, I have always wanted to take skiing lessons. That way, I could keep up with my friends on the mountain instead of hanging out at the bunny slope. Cooking is another skill that I would like to master. I need to start with beginning knife skills, but I have this fear of losing a finger! It would be cool to take website and coding classes to fulfill my inner nerd. Then, there are fitness classes. I absolutely love fitness classes, no matter how bad I am at them. They are fun, social and good for you. Whether it is yoga, kick boxing or cycling, sign me up.

This ice breaker got me thinking about clubs that I would want to participate in post-college. In the past, I had been a part of student government, volunteer clubs, publications and sports clubs. I still like those hobbies, but I wanted something new. I love PR and would love to be a part of PRSSA. I would have joined it in college, if I hadn’t discovered my love of PR so late in the game. Growing my public speaking skills would be challenging and fun so a trip to the local Toastmasters chapter is a must. Other than that, it would be fun to be in a hiking, biking or cross-country skiing club because those activities are not as much fun alone.

All of these outings cannot be done in one day, but I have a lifetime to complete them. I challenge you to think up some fun classes that you will hopefully sign up for in your lifetime.

Today’s Fun Fact: Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hours.

The Importance of Public Speaking

How many public speaking classes did you take in high school or college? Was it required for graduation? I didn’t think so. Speeches and presentations happen every day in the work world, yet academia may not have properly prepared us for the task.

I have had an interest in public speaking since high school. I signed up for a speech class my freshman year, while my friends took yearbook or photography. I knew that it was going to be a life skill that I needed to master. My first speech was about volleyball, something I knew a lot about. This was a good place to start because I knew that in the future I would give speeches on topics that I was not so familiar about. I was right. A few years later, I presented a speech about Mexican culture—in Spanish!

Many things about giving a speech were not clear to me. I was confused about how to use note cards. Did I write my whole speech or did I make a short outline? When practicing, I found that writing the whole speech out made me sound like a robot! I opted for the outline. Like many other things, it was a constant game of trial and error. I believe that it takes years of practice and research to become an effective speaker. Anyone can speak, but few can do it effectively.

I recently had the opportunity to browse professor Edward Tufte’s books on presenting visually. I had heard about Tufte’s presentation tips from several professionals. He specializes in the art of effective presentations and teaches people how to use the tools, such as PowerPoint or videos, to get your message across successfully. Edward Tufte is teaching several one-day courses in June and July. He will be in Portland, Oregon on June 14th. For more information, visit his website.

Another great outlet for polishing those speaking skills is Toastmasters with several local chapters. Their website has resources too, including a fun podcast.

Today’s Fun Fact: There are 525,948.766 minutes in a year. Make each one count!

The Chick Flick: The Stickiest Idea Ever

It’s a Friday night. Your boyfriend wants to see a movie and you get to pick–lucky you! What do you choose? You might want to go with an action movie that would keep him at the edge of his seat or that horror movie that he expressed interested in. But instead of giving yourself a two hour death sentence, you give it to him with a fun romantic comedy–the dreaded chick flick.

Ladies, why do we keep watching the same types of movies where the only difference is the characters and the settings? We are suckers for these type of happy ending movies. We know how it is going to be played out and how it is going to end, yet we still pay to watch these movies. I’m just as guilty. My favorite movie is Sweet Home Alabama, a movie with the tag line of, “sometimes what you’re looking for is right where you left it.” It was obvious that leading lady Melanie is going to pick her childhood lover over her Yankee beau, but I watched it again and again. You’ve Got Mail, The Notebook, 27 Dresses and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days are the same story. The story of the underdog guy stepping up to challenge of winning over the girl. Chip Heath and Dan Heath wrote about this plot in their book Made to Stick. They call it the challenge plot.

Sometimes our movie ruts are thrown off by actor bias. I have a thing for Julia Roberts movies. I remember when my mom and I saw Runaway Bride. If Julia Roberts was in a film at the theater, we went to see it no matter what the plot or reviews were–it was our thing. The same goes for Nicholas Sparks movies, but something strange happened last month with Sparks’ latest release The Last Song hit the screen. My mom and I didn’t go see it. Why? We don’t like Miley Cyrus. In my opinion, she was a poor casting choice. Her following doesn’t match Nicholas Sparks’ current following. It seemed like they were trying to reach a younger audience, but ended up turning off his current audience. Bottom line, we did not want to support it. If someone else had played Ronnie, we would have seen it.

No matter how funny or ridiculous our movie tastes are, they are predictable and not likely to change. The chick flick has to be one of the stickiest ideas ever.

Today’s Fun Fact: In the company logo for Google, which two colors are not repeated? Answer: Yellow and Green–University of Oregon colors!

The Career Woman’s New Clothes

Toss those Juicy sweats and “Yoga Keeps Me Flexible” Abercrombie tees! Put your Ugg boots aside and take out the black stilettos. The working woman does not operate on a diet of college clothing. She looks dressed up and polished.

My real world internship has been one adjustment after another—including the wardrobe. In the last seven weeks, I have purchased four pants, two skirts, three sweaters, one jacket, three button-up shirts and a pair of black stilettos. Expensive right? Wrong!

It only took a few trips to Goodwill or, as I like to call it, GW! The most I spent for one item was $12.98—for a suit jacket. I brought home name brands such as Banana Republic, BCBG, Ann Taylor, Express, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren. I found many things with their tags still attached. Yes, one can look good at work for cheap.

When putting together a wear-to-work wardrobe, it is important to find the essential pieces. At my workplace, most everyone wears slacks. They are an important part of the collection. Once you have a few solid pairs that you can rely on, you can branch out to dresses and skirts. Start with a nice sweater or button-up shirt for tops. It is fun to add a suit jacket here and there too. Remember to be conservative. I never show my shoulders at work or wear something that is too low. When it comes to shoes, I lean toward dressy flats, but wear black stilettos at least once a week.

After enough pieces are gathered, it is fun to mix and match to create new outfits!

Today’s Fun Fact: Apple sold more than one million 3GS iPhones within three days of its launch.

Make Food a Priority

As I was leaving out the door for work this morning, my mom stops me. “Can I pick you up anything special from the store,” she asks. I pause for a moment. I feel bad when I make typical requests for organic bananas, soy milk, almond butter or a tub of Nancy’s Nonfat Yogurt. I am the only one out of four people in the household that desires and eats these items.

“A quart of soy milk would be nice,” I say as I dart out the door. My diet has changed drastically since I have moved back home. For example, in my younger years, I would have requested a package of double stuffed Oreos without any thought.

It’s not that my parents eat unhealthy food; they just have different ideas about food. I don’t mind spending more money on food, as long as I am paying for quality or supporting sustainable food practices. I believe in eating fresh, local and organic foods with minimal processing–hence why I’ve kicked my Oreo habit! It may cost me more money, but I just don’t go out as much or go to Starbucks as often. On the other hand, my parents have always cut their spending at the grocery store and are not ready to change their habits.

Education about food processes and nutrition is important for making good food decisions. I love finding out new nutrition tricks, brands and fun recipes. To keep up to date, I enjoy the Nutrition Diva podcast and a daily browse on my favorite foodie website Culinate.com. Bon Appétit!

Today’s Fun Fact:

Barack Obama is the 44th U.S. President. Can you name all 44 U.S. presidents? Now can you do it in order?