November 2015 - Prep Essentials





College & Post-Grad

College & Post-Grad
College & Post-Grad

The Ultimate Guide of Do's & Don't for Applying to Jobs

All semester long my phone has been blowing up with 'quick questions' and concerns over the stressful and truthfully unfair job application process from my close senior friends that are still going through it. I absolutely love helping them - especially because it is so much easier to see and understand from the other side.

I started to realize that so many of them had the exact same worries and concerns, and it inspired me to share my "wisdom" with all of my fabulous readers as well, in case any of you are struggling through the process as well! I've compiled a list of the questions I'm always getting, the overanalyzing texts I receive at 2am when friends are looking back on every single subtle detail of their interview from the day before, and what to do if you get stuck in an 'application black hole'.

By no means is this an all-encompassing list, however, and I would absolutely love to answer any more questions any of you might have! I can't guarantee that I'm an expert, but I have had a lot of very different internships and jobs, along with friends and family members that work in recruiting and HR who have given me a lot of inside scoop and insight into the whole thing.

1. When is it okay to call/email my recruiter after my interview? And what on earth am I supposed to say?!
First of all, the cardinal rule that you should live by is to always write a thank you note to anyone who has taken part in your recruiting process, including your recruiter and your interviewer. I fully stand by the idea that handwritten notes are ideal, but I ask firmly believe that speed matters. I suggest writing a personal but efficient email no later than 24 hours after your interview. Follow up with a personal handwritten card that will allow time for a couple of days in snail mail. 

As for what to say in the email, look out for my post on Wednesday for advice on post-internship and post-interview thank you notes detailing exactly what to say and how to say it!

2. I haven't heard from my contact after my interview, and it has been longer than they told me it would be. Is it okay to reach out?
Absolutely! Sometimes emails and to-do list items fall through the cracks. Recruiters would love to be able to stick to deadlines, but there are a million things that can delay offer decisions, from simply forgetting to needing more time to deliberate, or simply interviewing more candidates. None of these are bad signs, or a reflection on you personally (so stop taking it personally, because I know you are!) Things come up. If they give you a time frame to expect a decision, they fully intend to stick to it, but if the time has come and passed, it is fully acceptable to send a little "reminder" that you're eager, interested, and still waiting! It is all about how you deliver your message. My advice is to wait 5-7 business days past the deadline you were told. If you are still receiving radio silence, send a quick note. Again, check out my post this Wednesday for exactly how to give a friendly reminder that they should be getting in touch with you! Trust me - this will not hurt your decision, and if anything it shows that you take initiative and value the opportunity.

3. I keep getting rejected and I don't understand what I am doing wrong. Help!
Everyone gets rejected. Literally all of the time. I was rejected by probably 8-9 companies before I even got a second round interview - but the only reason I even had that opportunity was because I kept applying. Like most things, applying for jobs is a numbers game. Hopefully, your school has a career website with links to a ton of jobs. It is great to have goals and specific 'dream' companies in mind, of course! But at the end of the day, what could possibly hurt about applying to as many as possible? More interviews is more practice. No one says you have to accept a job you don't want, but the worst case scenario is you get more practice, more opportunities for offers, and a better chance of finding something unexpected. I had never even heard of my company when I applied! I got on my school career website, filtered for sales/marketing/public relations and Chicago, and applied to every single one I qualified for. (No seriously...I think I applied to over 40 companies in one day). I probably heard back from half, got interviews from half of those, and genuinely pursued half of those. Numbers game! It was brutal and a little time-consuming, but it clearly paid off. Trust me - when it comes to applying for jobs, more is better!

4. I got an offer, but they need an answer soon and I'm still waiting to hear back from one or two other companies! What do I say?
First of all, congrats! The hard part is over. Now you at least know that no matter what, you will not be jobless (and no, you shouldn't be worrying about that anyway!) Sometimes companies put strict deadlines because they need to inform other applicants if you decline. It fully depends on the company, the deadline, and how flexible they can be, but you will never be punished for asking, I promise! They understand that you're valuable, and that you're applying other places. Part of their job is to sell you on their company so you want them the most! I absolutely promise that you will never be punished for requesting more time - the worst that can happen is that they will say no, the deadline is definite, and then you may just have to make the decision with what you have. Do not hesitate to say that you are considering other offers, and you can give any excuse you like! Say that you need time to discuss and consider it with your family, say that you need to weigh the decision against factors such as geographic location, or that you need to evaluate it further against other offers you have received, and request a small extension. The most important part of this is to know that you shouldn't be afraid to ask, they aren't going to take away your offer! The hard part is over - they want you!

5. I can't decide between two (or three, or four...) companies that I have offers from. What factors should I consider?
This is a more personal question, but based on my experience and things I have learned from friends who have decided for the wrong reason, I do have some small advice. Pay is (obviously) important. But it isn't everything. My advice? Never prioritize the superficial things over things that affect your happiness. Choosing the wrong city for a more 'prestigious' job, or taking a job you aren't excited about just because it pays more are truly the wrong ideas. You can always get promoted, change companies, or even move cities, but your personal happiness can be absolutely detrimental if you don't truly enjoy the company culture and the people you are spending 80-85% of your life with now. Do not underestimate company culture or a location where you have familiar friends and family - the superficial things are great, but they can't stack up against enjoying your life, and that is something that should never take a backseat to a thicker paycheck.

Like I said, I know there are a million and one questions about this process, and this list by no means addresses them all, but I hope it helps and if anyone has any other questions I would absolutely love to hear from you! Comment or email me about them, and good luck!

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The World's Greatest Hair Straightener - No Seriously!

One thing I would consider myself an "expert" on is straightening hair - mostly because I do it almost every single day, and have been since early middle school. There were people in my graduating high school class that didn't know that I had naturally curly hair until our senior retreat, because in four years of knowing me they had never once seen my natural hair! This is definitely not a knock to curly hair, that's just the way I prefer to wear mine!

Today I went to Ulta to buy a new straightener because *once again* my Chi straightener completely failed me, and has started to break again after only a year of use. It seems to me that Chi straighteners used to be amazing, and now they're just made cheaply with short lifetimes. After this one broke, I decided enough was enough and set out for a replacement, where I found the world's most incredible hair straightener.

No seriously - this thing is incredible. My jaw dropped the second I used it. It vibrates while you use it (a feature you can turn off if you want) but somehow the vibrations make your hair silky smooth! The difference was absolutely incredible. It heats up to 300 degrees in less than 15 seconds, and my hair looked like I had just gotten it done at a salon. Perfectly silky smooth, pin straight, and it took only seconds. All of my friends immediately tried it and fell in love - they're planning on buying their own tomorrow!

And the best part? It has a THREE. YEAR. WARRANTY. That's right - three years!! For someone like me who has been replacing one every year to year and a half, this was music to my ears.

Even if you have curly hair, you will only need to go over it once with this incredible little flat iron for it to be pin straight and ready to go. Let's just say my morning routine just got a lot quicker...hello extra ten minutes of sleep! zzz...

I couldn't believe I had never heard of this, so I knew I had to share it with all of you immediately. Anyone in the market for a new one, look no further! You won't be disappointed, I promise!

P.S. They're on sale for $60 dollars off the usual price on Ulta through December 8th! Hurry hurry!

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Gold (Affordable) Apartment Accents!

The perfectionist in me is still holding back on doing a full apartment reveal of my "new" place - it just never feels done! We have so much space it's hard to ever feel like it's finished, but I also know better than to try and fill such a large apartment because I know I'll never have one this size again. This means I've had to get really creative with how to make large empty spaces feel cozy and comfortable.

Anyone who sets foot in my apartment can tell pretty quickly how obsessed I am with gold and gold accents (which is ironic because up until junior year in high school I distinctly remember thinking gold was the tackiest thing ever).

Luckily for me, gold is obviously trending right now, so finding cute little pieces to stash all over my apartment has been super easy and fairly affordable. Spoiler alert: my bedroom theme is white with pops of light blue and - yep you guessed it - gold. My living room is also a mix of neutrals with hints of gold scattered around the room.

Unfortunately some of these items are sold out - but a large majority of them I got from Target's Threshold collection, and they are constantly adding new gorgeous gold decorative items so I highly recommend looking there! Who says expensive-looking items can't be affordable and adorable?!

I pinky promise the apartment reveal will be coming soon...maybe after some holiday shopping to finalize the last few touches!

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Tis' the Season...Almost!

I know there is much debate about whether or not Christmas decorations & music should pop up before Thanksgiving has even happened - and for the most part, I totally agree - but I love Christmas too much to really mind having a little bit of holiday cheer start early! I've been loving seeing stores slowly start to set up their holiday tables, sales, and Christmas decor. 

I've always been a big fan of Christmas decorations, and my mom always used to go all out when I was growing up so I'm thinking her Christmas cheer must have rubbed off on me (as well as her flair for design - she was an interior decorator, after all!) Having my first real apartment this year has me thinking about ways I can spread the holiday spirit in my place without having to break the bank or be left stuck with a bunch of decorations that I'll have to find storage space for. I'm thinking some crafting nights might be my best option, but the jury is still out!

For now, I'm sticking to enjoying the window shopping and a little bit of imagination, but here were some of my favorite finds when I was wandering around Lincoln Park last Sunday enjoying some of this unseasonably warm weather we've been having!

How cute are these macaroon ornaments?! The pops of color would be so adorable on a tree - even if its just a small desk one like the one I have! I found them at Art Effect, this awesome little boutique near my apartment.

These painted wishbone ornaments in pastels and metallic golds (cue my never-ending obsession with all things gold) gave me some great crafting ideas for a chilly weekend afternoon with some hot chocolate! 

And of course, Paper Source, one of my favorite places to stop in, already has some of the cutest things I've seen so far. I picked up some holiday gift wrap and some gift tags while I was there too!

Is anyone else starting to feel themselves get swept up in the holiday madness yet? Counting down the days until I can start my Christmas movie marathons and string up the lights!

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What's In My Bag: Gym Essentials

Thanks to our good friend Daylight Savings, it's pitch black by the time I leave the office and my motivation to head to the gym went down with the sun. One morning when I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep I decided to head to the gym and try to burn up some energy, and I ended up loving how alert I stayed throughout the day, so now it has become part of my new morning routine.

 With this new routine, however, I have to plan my day accordingly, which means bringing my work clothes, shower products, and makeup with me to the gym.

By far my favorite part of this new routine is that it finally prompted me to buy the Lululemon gym bag I've been eying since June (literally...I've stared at it in the store 3-4 times a month - the employees probably thought I was a bit strange). 

I am so thrilled with the purchase - and it's so roomy that it will be perfect for weekend trips too! I highly recommend it for anyone in the market for a new bag. It has adorable little labeled pockets for everything from keys to hair ties, and while I'm normally not a huge fan of pink, the small interior details with pink give it a girly touch that I love.

It takes more planning, but I've finally nailed down exactly what I need to bring with me to start my day off right! Here is what I keep in my gym bag to make sure I have all of the essentials + a little bit more:

*One of my favorite little tips is to use the small Lululemon bags to help compartmentalize everything, like my change of clothes for work and my packed lunch. It helps keep everything in its right place and organizes everything a little bit better!*

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Drink Your Fruits & Veggies - Infused Water Recipes & Benefits

I've recently developed an absolute obsession with infused waters (yes, I know, not a new craze by any means, but I've finally managed to incorporate it into my daily routine!) It really is so incredibly easy, and it's something to look forward to every morning and throughout the day. I already buy tons of fruits and vegetables every week, so lately I have just been reaching for an extra 2 of everything to have on hand for my infused waters. 

Whenever I'm preparing my lunches for the next day, I chop up one or two of the fruits and throw them in a water bottle next to my lunch bag (Lululemon bag - our entire fridge at work is filled with them on a daily basis #basic). It's so incredibly refreshing, and while I've always been pretty good about staying hydrated, I find myself drinking 8-9 bottles a day at work now. 

(Of course, after each refill the flavor gets more and more dull, but it still beats plain old water!)

Some of my friends have asked me to give them ideas from my favorite infused waters, but now that I've gotten in the swing of things I've tried to start paying more attention to the health benefits of each type!

*Full Disclaimer: no matter how much research I've done on each type, everyone seems to have slightly varied versions of the health benefits, but for the most part they are more or less consistent*

Here are some of my favorite infused waters and what they are best used for! 

Cucumber + Lemon is definitely my daily go-to, and some of these I haven't tried for their actual 'curative benefits (although I can personally attest that Cucumber + Mint seriously did cure an awful stomachache I had for an entire day!)

If anyone has any other favorites that didn't make this list, please share them! I'm always looking for new ways to shake things up!

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Rise + Shine

I am definitely in the small majority when I say bedtime is probably my most dreaded time of day. Not because I hate sleeping - it is by far one of my favorite activities, I just happen to be terrible at it! (See my post about how I cope without caffeine here!)

With my recent entry into the full-time world of the workforce, however, my lifestyle of late and restless nights has become a serious problem. It is a far different thing to be fully functioning and energetic on little sleep for 40 hours a week compared to the handful of hours I was expected to attend class in college. Given that I don't drink caffeine (and haven't in almost nine years, including soda!) I've been struggling to find a way to fix this problem. 

It has taken a while to adjust, and is definitely still a work in progress, but I've been forcing myself to try and become more of a "morning" person. Getting up an hour and a half earlier, making a smoothie for my walk to the gym and showering before work instead of late at night have been the biggest changes so far. It has definitely had its pros and cons, and most mornings I'm still grumbling and struggling not to yawn all the way up until I reach the elliptical machine, but once I get going I've started to love it. 

Here are my new morning must-haves to help me become one of those "morning people" I've heard so much about...

Morning Workouts // No one has ever been more against this concept than me. I've never been a fan, and have always rolled my eyes and groaned whenever someone even suggested that I join them for an early workout class or run. A couple of weeks ago, it was 6am and I couldn't go back to sleep so I dragged myself out of bed and hit the gym - and lo and behold it was the first time in months that I didn't find myself falling asleep at work! I loved how alert I felt for the rest of the day, and having my workout behind me when I left work was a great feeling. I could head straight for the couch without the guilt of having skipped a workout.

Exercise your Brain, Too // The morning exercise routine has been great, but I've noticed that my energy boost lasts longer if I stay busy during my commute afterwards. I've started reading The Skimm to keep my brain awake and catch up on what I missed during the (few) hours I was sleeping. It only takes five minutes, and it gives me something to read on the train. (I also read my Kindle app on the train, and it's one of my favorite ways to relax and have time to myself in the morning).

Make a Healthy Grab-n-Go Snack // I have never been a fan of breakfast. The thought of food when I first wake up grosses me out, and I don't exactly love breakfast foods or starting my day by feeling full. However, with morning workouts and many hours before lunchtime, I can't exactly rely on an empty stomach to get me by, and with everything I'm trying to accomplish before work I don't have time to cook. Enter, my new favorite grab-and-go smoothie maker - Hamilton Beach Single-Serve Blender, $15. Cheap, easy, and all you do is blend and grab! This combined with a few carefully selected snacks to munch on keep me happy and energized all morning long. (Be on the lookout for my favorite morning snacks and smoothie recipes soon!)

Like I said, it's still a work in progress and it has a learning curve but so far these have been the biggest changes, and overall I'm happy about them! (just don't ask me how happy I am about them at 5:45am...)

Does anyone else have any great tips for getting going in the morning?

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