The Fall Bucket List You Won’t Want to Miss

Death to mosquitoes and life to winter scarves, fall has finally arrived! Here are a few things I’m looking forward to doing this autumn!

Adobe Spark (6)Y’all. Last Friday was the first day of fall and if you saw my insta post that day, you know that I’m pumped. Not for PSL’s or Pumpkin Spice Anything. I’m pumped for the decline of mosquito season.

I don’t know about where you are, but here in Austin the mosquitoes have been TERRIBLE this summer. But fret no more, the end is near. Yes, it’s still in the 90’s-100’s outside but soon, my friends, it’ll be in the 80’s.

In celebration, I’ve thrown together a list of things that I can’t wait to do this fall! Some things are Austin-specific, some are not, and I’ve made sure to call out my dog-friendly ideas with a * as well. Stella is just as pumped as I am! 

  • Tailgating.* I’ll be honest and say I’m not a football fan but I do enjoy hanging out with friends and eating junk food in an unconventional way (like off a grill on someone’s truck bed). Plus, Jake’s an Aggie who always appreciates my participation in his school spirit 😉
  • Hiking.* We love hiking the Austin Greenbelt but it’s been too stinking hot lately. I’m excited to take Stella to explore new areas for hiking this fall!
  • Kayaking. Jake just did a ridiculous thing (he bought an inflatable kayak) and we have yet to take advantage of it for fear of being eaten alive by mosquitoes in the evenings. Cooler weather and fewer mosquitoes make perfect conditions for evening kayaking along Lady Bird Lake!
  • Onion Creek.* For those who, like me, have not been to the Onion Creek park, it looks amazing and has a great off-leash area for dogs! The Austin Parks site boasts playgrounds for kiddos and lots of trails for hiking, biking, blading, walking, you name it!
  • Visit a pumpkin patch. I feel like this is just a necessary activity in fall. Like, it’s not really fall until you’ve surrounded yourself with tons of orange gourds. They’re popping up all over the place but if you’re not sure where to go, you can find one around Austin here!
  • Transition my wardrobe. I know this one doesn’t seem as fun but I’m SO excited to put away my summer tanks and pull out all my beautiful winter scarves! Winter capsule wardrobe, here I come!
  • Orionid meteor shower.* Jake and I had our first date watching the Super Blood Moon Eclipse back in September of 2015. Ever since then, I’ve loved celestial events! The Orionid meteor shower will happen sometime between 11pm October 20th – dawn on the 21st and should be able to be seen from most of the U.S. (assuming weather conditions play nice). I’d love to pack a picnic and some caffeine and watch “stars” shoot across the sky!
  • Trying out a Pumpkin Juice recipe. My inner (and outer) Harry Potter nerd has always wanted to try pumpkin juice and what better time to do that than the fall? I’ll be trying out a recipe from friends over at Favorite Family Recipes if you want to join me!

What are you most excited about this fall? Is there something specific you look forward to every year? Have a different Pumpkin Juice recipe I should try? Let me know in the comments!

How to Adult: Interviewing as an Introverted Millennial

Interviewing as an introvert is definitely socially draining. Here’s how I battle social awkwardness and put my best foot forward.

Adobe Spark (4)Interviewing as an introvert feels like an uphill battle, amiright? It seems like companies really like the gregarious, outgoing person and tend to overlook the less assuming personalities. And interviewing as a millennial can be just as difficult in a world full of baby-boomers who may or may not carry negative sentiments toward our generation. So how does one combat such obstacles in a socially diverse but equally awkward world? I’ve got some ideas…

All the Yes: 

1) Sleep your head off. Being rested before an interview is a great idea for anyone but especially for introverts. You know the social awkwardness and pressure that’s about to ensue so go ahead and take care of your body. Fall asleep to calming music or a good book to make sure your brain turns off and let sweet, energizing unconsciousness sweep over you.

2) Caffeine: friend or foe? I’m strongly affected by caffeine so timing when I drink my blessed Dr. Pepper is a huge thing on interview day. I know that my blood pressure and pulse will rise automatically from nerves before an interview and I also know I’ll have to pee if I finish a whole can. Being mindful of when I drink my caffeine is a must before I step into that boardroom or office. 

3) Play up your age – Millennial style. On a planet ruled by baby-boomers, millennials sometimes get a bad rap for our commitment phobia and free spirits. But here’s the thing: millennials will soon take over so we might as well humbly play up the strengths of our generation while we can. Characteristics like great multitasking, fast learning, being technologically savvy, and generally more open-minded make us great additions to the work force. 

4) Own your place on the social spectrum. Play up your strengths as an introvert. What are those you might ask? Oh, well, I’m glad you brought it up. Introverts tend to be direct in conversation, work exceptionally well behind the scenes, are great in one-on-one interactions and make the best listeners, all qualities that employers need in their mix. Don’t be intimated by Gregarious Jerry over there. You’re needed equally, if not more.

5) Prepare, prepare, prepare. This is a big one for anyone interviewing but especially for introverts who need to feel socially comfortable to let their awesomeness truly shine. Research the person(s) you’ll be meeting with ahead of time and get to know their online selves before meeting them in person. Learn as much as you can about the company and where they stand in it so that you’ve got a sense of knowing them before you actually know them, you know? It’ll make a huge difference in being relaxed and approachable when the time comes!

6) Tell your story. Interviews are all about getting to know each other, right? They’re a little like dating in that each party wants to hear the other’s story to know if they can move forward together. So think of your interview like telling your own professional story. Keep conversation decently casual and just speak about the professional journey that brought you to that moment, sitting in that swivel chair, in that boardroom or office. Just don’t forget to listen to their story, too! 

And Some No’s: 

1) Don’t try to be something you’re not. No one likes a faker and if you’re not real in your interview, you could end up in a job you hate, one that degrades you or completely socially drains you. Be confident in who God made you to be. Own your age. Own your introversion.

2) Don’t downplay your awesomeness. Introverts have a strong aversion to the spotlight so they tend to avoid the radar when people want to sing their praises. My challenge to you is this: own the spotlightBe proud of the things you have accomplished and then turn the spotlight on the company and explain how you can produce the same kinds of awesomeness in this position. 

What do you think? What kinds of things do you battle when you interview? How do you fight them?

How to Adult: ROCKing a Phone Interview (Without being Awkward)

Are you super awkward on the phone? (Samesies). Here’s how I go from awkward to awesome during phone interviews!

Adobe Spark (5)I’ve done quite a bit of phone interviewing in my day as that seems to be a rising method for vetting job applicants and getting to know people before doing business with them. Now, I’m usually quite comfortable in interview situations but there’s something about being interviewed over the phone that always seems to throw me through a loop.

Maybe it’s that I try to interview with animals in the room or maybe it’s because I always forget to clear my throat before answering so that my first impression sounds like a toad. Or maybe I’m just the most. awkward. person. ever. Am I alone here? I hope not.

For those of you who, like me, feel SUPER AWKWARD on the phone, have hope! There are strategies for feeling more normal while letting your personality shine in phone interviews! Let’s talk about some because, Lord knows, I’m always in need of a refresher!

First things first, treat phone interviews like in-person interviews. And I mean this in every way. Take it seriously because impressing your interviewer could mean the difference between moving onto the next stage, being hired, or not getting the job at all.

Pro tip: Go ahead and dress for a normal interview. There’s something about looking and feeling like a professional that will boost your confidence. It’s always a plus to be extra-confident during any kind of interview!

Next, do your homework. Know as much as you possibly can about the company, job description, and industry before going into your phone interview. A great way to do this might be knowing the company’s website inside and out. Many companies even keep blogs so you can learn what they’re all about as well as current topics in the industry just by clicking around their website.

As you do your research, write down any questions you might have about the company/position/industry. Your interviewer will almost always ask if you have questions and answering no will always make you look unprepared and uninterested.

Also, Glassdoor is a great way to look at reviews of companies with examples of salaries, benefits, and CEO approvals so you know more about what you might be getting yourself into. Don’t forget – interviews are about you getting to know the company as much as they’re about the company getting to know you!

Pro tip: Keep that cheat sheet of research notes in front of you while you talk. They can’t see you and it’s better to be prepared than fumbling around trying to remember what you read. You might also consider keeping a copy of your resume in front of you with highlights of the sections you think might be important to expand upon if asked. 

Practice standard interview questions before you get on the phone. Give yourself a refresher of how to answer the big ones (“tell me about yourself” and “what is your greatest weakness” are pretty popular questions) and take some time to think overyour work experiences so that you have examples and stories to readily pull out when you need themDon’t let yourself get frazzled if your interviewer throws out random or difficult questions – they want to get to know you, and how you react under pressure is a great way to see how you might fit in the job. 

Make sure you’re in a quiet room, free from distractions when it’s time to talk. Maybe make a call a few minutes before to test the reception and make sure your phone is charged and on loud. And as I learned this week, having a dog in the room during a phone interview is a bad, bad idea so pick your location wisely. Also,  have a glass of water nearby to avoid the feeling of cotton balls in your mouth when it inevitably goes dry from all the talking.

Once you’re on the phone, stand up to talk. Ever heard of the power pose in yoga?Standing will make you feel and sound more confident and a lot less awkward than sitting in your bed as you talk about being a productive member of society. Smiling while you talk makes you sound friendly and approachable and helps to vary the tone of your voice to give the impression that you’re upbeat, interested and engaged. And don’t forget to ask about next steps and following up before you hang up the phone!

And, of course, be yourself. Or screw it all and be a cat because who wouldn’t want to sleep all day? The choice is yours. Meow.

But really though, what do you think? Are you ready to ROCK your next phone interview? Any tips you’d add to my list?

Keeping it Together – Adulting for Millennial Freelancers and the ‘Funemployed’

Finding a job is real-life difficult these days. Here’s how I filled my time (and learned a ton) when I was a funemployed freelancer.

Adobe Spark (2)Before I found my amazing job as a QA Coordinator for Trendline Interactive here in Austin, I spent quite a bit of time freelancing as a copy editor and just generally trying to make the most of my unemployment. During that time, I crafted a lot of skills that ended up being hugely beneficial for my super detail-oriented job. Perhaps one of the main things I learned was that a really important piece of freelancing is staying organized and managing your time well, two of my favorite things! While I’m thrilled by the idea of color-coded calendars, checklists, and label makers, I know this is not true of everyone. So for anyone who feels lost in this area, here’s how I attempted to adult as a Funemployed Freelancer.

  • Planners and calendars were (and still are) my best friends. Let me just say, you don’t have to shell out cash for anything fancy; you can keep track of your life with any planner. The key is how you use it. Be as detailed as you can, and write as much down as you can. If physically writing things isn’t your style, Google Calendar is a life saver and it’s a thousand times more awesome (and prettier) than iCalendar. I like to make sure that everything in my planner and calendar is categorized and easy to see by color coding (because I’m Type-A like that) but as long as your entries are there and detailed, (“Lunch with Jessy at Russo’s at noon” is better than “pizza date with sis”) you should be ok. I could write an entire post on the best ways to use planners and calendars but I’ll save that for a later date.
  • Similar to keeping a planner or calendar to keep track of life, I kept a journal specifically for my business/blog. This notebook included freelancing tips, contact information, resources to look into, and blog entry ideas. I kept a thin moleskin in my purse and write down any resources as I came across them and keep track of the things I’d accomplished as well as the things I wanted to achieve. It also allowed me to plan out every blog post. I gave each post a page where I wrote the subject, the day and date of posting, and bullet points, thoughts, ideas, or research on the topic. This helped me keep track of what I’d already written about and allowed me the freedom to write ahead in my spare time for instances where I was out of town or had other things going on. A digital way of doing this is Evernote, where you can have multiple notebooks with different ideas, images, documents or whatever you might need. You can also share notes with other users which can be especially helpful for collaborative work.
  • Just like planners, I’m also a huge fan of routine. Keeping a general structure and schedule for my day allowed me to stay on top of all the things I wanted to get done and protected me from staying in bed watching Netflix all day. For a lot of freelancers, however, routine is the exact opposite of what they want for their day-to-day. My suggestion is to make sure you’re working at your most effective time of day. For me, I write and think best from about 9am to 2pm and anything outside of that window is a lot more of a struggle. If you’re an afternoon person, make sure to allow yourself time to work in the afternoon; if you’re a night person, do work then. Whenever you can create the highest quality work, schedule around that.
  • The last thing I’ll share is that I’m most productive when I can alternate tasks and take short breaks. Doing this keeps boredom and frustration at bay while also getting things done. Not sure how to fix that really strange sentence? Move on to writing that blog post you’ve been meaning to get to. Got writer’s block? Go clean the bathroom before your roommates strangle you with the nasty hair clogging the drain. You can always come back to everything later. Don’t forget to take short breaks in the process, also. Take the dog for a walk, go for a run, listen to some awesome music, call your mom, or let yourself open YouTube for a bit. Just don’t let it derail you. You’re working from home – take advantage of that!

Setting your own schedule can be a blessing and a curse but with a few simple tricks, staying organized and managing your time well can become easy-peas. Do you have any tips for staying productive at home? Do you think these tips can be just as helpful in your standard 9-5? Any suggestions for what NOT to do? Please let me know in the comments below!

How My Communication Degree Sets Me Apart

They told me having a liberal arts degree would make finding a job hard. I disagree. Here’s a few reasons how my Comm degree helps me stand out!

Adobe Spark (1)Whenever people hear that I work in Quality Assurance, they usually assume that I studied English in college. That’s a pretty fair assumption, I would say, but not accurate in the least. I majored in Communication Studies and while that’s by no means an English degree, I learned some incredibly important things that will help me no matter where I go professionally. Here are four reasons I believe my Communication degree sets me apart from other liberal arts degrees:

  1. Big Picture v. Smaller Details. As a Comm major, I was trained exceptionally well that the structure and flow of my writing was just as important as my content and the grammar that made it readable. This allowed me to better develop the ability to keep the thesis or focus of the writing in mind while also making sure my t’s were crossed and i’s dotted. This skill is particularly important for in QA where details are imperative but keeping an eye on a project’s bigger picture is just as important.
  2. Effective Communication. A Communications degree is essentially a degree in how people send and receive messages. It’s all about effective ways to say what you want to say in a way that is easily understood. A lot of that involves understanding the implications of words and their nuances within the context of the writing. This is sort of the messier version of keeping the big picture in mind where so much of how I communicate with other teams is through email and chatting.
  3. Persuasion and Marketing. Where would a Communication major be without a proper understanding of rhetoric? Rhetoric, or the art of persuasive speaking or writing, was a huge focus in my program, something I am incredibly grateful for. Knowing how to write persuasively is a skill that carries over into SO MANY areas of life, blogging included! Though it may not always be something directly related to the work in QA, it is an incredibly useful tool for anyone going into the professional world.
  4. Cultural Context. My education has taught me how to make effective arguments, but it’s also taught me that what I have to say is only part of a much larger cultural conversation. Understanding that what I do makes a cultural impact, even if it’s as small as suggesting that a sentence needs a comma, goes a long way in helping me keep my perspective that my work matters in the grand scheme of things.

That’s all I have for now. What do you think? Are you using your degree in a different professional field? Any fellow Comm Studies nerds out there?

Jackie’s 5 Easiest Ways to Craft an Eye-Catching Resumé

Are you like me in that you despise talking about yourself? There’s something so awkward about bragging about your accomplishments, trying to explain why you’d be a great fit for that awesome new job. Lucky for you, I’ve got a few tips and tricks that might help when building out your resumé!

Adobe Sparklove helping people write resumes! It’s one of my favorite projects to work on because it’s all about putting things in a positive light and making the most out of every experience. I spent a few years in college learning from the best of the best when it comes to resumes and as I recently restructured my own, I thought I would share my 5 favorite tips and tricks to building an eye-catching professional resume!

  1. Keep It Simple, Stupid. The KISS method is a great way to go about doing life, but I feel like it applies to resumes very well also. You want your potential interviewer or employer to be able to get a good impression of you very, very quickly so having a clean, uncluttered layout with only important and relevant content will go a long way. Does your resume still list awards from high school? Do you have college courses listed even though you graduated two years ago? Get rid of that stuff, you don’t need it! Keep your resume short and to the point as much as possible and try to keep it to one page.
  2. Create a “kitchen sink” version of your resume where you compile the details of every work experience, big or small, to pull from when you need it. You want to keep track of all your different work experiences but you probably don’t need to list it all for every job you apply for. Some experiences might be more valuable when applying for different jobs down the road so you definitely don’t want to lose all that info. Having everything ready to go in one document makes it nice and easy to cut and paste when creating different versions of your resume for different jobs. Which brings us to….
  3. Targeting your resume can help you de-clutter and decide which of your experiences might be worthy of creating the impression you want. Look back over your “kitchen sink” resume and pull those experiences that are most relevant to the type of job you’re looking for. Wanting a job in marketing? Unless you spent your time doing marketing and advertising for the pool, your summer as a lifeguard may not be needed here.
  4. Use past-tense action verbs when describing the skills you picked up with each experience. Again, you want the person in charge of looking over resumes to get a good impression of you quickly. Most employers spend fewer than 10 seconds looking over resumes so you want the first things they see to show off your skills and abilities in clear, confident ways.
  5. Don’t make employers guess what skills or experiences you picked up at your job. You want every work experience to have details about your time there, lists of transferable skills that speak clearly about what you learned or how you developed. For instance, perhaps you worked as a summer camp counselor. While listing “child care” under this experience would be accurate, perhaps a more detailed listing like “oversaw the instruction of 18 elementary-aged children” or “facilitated arts and craft activities for 30 preschoolers” would give your interviewer a more comprehensive idea of what you did as a camp counselor.

I know a lot of this may sound like a no-brainer but making these little changes can go a long way in presenting the best version of yourself. Have any questions about formatting or wording content to best describe your skills and experiences? Shoot me an email or comment and I’m happy to help out!