Tag Archives: advice for recent grads

10 Things That Will Save You So Much Trouble At The Office.

photo-1416339442236-8ceb164046f8

1.) Don’t send emails if you don’t have to. If you can walk over to someone’s desk and explain something, do it. If you can make a phone call, do it. Unless it’s something simple, don’t send that email. It’ll save you time in the long run.

2.) Say “Congrats!” If someone kicks ass on a project, send them a quick note. It can be three sentences. It can just be a link to their project with the words “Nice job!” in the subject line. Even a small gesture makes an impression.

3.) Be direct. Don’t sugarcoat things. Don’t bury bad news. Just be straightforward with people, especially around bad news.

4.) Set limits for work. I don’t respond to emails between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. I set that expectation early on in my job. There are often nights I’m up working past then, but unless something’s on fire, I won’t respond until the morning. It’s all about setting your personal boundaries. Own your work — and don’t let your work own you.

5.) Be prompt. I try to respond to all texts and all emails within 24 hours. Think about how you feel when someone responds to one of your emails a week late. You don’t feel valued, right? Always try to respond promptly (not immediately, just promptly).

6.) Say “I’m sorry.” Take responsibility for your actions, and sometimes, take responsibility even when it’s not your fault. Nobody wins when you pick a fight.

7.) Be nice! Hellos and remembering names go a surprisingly long way.

8.) Don’t be a jerk! It is shockingly easy to be one — especially in an email or over Gchat. At any office, you don’t have to be liked to get stuff done — but you do have to be respected, and nobody respects the jerks in their office.

9.) Remember these rules for email: Don’t reply all to inter-office threads. Use Gmail’s Mute button liberally. And don’t be afraid to use smiley faces and exclamation points — they’re really good at communicating tone.

10.) Be someone who delivers on promises. I always seek out the people I know will deliver their work on time. There aren’t enough hours in the week to wait for other people to get their crap together. Work with people who get shit done — and be one of those people yourself.

———

That photo of a workspace comes via via Unsplash and photographer Jeff Sheldon.

One Little Piece Of Advice For The Class Of 2015.

525742850_58e2a1ec7b

Hi, there! Congrats on graduation — and welcome to the world of unemployment!

You’re probably already applying to a million jobs online, and not hearing anything back from employers. And worse: You’re living at home with your parents, and they’re going to keep asking you the big question:

Why haven’t you gotten a job yet?

At first, this won’t bother you, because none of your friends will have jobs either! But then one friend will get a real job, and then another, and then you’ll wake up one day and your parents will have slipped an LSAT prep book under your door.

This is the point at which you’ll start to think that your parents might murder you soon.

But it’s OK! You will get a job eventually. And in the meantime, here’s what I suggest:

Make a list of 50 people in your city or in your field that you admire. Don’t stop at 15 or 20. Make it all the way to 50.

Then find their email address or mailing address, and write them a note. Make it short — 5 sentences or less. Tell them that you’ve just graduated, and you admire their work, and then tell them that you want to bring coffee to them and ask 3-4 questions about how they got to where they are.

This is very important: You have to offer to bring coffee to them. People HATE leaving their office in the middle of the day if they don’t have to. But anyone can make 10 minutes if you promise to bring them free coffee and not waste their time.

So here’s what’s amazing: A lot of the people you email/write to will actually write back and take you up on your offer! You’re a recent grad, and everyone’s been in your shoes before. There are a lot of really smart, really talented, really powerful people out there who’d be happy to help you… just as long as you come to them and don’t waste their time.

Now all you have to do is show up with coffee and make your 3-4 questions count. And then afterwards, write the person a thank you note. Don’t write an email — write a letter and mail it to them. This part is important, too.

Will this land you a job? Well… maybe not. But if you do this — if you send 50 notes, if you bring them coffee, if you don’t waste their time, if you follow up with a note — I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll meet at least a handful of people who you can build a relationship with. They’re people you can send links to or drop a note to say hi every once in a while. And they’re the kinds of people who also control a lot of the hiring at companies. Maybe they won’t be able to offer you a job today. But they’re going to be the people who — when they hear of a job in the future — might email you and give you a heads up, or even make an introduction. In the long run, that network can be a hugely valuable thing.

Good luck, Class of 2015.

———

That photo of graduation comes via Flickr’s Andrew Schwegler.

Are You All In?

All in

“Only those with the courage to take a penalty kick miss them.” — Roberto Baggio

 
I was sitting on a park bench last week, waiting for a friend down by the Brooklyn Bridge. There was a man and a woman on the bench next to me. The man was hunting for a job. The woman was trying to offer advice.

And her advice was perfect:

I want to help, she told him. But I won’t be all in if you aren’t all in. I won’t be in more then you are.

I love that.

I’m in a funny place in my career: I’m 26, and I’ve had a few victories, and I’ve seen some stuff. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve figured out a few things.

And one of those things is that I really do want to help people. That’s why I’ve got the Tools newsletter. That’s why I try to take time to meet and talk with recent grads looking for advice.

So many people helped me when I was right out of college, and I want to pass that help along to the next wave of reporters.

But I can’t help everyone, and there’s a reason: Not everyone is all in. Some people aren’t willing to bust their asses to do something, and I’m reluctant to spend my time on and throw my weight around for someone who isn’t really going after it.

Prove to me that you’re in, though, and I’m much more likely to go in, too.

That photo of someone going all in at a poker tournament comes via.

While You’re On Stage.

“Follow your passion. Stay true to yourself. Never follow someone else’s path unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path. By all means, you should follow that.” — Ellen DeGeneres

 
I don’t remember what was said at my graduation. I can probably guess the themes, but I don’t really remember what our speaker told us that day.

But I do remember this one thing that had gotten stuck in my head earlier that day. I can’t remember who told me, but I remember it well: When you’re up on that stage, take an extra second and look back at the crowd. Don’t be in a rush to get across that stage.

It’s not easy staying in the moment during your work. But I think about that advice a lot. Stay in that moment, and don’t be in a rush to let it pass. You worked to get here; might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

How to Survive Living With Your Parents.

Me, Mr. O and Mrs. O

“Because of their size, parents may be difficult to discipline properly.” — P.J. O’Rourke

 
Right now, I am writing this blog post from a house that is very near and dear to me. It’s the house I grew up in.

It’s the house where my parents still live, in fact.

And for the last five weeks or so, it’s where I’ve been living, too.

That’s right: I’m living with my parents.

And I’m not alone in this. A study released this summer found that one in four young people — defined as those ages 20-34 — have lived with their parents at some point.

This is the second time I’ve moved back in with my parents. The first was two years ago, after I left Biloxi, MS, and tried to figure out the next step for Stry.us. This fall, I’m using this time at home to step back from Stry.us and figure out what’s next.

But this recent stint at home has been infinitely better than the first one. I’ve learned a lot about how to survive living at home with your parents, and I know there are others out there who are going through similar situations. So I’ve got four big lessons to share with you:

1. Be Around People — As in, people who aren’t your parents. When you’re living at home, you have to get out. Go to networking events. Get drinks with friends. Just spend time working outside of the house — Loosecubes can help you find space to work out of, and the local library or coffee shop are also excellent choices.

As an added bonus, if you’re out of the house, you’ll have to get dressed. I know this from my 2010 stint at home: When you’re living at home and you’re unemployed AND you’re walking around the house on a Tuesday in sweatpants, it starts to feel like you’re never going to get a job ever again.

Get out of the house. Wear pants. You’ll feel better about yourself — trust me.

2. Go To The Gym — I’ve been lucky enough to live in some really amazing places. There’s nothing quite like coming home to your awesome apartment in your awesome new neighborhood.

But when you move back in with your parents, it’s a little depressing.

So that’s where the gym comes in. Join one. It’ll cost you a few bucks a month, but you can go, break a sweat and have a reason to feel good about yourself. You’re going to need places where you can feel confident, and the gym is one of them.

3. Do Something — Having a side project is essential. When I got back to D.C. last month, I launched Tools for Reporters, a newsletter that pairs great tools with awesome reporters. It’s given me a reason to network — at each event, I’m meeting people who actually built the tools that I’m featuring in the newsletter — and it’s given me opportunities to meet the people who sign up for the newsletter.

And certainly, when I open up my MailChimp statistics and see how many people are opening the emails, I’m reminded that, yes, people actually find value in what I do.

4. Have a Plan to Leave Home — This is most important of all. When a short-term stint at home unexpectedly turns into a long-term housing solution, it can feel like a kick to the groin.

You need to have a plan to get out. It doesn’t matter if it’s in six weeks or six months or longer. There just has to be a plan, and your parents have to know what it is. That way, they can support you and you can all work toward what you really want: Getting back out there on your feet.

There’s no shame in living at home. Heck, I’ll admit that I kinda like it. (For instance: My parents do the shopping around here. And sometimes, they’ll even do my laundry. Which is AWESOME.)

But I don’t want to be here for much longer. I’ve made my plan. I’m getting out often. I’m at the gym. I’ve got my side projects. This stint at home has been really productive for me.

Follow that four-step plan, and you too can survive life at home.

At top, that’s me and my lovely parents. They’re very nice people, if you can’t tell from the photo.

How Can I Help You?

“You have to put in many, many, many tiny efforts that nobody sees or appreciates before you achieve anything worthwhile.” — Brian Tracy

 
I am at a very unusual point in my life. I have put in a lot of tiny efforts. I’m closing in on 10 years since my very first published clip, back in 2003 in the Boston Globe. I have had internships and jobs. I’ve covered the Olympics. I’ve built stuff that worked, and I’ve built stuff that didn’t. I have a whole bunch of projects in the works now.

The big breakthrough has not yet come. But I’m also starting to realize: It’s not a big breakthrough that I’ve been working toward all these years.

What I’ve been working toward is a place where I can do what I really love: Helping other people tell great stories and do great work.

The next stage of my life will be defined by a very simple question: How can I help?

That’s why I launched the toolsforreporters.com newsletter this week. I want to help other reporters do their job even better.

And it’s why over the coming months, I want to do more to help others — especially young people who are about to go through the post-college phase that I’ve just gone through.

How can I help you? Let’s get in touch. If I can help — even if it’s just offering up a link or a tool or a few words of advice — I want to.

Run Your Own Race.

Kelly Fogarty

“At 25, if I was sitting at this desk speaking with you, as pompous as the things I have to say are now, they would be millions of times more pompous and inappropriate.” — Scott Avett

 
I’m 25, and it feels weird to say that. I haven’t been quite sure what 25 means — it doesn’t have the significance that turning 13, or 18, or 21 had for me — but it definitely means something.

And then I read something that really captured the experience of 25 for me:

“At 25, you will feel drastically more mature than some people you know, embarrassingly less put-together than others, and acutely aware of these imbalances in lifestyle, career, and consciousness between you and the friends you used to feel absolutely in sync with … Your 20s is supposed to be a time of rapid growth and development in every area of your everything, but we don’t always — in fact, rarely ever — evolve along the same timeline. And so we lose pace with each other.”

And that’s it! I have friends who are 25 and who own their own home and are married. I have friends who are 25 and who have kids. I have friends who are 25 and have graduated from law school, and I have friends who are 25 and taking the LSATs. I have friends who are 25 and who have started their own companies. I have friends who are 25 and who are permanently unemployed and live with their parents.

It’s weird to think about that, too. Some of these friends I’ve known since I preschool. We grew up together. We went through all the same life stages together. When one of us took the SATs, we all took the SATs. When one of us was getting internships or summer jobs, we all were going through it.

Then we graduated, and we all went different directions.

When I think about my friends at 25, I think about a 400-meter race. When you watch that race, each of the runners starts at a different point on the track. At first, it’s tough to tell who’s going really fast and really slow. The curve screws up your perspective.

It’s not until the straightaway that everything comes into focus.

I get jealous, sometimes, when I see 25 year olds who are way ahead of where I am. I get competitive. How’d that person pull off a book deal at 25? How’d they get a movie done? How’d they make their first million already?

But then I remember that this isn’t a 400-meter race. We’re not all shooting for the same end goal.

We’re all on different paths. We’re all running our own races at our own speeds.

It’s tough to tell where each of us is going now. It’s only with time — a decade, maybe more — that we’ll start to understand where we’ve been going.

In the meantime, what really matters is that we keep going. We keep putting one foot in front of the other.

It’s not easy being 25. But the road ahead doesn’t get easier. Stop worrying about what everybody else is doing and focus on what you’re doing.

I’m 25, and I’m pledging today to run my own race.

That photo of runners via.

Go Chasing Waterfalls.

Waterfall near Ballachulish

“Don’t go chasing waterfalls / Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to / I know that you’re gonna have it your way or nothing it all / But I think you’re moving too fast.” — TLC

 
With all due respect to the wise women of TLC:

Screw that.

This is the time to go chasing those big dreams in your life — those waterfalls way off in the distance. I don’t care if you’re 21 or 31 or 81. This is the time you have right now. This is all the time you know you have.

This is when things get done.

I remember when I started Stry.us. I told myself: I’m 23. I’m young, I’m without debt, and I don’t have a family. If there’s a time to try something crazy, it’s now.

The idea for Stry.us lingered. I thought about it all the time. It didn’t let go.

I knew I had to face up to it.

I tell other young people the same thing: Right now, while you’re free of responsibility, this is the time to do something big. If it scares you, that’s a good thing. Fear’s often the way you know something is worth doing.

But I’m also starting to see people of all ages — and with all types of real responsibility — making big leaps. I see them chasing opportunity when it presents itself. I seem them refusing to idle.

Great things come with great ambition — and great hustle, and great tribes, and great skills, and great luck, and great passion.

This is me giving you permission to go screw things up. To try crazy things. Yeah, things will get weird along the way. It happens to all of us.

Keep going. Dream big.

Chase your waterfalls.

That shot of waterfalls come via Peter Hunter.

What Would You Say You Do Here?

“Life. It’s the stories you tell.” — Eric Garland

 
There’s a thing that any entrepreneur needs to learn how to do in his/her career — if he/she wants to be a successful entrepreneur, that is.

Make the pitch.

You’re at a conference. You’re at an event. You find yourself seated next to Bill Gates on an airplane.

You’ve been working on something. Maybe it’s a business. Maybe it’s your career.

You have a really short window of time to make an impression, because here comes a big question:

“What would you say you do here?”

This is where you need to avoid your instincts. This isn’t the time to dish out a job title. You’re not talking to HR. You’ve got Bill Gates next to you!

You’ve been given a tiny window to wow him with your story.

But this situation isn’t just limited to people pitching a company or a product. Every single person needs to figure out their story — and how to pitch it.

So what’s your story? It’s a combination of your work and your passion. We need a little taste of what it is you make/build/do and a lot of why you do it. Your story is the thing that tells us why you’re great, and why we need to pay attention.

Take Sam Jones of Formation Media. Here’s his story:

I’ve met Sam several times and each time I’ve been at an event with him I’ve heard his opening line, “My name is Sam Jones. I buy dead magazines.” He gets a stare every time. You can’t help but lean forward and want to hear what the next line is. He’s a master. He waits for a brief moment and lets the suspense build. He knows your next line in advance, “Excuse me? You do what?”

And once he’s hooked you, he gets into the story, explaining how he does what he does and who he works with.

When I work with young reporters, I ask them how they’re pitching themselves for jobs. There are thousands of young reporters out there applying to the same small pool of jobs. To get one, you’ve got to stand out.

I encourage reporters to pitch themselves differently. Let everyone else send the standard cover letter. Instead, tell me: What do you do?

I build great communities around stories.

I use data to tell great stories.

I listen, I learn — and then I share with my readers.

Something like that can stand out. And when you brand it across your platforms — on your blog, your Twitter bio, your resume — it really drives the point home.

What you’ll learn is that it’s surprisingly easy to stand out. The masses are all doing the same thing. Even taking a few steps out of the mainstream will get you noticed.

Then it’s just a matter of doing the work to establish yourself as someone truly different.

If you get on that plane with Bill Gates, here’s all I ask: Don’t tell him your job title. Tell him what you’re working on. Tell him why you’re passionate about it.

Tell him a great story.

It won’t be hard to do. After all, it’s your story.

11 Things Every College Graduate Should Know To Exist In The Real World.

“Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.” ― Conan O’Brien

 
I came home last night and found one of my roommates making pasta. This roommate had filled up a pot of water. The stove was on low heat. There was already pasta in the pot.

I wasn’t sure if I should groan or laugh.

But I know this is a problem. I’ve seen it with my roommates, all of them young, recent or semi-recent college grads. I’ve seen it with my friends.

You don’t always want to admit it, but it’s true: You have major blind spots when you graduate college. You discover that you have no idea how to hang a framed portrait, or how to change the broken front bulb on your car or — and I still find this amazing, but it really did happen — how to boil water correctly.

There are infinite things you really need to learn now that you’re an adult human. These are the eleven big ones I could think of:

1. Know How To Make Food.

Alright, pasta in eight steps:

1. Fill pot with water. If it’s a medium size pot, fill half or two-thirds of the pot with water.
2. Turn burner to “high.” Keep on high until the water begins to boil.
3. Add pasta to water.
4. Read box. Figure out how long the pasta needs to boil.
5. When it’s done, pour pasta through strainer. Leave a little bit of pasta water left in the pot.
6. Add sauce to that little bit of pasta water.
7. Add pasta to the sauce/water mix. Stir.
8. Remove from pot. Eat.

Cooking is easy. It’s also fun. Buy non-frozen ingredients. Use the stove and the oven. You’ll actually learn something, and your dates won’t mind it either.

2. Own Small Amounts of Things.

The Minimalists have this right. You want to own some stuff, but not too much.

In the 3.5 years since I’ve graduated, I’ve moved six times. That number seems higher than most people I know, but not by much. Owning lots of stuff makes it hard to move. So own less.

You only need to own a few things: Some plates, bowls, utensils and cups. Cookware is nice to have. Sheets and pillows. Some basic technology stuff.

But you really do need to have all that. I have one friend who, until three months ago, owned exactly one plate. Another owned only a fork and spoon. Do not be that person. Own the minimal amount of stuff that you need to exist as a functional member of our society.

What don’t you need? Anything that requires a U-Haul to move: Mattresses, desks, giant framed things. When you move to a new city, you’ll just end up leaving them behind.

3. Show Up and Network.

If you move to a new city, don’t sweat it. You’ll make new friends. You’ll discover new things.

The key is to show up and network. It’ll help you professionally, and it’ll almost make the adjustment to a new city — or just adult life — much easier. Check Meetup.com for things happening that you’re interested in. Go to public events. Ask co-workers for advice.

Good things happen to those who show up. Meet people, exchange numbers — hell, be a little pushy and get yourself invited to things. Being active is a very good thing.

4. Contracts matter.

I have gotten screwed on contracts before. It’s happened with employment contracts and it’s happened with contracts for apartments.

Before you sign anything, read it through with your boss/landlord. If you have a friend or family member with a law background, ask them for advice.

Do not sign something until you know what it says. Ask lots of questions.

You do not want to be caught by surprise — and caught in the middle of a legal battle. It’s a pain to deal with upfront, but it’ll save you time, money and aggravation down the road.

5. Manage Your Money.

If you’ve just moved to a new city — especially, like I once did, from a little college town to a big city — prices are going to surprise you. Everything costs too much, and you’re in an entry level job that doesn’t pay jack.

Know where you stand financially. Use the free tools at your disposal. Save. Be frugal.

Seek help with your taxes. Yeah, mom and dad decided they’re not doing them for you anymore. Learn how they work. The IRS doesn’t care that this is your first Tax Day.

And get a credit card. Treat it like a debit card — only spend what you can pay off at the end of the month. Do that and you’ll stay out of credit trouble.

Plus, you’ll start to build credit for when you actually need it — like when you buy a home or a car.

6. You’re An Adult Now — Dress Like One.

Own a suit. Own nice shoes. Get real dress socks, and get a bag that you can actually bring to work. (I’m a fan of Timbuk2u’s bags. That LL Bean backpack you got in 7th grade can stay in your closet for now. Sorry.)

If you want to be treated seriously, the first step is dressing like you belong in the adult world. You don’t have to look like you stepped out of a Bloomingdale’s catalog. You do have to put away the hoodie. (Again: Sorry.)

7. A Good Roommate — Be One.

Be clean. Don’t be loud. Do some chores. Don’t eat the leftovers that your roommate brought home.

And if there’s a problem, deal with it head on — and respectfully. Conflicts don’t get solved via Post-Its left on the fridge.

8. Know Where and How To Get Things Fixed.

Find yourself a toolkit — hammer, screwdriver, wrench, scissors. You’ll need it.

And for big things — your car, your appliances, your electronics — know in advance where you can get them fixed. When your car breaks down, that’s a bad time to go shopping for a good mechanic. Do it as soon as you can.

9. Seek Advice — And Listen Well.

Find people at work — or in your city — who can mentor you. Ask tons of questions.

You’re young. You don’t have all — or most — of the answers. You’ll need help.

So ask. Like 98 percent of recent grads, you probably have only a vague idea of what you should do with your life. You don’t have to pretend to be someone who’s got it all figured out.

Ask questions, and find role models who can help shape you and your future. Be willing to learn, and you’ll find there’s lots you still need to know. College, sadly, has left a few things out.

10. Work Hard.

This is the corollary to no. 6. You need to dress the part, and then you need the work ethic to match. If you want more responsibility in this world, you can either:

A. Be born into it, or
B. You can earn it.

Show up on time. Meet deadlines. Be respectful of your bosses. Do work you can be proud of.

11. Make Time For The Things And People You Love

I’ve said this many times before. Look: Adult life is hard. If you don’t make time for those people and things, it’s going to suck.

Work is hard. Adult life is — at best — insanely confusing.

So find what you love, and make time for it. When everything else overwhelms you, you need those people and things to keep you grounded and happy.

>>What else am I missing from this list? Send me your suggestions on Twitter to @danoshinsky.

That lovely photo of pasta comes via @shoval_peretz_94. The piggy banks are from @antonio301. The toolbox is via @luckylittlegirl. Also: A shout-out to Jordan Hickey for helping talk through some of the ideas in this post.