My New Year’s Resolution

9 01 2010

Disclaimer:  This post is highly philosophical.  It’s about changing the way you think and how you approach your work and life.  Happy new year to all!

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Happy Twenty-ten, Awesome and almost employed!

I apologize for taking such a long time between posts.  I’ve been working on a big project all quarter and it’s truly taken up a lot of my time (and sanity)!  Even this first week back hasn’t lighted up at all.  That being said, I’m here, I’m yours.  All my attention for the duration of this post is dedicated to you.  (Side thought: Apologies if you sent me an email and I didn’t get back to you.  I will!)

When I looked at what I could do differently this year, compared to previous years, I kept coming back to the same thing:  Operate with love.

Before you run screaming, “Stefanie has lost her marbles.  This ain’t a dating blog.”  Hear me out.  (Although, it could be a dating blog, too.  Would you like that?)

Everyone I have ever admired operates with this philosophy AT WORK.  If you do what you do for your own glory, you’re standing alone at the finish line.  Isn’t it better to have a whole hoard of close colleagues, friends, family, and fans cheering you on?  You may not be this loving, giving person now, but I am altruistic enough to believe that we can all operate with love.  It’s this passion that improves the world and gives others hope to be better than they are.  (Think Mahatma Ghandi, Betty Williams, and Matt Flannery, Founder of Kiva.org.)  In your own way, with your own work (whatever it is), this should be you, too.

Embarrassing note:  This Nickleback video moved me to the brink of tears in my office one day!  (Thanks, Judy.)

Example #1:  My dad.
When I graduated, my dad and I talked about what I would possibly be.  He told me that no matter what I did, I should give back to others.  He dedicated his entire life to microbiology and genetics.  I wish you guys could see the look on his face when he talks about finding genetic connections and cures for cancers.  My dad is one person, trying to change the world (and every day he does)!

Example #2: Gopi Kallayil
After yoga, my teacher, Gopi, sat a few of us down and talked about the philosophy behind yoga and meditation and how they are all pathways to love and God (Hindu in his case).  Gopi is extremely successful, well-liked and respected at work and he’s someone that I always want to emulate.  When we asked him what his secret was, I was surprised when he told us that it was this yoga philosophy of love.  His motivations for creating phenomenal work product are not for himself, but they are for the greater good of others.  Giving love freely is his secret to success!  Transferring love into his work and then giving it freely, without sense of ownership (mine, mine, mine), has gotten him far.

When I think about my own career at work, this has also applied.  The times when I’ve been fully committed to helping someone else are the times that I’ve received the most recognition and satisfaction in my work.  Hmm… maybe we’re on to something here.

Example #3: Chade Meng Tan

Meng, like Gopi, is one of my favorite Googlers.  Meng is on a mission for world peace one person at a time.  He teaches a course about emotional intelligence and self-awareness called, “Searching Inside Yourself”.  I’m an alumnus of the class and learning from Meng has really changed how I operate.  Not only have I become more introspective, but I have learned to love myself and forgive me for my mistakes and for others’ mistakes and ill will.  Granted, there are still some really SHITTY people out there, but you know what?  It doesn’t change the fact that we all want to feel loved and respected.

Example #4: Alex Duong, actually–he’s just like us!  But here’s how he’s different.

Alex has been working as a consultant for a few years after graduating from UC Berkeley.  At some point, he decided he needed a change of pace.  He applied to Kiva.org and now he’s a Kiva Fellow in Vietnam reviewing loan grants and supporting small business owners in the country.  The impact he, and the other fellows, are leaving behind are going to transform these communities.  He’s helping these small business owners and entrepreneurs one loan at a time.  Read about their experiences here.

Even your manager, an executive, and your recruiter needs love.  Imagine if you approached them with love, forgiveness, and without judgement–what might change in your relationship with this person?

Most importantly, how does this help you in an interview?  In your job search?

Seek problems and aim to solve them for a company.  Before you walk in or before you apply, ask yourself, “What is my motivation?”  Are you doing this for your own glory or are you doing this with a genuine desire to add your expertise to a solution?  It can still be a little of both, but make sure that when you deliver your work (or answers in an interview), you’re delivering it for others.  You’re part of a larger purpose.

This kind of thought leadership is contagious and can dramatically improve your relationships with the people you meet in the interview process.  If they know that you are a point of positive energy (I’m not talking about hyper energy, but positive energy), they will want you.  Be present.  Be engaged.  Be supportive, giving, and smart.  Give it your all, give it freely, and have a fantastic 2010.

With love and respect,

Stefanie

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Value in Volunteering

19 09 2009

Now that I’m finally back from vacation and over my reverse culture shock, I’ll stop neglecting you, Awesome and Unemployed!  I had amazing adventures in China.  Here’s one photo of me on the Great Wall of China!

Photo of me on the Great Wall of China

While I was away, an old friend of mine emailed me to talk about his unemployment situation.   Here’s his strategy:

I’ve been unemployed now for a little over 13 months. Supporting myself by playing poker while I look for a real job. For the record, I don’t consider myself to be a professional poker player (though I seem to get that label a lot), my circumstances are fortunate enough to let me do this by and scrape by. Anyways, I’ve categorized my job hunt into 2 categories:
Category A) Jobs to fill my time. This includes counter monkey-type jobs, serving, bartending, etc. And;
Category B) Jobs in line with my career. Marketing-related fields where I’m trying to get in with a number of agencies in town.

He’s currently looking for category A jobs, completely unrelated to his field, while he waits for the recession to lift.  (Side note:  It’s lifting.)  But the category A companies wouldn’t even hire him because he had too much category B experience.

My thoughts?  STICK TO THE CATEGORY B ROLES!  During my unemployment, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do in life.  I knew that I needed experience and I didn’t really have any, so here was my approach.

I researched small companies in the area that were doing what I wanted to do.  Small companies need the help.  They really don’t have a lot of resources and if you’re a smart, capable individual, they could really use your help.

I found Winslow & Associates, a small event planning company in San Francisco, which was responsible for most of the well-known non-profit events in San Francisco.  The more I read about Lynne Winslow and her company, the more intrigued I became.  I emailed Lynne.

Dear Ms. Winslow,

I hope this email finds you well!  My name is Stefanie and I’m a recent graduate that just realized my life’s ambition: to plan spectacular events that raise awareness and financial support for charitable causes.  I have so much respect for the events that you and your associates put on, and I wanted to write you to see if I could learn more about event planning.

Would you be opposed to having an extra hand around the office as an intern or volunteer for your company?  I will work without compensation and am willing to work as hard as possible to learn about this industry.  I will do anything that you need me to do.  I’m positive, proactive, and resourceful and I currently reside in San Francisco, so transportation is not a problem.

Since I know you are very busy, I’ve enclose my resume.  I know that you are not hiring new employees at the moment, but I hope you find that I will have the basic skills necessary to assist your team as an intern or volunteer.  I am committed to this dream and I hope I will prove to be an asset to your company if you should take me.

If you would like to speak with me more or if you have any questions, you may contact me via email at me@ gmail.com or via telephone at (415) 555-5555.

Sincerely,
Stefanie Lau
Recent UC Davis Graduate

P.S.  I volunteered the past 4 years at the Academy of Friends Oscar Gala and your company truly does a spectacular job with that event.  I will be volunteering this year again and many years to come.  If you are not looking for help at this moment, I would love to take you out to coffee to learn about what you do and all the work that you have put into your company.  Thanks for your time!

(Caveat:  That was my dream after college and what I’ve wanted has changed since then, but I’m thankful I had the opportunity to learn.)

Lynne’s reaction?  YES, YES, YES! 🙂

She needed the help and she found that I had the skills to learn and get the job done.  She brought me in for a quick interview and signed be on as a part time intern making minimum wage ($10/hr).  It wasn’t much, but Lynne saved me.  Here’s how:

  1. I got off my @$$ and started being productive.
  2. I learned a lot about being detail oriented and applying tools like Excel, Word, and databases.
  3. I got to learn from the best in the industry and see how they managed their small company and negotiated with vendors, secured clients, stretched miracles out of a tight budget, and delivered spectacular events.
  4. I kept my skills current.

When I got my job with Google, she was not happy.  “You will miss this, Stefanie.”  She told me she was going to hire me and that she fully expected me to stay in touch and involved in her events.  I have stayed in touch and helped her secure some corporate clients, as well.  For everything that Lynne saw in me, I’m grateful and will pay it forward and back as much as I can.

How is this relevant to you?  Well, let me ask you–what kinds of jobs are you looking for in this recession?  How can you keep your skills current and learn the newest trends in the industry?  Volunteer your time.  Someone needs you, somewhere.  Do your research, email the person in charge, and tell them why you’re awesome and here to solve their problems.

Go out there, conquer and succeed!

(Afterthought–I think this is another tip I learned from Charles Caudill.  Charlie, you’re the best!)