Tag Archives: career

Successful Shoe Return; Job Stress; Understanding Economics

Please pat me on the back. I walked into Macy’s to return my non-functioning shoes that I purchased for $45 last month (the heel of the right shoe somehow deflated each time I put any weight on it) and by some miracle of miracle’s I managed to walk out of the store, return receipt in hand, without making another purchase.

(Although I admit, I did eye the earring display by the door and have dirty thoughts about buying half of the items shimmering in my view).

Now, before you get too pat-happy, prepare to punch me. Five minutes or so after my accomplishment, I walked into Borders and spent $36 on two books. I felt like the books were worthy purchases though. Sure, I could go to a library to get books for free, but on the rare occasion I manage to motivate myself to read anything, I’m the type that loves to take notes in the columns. The librarians don’t really think my notes add value to the books, so it’s best for me to purchase them up front.

My goal over the next few months is to actually start reading. I have terrible ADD and I rarely pick up a book and make it through from start to finish. I’ve given up on fiction almost entirely, but non-fiction is worth my time and painful attempts to focus.

Since I’m on this personal finance kick and slightly depressed/confused/bewildered about how Wall Street works, I decided to invest in some economics for dummies-type books.

So I bought:

1) Economics: Making Sense of the Modern Economy (by “The Economist”)
2) Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations: A Story of Economic Discovery, by David Warsh

I like buying “smart people” books. My shelves are filled with them. Do I read them? No. But I do need to figure out this economy thing. It’s one subject that I’m embarrassed I know next-to-nothing about. As a business reporter, I owe my readers (and myself) a bit of a fast education on the topic.

Speaking of my profession, I won’t go into detail (since I want to remain anonymous), but I’m a bit stressed out about my new job. The job is awesome for so many reasons – flexibility, salary, the people I get to work with and meet, and above all, the ability to learn something (or a bunch of things) new every day. How could I ask for more? I know I’m so lucky to have landed in such a great position given my age, my experience, and perhaps even my potential.

Well, that’s the problem. I really want to do a good job, but it’s not like I can just complete all my projects early, take on additional projects, and seem like a great worker. Ultimately my success is dependent more on quality than quantity of my output, though quantity is important as well.

The sad thing is that even when I try to be careful with my reporting, I have a tendency to make little mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes once in a while, but I seem to do it all the time. I’m looking into going to see a psychiatrist because I’m thinking perhaps if I get on some drugs for my ADD I’ll be less likely to miss my errors. But all that mental health care costs a fortune, even if my insurance covers some of it. Then again, if it’ll help me keep my job, it’s worth it, right?

In any case, I’m confused about the whole career situation. More than anything I’m frustrated with myself for not kicking ass at my job. I don’t want to let my anxiety hold me back from success. Then there’s also the question of whether I’m smart enough to be in a position that obviously requires a high level of intellect and ability to collect, analyze and re-hash complicated information.

My boss recently criticized me for my lack of voice in my work. He said he hired me because I told him that I’m a blogger. But my writing for work has been so boring and dry. It’s lacking any sort of personality, I guess. I wonder what he’d think of this blog or any of the other blogs that I keep that are chalk full of personality. It’s a lot easier to have a voice when I’m writing about things I’m intimately familiar with, but the topics I write about are not things that are easy to understand or to explain. Maybe someday I’ll get to the point where I can write short, edgy posts with tons of voice that people would actually want to read. Until that day, I better get “good enough” so I can keep my job… and keep improving.

Payday!

My first paycheck for my new job was direct-deposited into my checking account. After taxes, it looks like I make $1,588.19 twice a month. So that’s like $3200 per month, which is hopefully how much I should be making after taxes (last year I ended up owing like $500 in taxes because I guess I didn’t have enough $ taken out.)

That’s very exciting. Up until June I was making $2200 a month. So I’m basically making $1000 more a month. That seems wrong, though. I feel like taxes should take out more, since I was making $35k before and now I’m making $50k. Hmm.

So in July, with my $300 in freelance work, I took in about $1888. Plus I guess I can count the $450 in rent money I earned last month letting my friend crash at my apartment while she looked for a place of her own. So I ended up making just about as much as I would have at my old job this month…

That’s not too bad, being as I took two weeks off for the month. It’s still not great, as $1050 of that went to rent, and I certainly spent more than $800 this month on random odds and ends, car keys being lost, gas, and cocktails. The good news is that next month I might break even. I might even put some money into my savings account. I might even, by then, figure out how I should actually be investing my money, as opposed to watching my mutual fund account depleting.

Ashes, Ashes, Her Finances Go Down

The stock market is still performing poorly. I went ahead and bought $100 more dollars worth of my mutual fund, because I’m upset that I’ve lost $400 and I figure if I buy more now, when the the fund is cheap, maybe I’ll make my money back. At least my CDs that are making interest have made about $400 total over the last two and a half years, so, I’m at break even, for now.

I’m not too concerned about my Roth IRA. It kind of sucks to watch my Roth depleting. That’s going to have quite some time to recover. Afterall, I’m only 23. The mutual fund is really worrying me, and it probably should be. As I’ve written before, I’m not going to pull my funds out right now. I’m keeping them in for a while. A few years probably. I have other money not tied up in investments so I’m doing fine financially. It’s just it’s really upsetting to think that there’s a possibility the $9100 dollars I now have tied up in mutual funds — $4000 in my Roth and $4600 in my index fund buy – will be down to… much less than that the day I decide I want to buy a house or take a year off of life and become a reclusive writer traveling the world.

In happier financial news, my freelance career is sort of, kind of taking off. Thanks to my uncle, who hooked me up with some folks who needed writing help, I managed to make about $300 extra this month. That’s really nice, considering I’ve spent about that much to get to and from my show and work in gas and that lovely $170 car key incident.

I’m also excited about getting my first paycheck for my new job tomorrow. I’m not sure how much my check will be after taxes are taken out, but I know I’ll be making more than I was the last time I was taking home money. And my new company even has direct deposit, so I don’t have to deal with going to the bank twice a month. I hate going to the bank.

Really what I need to focus on is doing good work at my job. I’m trying, I really am, but my new position is pretty hard. And I love the challenge, but I’m terrified of failure. I’m even more terrified of failure because I’m not really sure what it’s defined as in a job like this. There’s no way to quantify what a good job means. Obviously if everything I do is great and gets a lot of positive feedback from the blogosphere, I deserve a pat on the back. But otherwise? I don’t need constant praise or criticism but once in a while it’s nice to know where I stand – especially when I’m so new at something. I do hope I’ll get better. I like that my company does offer a bonus incentive to work towards. That’s certainly not the reason to do a good job, as really, the reason to do a good job is the reward of knowing that I’m contributing something to a larger conversation… but, the extra cash incentive doesn’t hurt.

Women Don’t Negotiate = Women Make Less Money.

I got a new job. I can’t go into details on here regarding what that job entails, as I don’t want to blow my thinly-veiled cover (to those who know me, it’s impossible for me to blog without giving away who I am.) Needless to say, the position is 99 percent of the way to dream job, and I’m really proud of myself for somehow falling into the opportunity.

The focus of this entry is not my new job, persay, but my terror of negotiating and my delight in figuring out that I can get what I want in a negotiation without feeling guilty.

The day of my meeting to negotiate terms of my new job, I spent all my free time scouring the Internet for advice on how to approach any likely scenerio. I took my current job with absolutely no negotiation, and while I don’t regret it (the job was worth more to me than a few thousand more dollars at the time, when my lack of full-time experience made it painfully difficult to get a job at all), it does suck being stuck at my entry-level salary a year later. Between the company struggling financially and my inability to be brilliant in their eyes, I lost the opportunity to be promoted five months into the gig. And since then, I haven’t even dared to ask. I’ve been working my ass off and I’m pretty sure I’ve been earning my keep, to say the least. It has just become increasingly clear to me that in order to be valued as I ought to be, I need to move elsewhere.

So I applied for dozens of positions and even got offers for a few, but ultimately turned them down. They all paid more than my current gig, but I decided while I’d like a fatter paycheck, salary isn’t the only thing that would get me to make the leap to a new position. I’m picky. And I really wanted to find a job where I knew I would feel like I’d be able to give just as much as I take, if not more.

Found that job, or so it seems. I had no idea what the salary would be. It’s one of those Web 2.0 jobs where there’s no pre-defined standard for base salary at any level. It’s a guessing game for all involved, to be determined based on either my former salary or my current and potential value.

The one strict rule in negotating, it seems, is that you’re not supposed to note your current salary at any point. Nor should you bring up a number first. In my situation, I was practically forced to put a number out there. I blurted out a range, which was higher than what I’m making now but not entirely ridiculous. The low point in the range was what I figured I should be making at my current job if I was in a company that actually paid attention to the growth of its employees and wanted to reward them for their hard work. The high of the range, $5k more, was what I’d like to be making, even though I didn’t think that was really possible.

Side story…

The other day I met up with a young woman who used to intern with me at a community newspaper. She graduated a year after me (I was interning the year after I graduated, while she was graduating that year with a degree in journalism.) Turns out, she hated the internship (and seemingly journalism as a whole, but maybe it was just the internship.) So the other day we re-connected on Linked In and it turned out she was working in a PR office a few towns over. So we decided to meet up for lunch.

We talked a lot about issues of age, salary, and feeling like being taken advantage of at work (mostly due to our age.) Turns out that her salary, surprisingly enough, was $3k less than what I’m currently making. She was frustrated with her job, mostly because of the pay – I’d imagine mind numbing PR work without a rewarding salary would get old fast. We’ve both been in our positions a year now, even though I’m officially two years out of school and she’s just marking her one year anniversary of graduation.

She took such a low salary without negotiating at first because she needed the experience as well, but likely she could have gotten her base pay up to that $35k figure that seems to be standard for entry-level corporate or agency work (unless you’re a software engineer or something). Now she’s stuck. She could ask for a raise, but the raise would bring her up to what she should have started at a year ago.

Back to the main story…

Negotiation is an amazing tool when used properly. It’s amazing what you can get just by asking. Women are taught to make other’s happy, to be people pleasers (at least most of us are) so negotiation seems like a painful experience. Aren’t they offering me what’s in my best interest? Not likely. It turns out that men often think of their own interests first, whereas women are the opposite. So a man will low-ball a salary and expect the other person to negotiate. If the other person is a man, chances are he would negotiate for a higher salary or at least better benefits. If the other person is a women, it’s questionable if she’ll say “Ok” or go with the great tactic… “hmmmmm…”

But I’m living proof that it can’t hurt to ask. At the start of the negotation process, I was given a salary quote, which was the lowest number I had noted in my range at my first interview. While I could have taken that and been happy with it, I felt like that was a little low considering my additional commute time for this new job and all the added responsibility. I was thinking of asking for $2k more, but I realized if I did that, then he might pick a number in between the two, and I’d end up with only $1k more. So instead I mustered up all my courage and pushed the number up $5k. It was quite a nervewracking moment. I was waiting for him to say no. He almost said no. Then he said, “done.”

Moral of the story – female or male, but especially female, make sure to ask for what you want when you’re negotiating. It might make sense to accept what’s offered to you for your first job out of college, but even then most people respect a little negotiation initative. Afterall, business – whether it’s working for a giant corporate company as a sales rep, or as a development associate at a non-profit, is ALL about negotation. And if you can’t ask for what you want when it comes to your livelihood, what’s to say you would be able to do it on a daily basis to help your company get ahead?

Building Up a Freelance Career

There are tons of opportunities to make a few bucks here and there when it comes to writing. This blog, despite all of those AdSense ads, is not one of them. I seem to be making about three cents a week with AdSense, and that’s on a good week.

However, with all of the magazines in the world, online and in print, there’s plenty of room to pitch stories and freelance for some extra cash each month. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of working as a freelancer, but I’m not sure I’d be comfortable moving to a full-time freelance career. First of all, every month would bring in a different amount of money. Health insurance would be all up to me to figure out. I might ultimately make more money, but the uncertainty freaks me out too much to take that leap.

In the meantime, I’ve been lucky enough to be doing some minimal freelance writing work for my uncle, who runs his own online marketing company. He develops e-newsletters for a company that are sent out each month. Included in those newsletters are summaries of related news articles. Guess who writes those summaries? I make $50 per month doing that, but that $50 covers one voice lesson. It actually used to be $100 a month but one of the companies he developed the newsletter for decided they were done with their monthly marketing e-mail. The extra $100 a month was really nice. It seemed to provide the extra cushion I need between overspending and just having enough money to break even each month. The job is nice because writing up the blurbs comes naturally to me and I feel like I’m actually helping my uncle out while also making his life a little easier.

I’ve done occasional freelance work for newspapers, but it’s a ton of work for $50. My cell phone bill for making all the calls ends up costing more than what I make. So I’ve put a stop to newspaper freelancing for now.

Lately I’ve realized that the real money to be made in freelancing is writing for PR and marketing. I don’t think I’d want a full-time PR or marketing career, but I do enjoy spending my free time writing marketing copy. It’s nice to spend my days reporting and writing hard news, and then getting a bit fluffy come evening. Of course, I have to be very careful not to run into any conflict-of-interest issues, which is always a very real concern for me as a journalist. I’d only write marketing copy for a company outside of the sectors my magazine covers.

On top of writing, I’m also trying to build up my freelance web design work. It’s amazing how much money one can make designing a simple site for a person or a business. My uncle hooked me up with my first gigs, where he pitched me as a cheap alternative to other web designers. I guess most web designers charge about $1500-$2000 for a simple site. I’ve charged about $600-$700 per site. I feel really weird charging people that much money, even though I realize my prices are more than competitive. I’ve also worked for small companies or people who have a large chunk of disposible income, so my uncle tells me not to feel guilty about setting my prices in that range. He said he’d charge $2500 or more to do the exact same thing.

Knowing that, sometimes I wonder if I should really focus on gaining skills in web design. After all, it would be neat to either work full-time as a web designer or, ideally, to supplement my income as a reporter by designing about two sites per month. The extra $1200 per month, or even $600 per month, would really help balance out my budget.

As far as career goes, I’m not sure what I’m going to be doing in a month. My company, as I’ve noted previously, looks as if it’s about to go down the tubes. But I’m not too concerned. Some exciting opportunities have popped up. It’s kind of nice how things seem to always work out. A networking contact of the past has contacted me about an opening at her company. It’s not everyday someone contacts me about a job opening.

I definitely have tons more to say about job searching as both an entry-level candidate and now as a candidate with rather specialized experience. But that’ll be another entry.

Do any of you freelance full-time or for supplemental income outside of your job? Any advice for a gal who’s interested in building out her freelance work?

Money and Etiquette: Why are the important things in life never taught in school?

The waitress handed the bill to a guy sitting at the table of 10 family members. The group included a few small children and a majority of adults with disposable incomes, plus a girl hoping to keep some of her savings account for graduate school a few years down the line. In this situation, it looks as though this girl (that would be me) is expected to pay. There’s nothing offensive about being expected to pay for one’s own share of the meal.

It is never that simple. The biggest problem last night, it seemed, was my lack of access to cash. My debit card had been turned off for suspected fraudulent activity (there wasn’t any, It was re-activated this morning after a lengthy Q&A session with BoA) so that’s why I had no access to cash. I had a credit card and figured if they didn’t offer to cover my portion of the bill, I’d just pay my way with plastic. No big deal, right? I ordered a $16 plate of fish & chips… which was one of the least expensive full dishes on the menu. I didn’t go with the salmon or fancier fish dishes since, despite that they were a healthier and more desirable choice, I wasn’t going to splurge on a 20-some-odd dollar meal that may or may not get picked up by family. Either way, it paid to be frugal.

So when the bill made it to the table, it looked like I was, in fact, going to pay for my share of the meal. The question, then, was the sum of my share. In my mind, I had purchased a $16 meal and ordered water for a grand total of $20, tip included. As I suggested my $20 fee, a variety of suggestions regarding my proper payment hit the table. “What about the appetizers,” asked a relative. Right. The appetizers. The three of them that I didn’t order, but ate when offered. I wouldn’t have chosen to order them on my own, but since they were there (and quite tasty looking) I enjoyed my fair share. Fine. I’ll chip in for the appetizers I wouldn’t have ordered, but that I ate. My $16 meal is now costing me $25.

Suddenly another relative suggests we just split the bill evenly. I cringe. Luckily, others realize this isn’t fair and continue to split the bill according to purchase. It doesn’t always work out that way. But I’ll get to that later.

Ultimately, my offer to pay with a credit card offended my family member to the point where she said, in an upset voice, forget it – and hastily paid for my portion of the bill. Unfortunately a few minutes later I had to ask her to borrow $5 for bridge tolls since I was out of cash and realized the bridge didn’t accept charge either.

I don’t want to seem like this stingy, ungrateful bitch to my local relatives, but it seems like I manage to always leave a bad impression on them every time I visit. I’m contemplating writing a check out for $30 and sending it their way, but here’s an untold piece of the story – the woman of the family (who ultimately paid the bill) didn’t want to pay for my portion, whereas the husband, who ran off to entertain his children at the time of payment, made some comment under his breath that made me think he’d gladly cover my portion. No one else heard that, it seems. I don’t know if it would be even further rude to just send a check in the mail to cover my costs.

I did suggest that I owe both of them dinner – which may or may not happen. Because then we’ll all be having dinner and get to the bill and what-do-ya-know, they’re going to want to get the bill and will refuse to let me pay it.

It seems etiquette is rarely about follow-through, but instead just about an offer.

However, what happens when you are at social lunch or dinner and someone boldly suggests the bill be split (of course, it’s usually the guy who ordered two top-shelf margaritas who thinks this is such a brilliant idea). Do you speak up for yourself or do you sit back and watch your affordable meal turn into an extravagant expense?

If this occurs with friends, it’s usually easy to say something. But what about co-workers? This happened once early on in my time at my current company and I was flabbergasted by the entire situation. I mean, how stingy can one be around people whom she sees as important networking contacts down the line? As far as my company goes, it seems that all of this has balanced itself out over time. Colleagues who have gotten new jobs with great promotions have covered entire bills, and in the long run I’m likely out of the red when it comes to overspending on my meals in aggregate costs. Obviously it doesn’t always work out that way. It’s important to fit into company culture and go out with co-workers to social lunches, happy hours, etc, but it can be costly. How much is networking worth?

PF Jitters

My $6000 was officially transferred from the safety of my Maximizer checking account into my IRA and Mutual Fund investment accounts. I’m excited about taking the investment leap myself, but nervous as all hell that the leap might be futile, or worse. I’m pretty comfortable with the $3000 I put to my Roth IRA. It’s in a nice Retirement 2050 plan that’s already diversified with my retirement date in mind. And since Vanguard seems to be a pretty reputable company, I’m not too worried. However, the $3000 I put towards that Mid-Cap Growth Index Fund is probably a bad idea.

As of 10:25am, my $3000 in my mutual fund is down 5 cents, and my $3000 in my IRA is up 3 cents. Why is a 2-cent loss making me so god-damn nervous? And furthermore, why is my Mutual Fund down 5 cents when looking at the day’s activity in the fund, it should be up a bit? I’m rather confused right now. Maybe it dropped down the second I put my money in. I know I’m going to be anal about checking how the fund is doing, despite that I’m going to try to force myself to keep my money in there for a few years (until grad school) unless someone more knowledgeable than me advises me otherwise.

I’m kind of glad I’m prohibited from getting involved in the nitty gritty of stock trading (due to covering technology companies that I’d like want to invest in), so I’ll likely avoid making any major investment mistakes. Still, putting $3000 in an account that could drop down to $2000 in a few days makes me rather nervous. I mean, the largest investment I’ve ever made with my money thus far was that godawful CD with a 3.1 % interest rate. I put $7000 into that a few months after I got out of college. It seemed like the wise thing to do at the time. It was an 18-month CD, and I figured since I had upwards of $30k in savings somehow, I could spare $7000 for such a “risky” investment. Well, it felt risky at the time.

Sadly enough, I didn’t bother to call my bank when the CD matured, thinking that it would just automatically transfer to my checking or savings account and I could deal with it then. Of course, now I know that CD’s automatically reinvest themselves at the same rate, for the same amount of time. So now I have my $7000 (which is at about $7400 after gaining the 18 months of Interest, which I guess is better than nothing) tied up in this low-interest CD. Meanwhile I recently saw an ad on Bank of America for an 8-month 5.01 % CD and I threw $5000 at that. For some reason they haven’t processed my CD investment yet, though. I guess I have to call them and confirm some things before they can pull my money from my checking account and put it in the CD.

In more exciting news, since last weekend I’ve made $1.57 since enrolling in BankofAmerica’s “Keep the Change” program. It’s kind of neat – every time you use your debit card, they roll your spending cost up to the nearest dollar and deposit the difference in your bank account. So, for instance, if you spend $1.01, they’ll toss in 99 cents. Of course, most purchases end up being, like, $2.92, so in that case you only get 8 cents. But over the course of one week and eight transactions, I’ve afforded myself a small coffee. I also apparently racked up $2.46 in my AdSense account somehow. I guess that means people are actually reading my page. That’s exciting! Extra income, even $4 a week, is certainly helpful. I’m nervous about this AdSense account thing, though. I’ve read some horror stories about how Google has shut down accounts if you click on your own links. And it’s not like I’m going to do it on purpose, but sometimes I’m not thinking and I’m actually interested in an advertisement shown on my page. I’ve never had to restrict myself from clicking something. So hopefully I can restrain myself.

On another note, I’m saving some money this month because I’ve offered a friend who’s recently moved to the area a place to crash until she finds a place. I wasn’t going to make her pay anything, but since she offered I figured I’d split my rent and pro-rate it. So that comes out to $15 a day. And I’m also possibly designing some websites for my friends for a rather small fee (compared to my normal rate.) But I never count my freelance money as income. It’s always “extra,” although in actually due to my poor spending habits and inability to keep a budget, I’m lucky if my freelance wages cover all the cash I’ve spent in a month.

So salary-wise, make about $2200 a month after taxes. (Though this year I ended up owing a lot in taxes and I haven’t done anything with the W4, so I’m figuring I make about $2100 a month, really. $905 of that goes to rent & utilities (PG&E, water, trash, etc are “included” in my rent). Oh, what the hell, here’s a list of my basic fixed monthly costs:

$905 — Rent (includes utilities) – Going up to $1050 per month in July, plus requiring renter’s insurance.
$60 – Verizon Cell Phone Bill, if I remember to pay it on time and don’t use 411, etc.
$64 – RCN TV & Internet
$8 – the converter box from RCN that I’ve yet to find time to return, that I’m apparently “renting” on a monthly basis
$5 – RCN “Home networking” – on my RCN bill, but I have no idea what this is. WTF?
——————————
$1038 total for now
$1188 + whatever rent’s insurance costs in July.

Now, time for some depressing figures…

My spending on rent currently is 45 percent of my income (you’re only supposed to spend 20-30 percent of your income on rent, I hear.) In July, sans a raise (and I doubt I’m getting a raise anytime soon) I’ll be spending 50 percent (or more) of my income on rent.

It doesn’t take a personal finance blogger to tell me that’s a terrible idea.

I’ve been thinking about writing a post about why on earth I live alone in the SF Bay Area on $35k a year, so I think I’ll write that up over my lunch break later this afternoon.

In any case, with $1050 left for all the other things in life outside of basic housing, TV, Internet and phone, I just keep overspending. It doesn’t help matters that I’m spending upwards of $350 a month in gas to get to my various rehearsals that are 40 or so miles from my home (my “hobby” is doing community theater – which is free, outside of gas mileage and makeup for shows and the like.)

But hey, at least I made $1.57 in “keep the cents” change. Then again, Bank of America, for some reason, has that $1.57 noted as a “spend” in my checking account. So I’m down $1.57 for the time being. What’s up with that? Grr.

Agism & Career

Business magazines love to gush over CEOs who barely left the crib. In December, BusinessWeek ran a story on “CEOs 40 and Under.” Meanwhile Forbes highlighted “America’s Youngest CEOs,” who were all around 33 years of age. But most of their success as an entrepreneur began in college or soon thereafter. Then you’ve got Red Herring’s “Tech Tots” who are all under 30 years of age… some are even as young as 17.

Each age has its benefits and hindrences, even though at some point age stops mattering, or so I’ve been told. Additionally, being female, age has further significance when it comes to how others view you in a work enviornment.

Since I can’t speak for 40 year olds or 30 year olds or 27 year olds, I’ll focus on what I know best.

I’m 23 years old. What does that mean? Well, I’m certainly no longer 18. That seems to be the last age with a real clear definition in my mind. Once upon a time 21 seemed like a big milestone, but two years past that birthday, I see little has changed upon passing that overrated celebration of aging flesh and mind. 18 meant something. It wasn’t at all about getting the right to vote, or to gyrate naked on some dirty, wealthy man in a strip club had I any desire to do so. It was just the year that I legally grew out of being my parent’s kid and became my own person. Of course that took a few years to accept, but when I turned 18 I stopped being a kid and became, well, sort of an adult.

Then the years flew by. Heck, that was nearly six years ago. I was a freshman in college then. Somehow I managed to wrap up undergrad in four years. Two years later, I’m an entry-level worker in the wonderful world of reality.

The first year I got out of college was really tough for me. I didn’t quite understand how old I was, I just felt like this 14 year old playing dress up when I went on job interviews. I’d put on some suit, fix my makeup, ensure my lip gloss was no more than a nanometer out of place, and headed off in my “new” used car, and attempted to promote my greatness to some stranger who responded with little more than a nod.

How I got through that year, I’ll never know. There were certainly days when I could have called it quits. I’m glad I stuck it out, though.

After all of that, I landed a full-time job. As I noted before, I work in the editorial department of a magazine. Being as I work in business journalism, the people I work with are extremely smart. They’re also all at least four years older than me. That is, others who have the same title I do (and started after me) are at least four years older. Most of them have advanced degrees. So it’s just an awkward spot for me to be in… given that in order to prove myself I not only have to prove that I’m a hard worker and talented enough for my age and experience, I have to prove somehow that I’m really just as smart and talented and motivated as my colleagues who’ve been around the professional block.

It feels weird for admitting my age to co-workers to feel like such a dirty thing. If someone asks me how old I am at work, it feels like they might as well ask me which site I prefer to surf for my weekly dosage of porn viewing. It’s not something I like to discuss publically. I’m embarressed by it. I’m only 23. Then again, people can be successful at any age. Folks are getting into Stanford at 18 (there goes my Ivy Envy again) and they’ve surely accomplished great feats well before filling out their college applications. When it comes to success, age is irrelevant.

But so much of my profession is about being respected and getting to know sources. So much of it is about being able to, well, talk the talk and walk the walk. And to be honest I still feel like that little girl playing dress up. I don’t know if the feeling is enhanced because I’m female or what… one of my co-workers, a female, told me once that she feels like we’re working in a boys club… and it’s true. One out of maybe 400 venture capitalists is female (this is a guess, but it’s likely true), and the stats are probably similiar for CEOs.

Of course the topic of gender requires it’s own entry and… I’m not about to write three entries in one night. 🙂 But age in itself is an issue worth discussing. There’s a feeling towards people who “just graduated.” It just so happens these days “just graduated” doesn’t really give away a person’s age. Plenty of people went to community college, took a few years off, and maybe wrapped up their schooling in their mid-20s. Well, I started undergrad at 17 and I was out by 21.

I’m really tired of hearing that I’m “young” and “inexperienced.” Yes, that’s true, but it’s not like I’m oblivious to the fact. And while I’d like to think I do a good job given… my age, my “experience,” and my abilities… I’m not sure what is “enough.” I believe that if I were male I’d be treated a lot differently. Sure I’d still be “young” and “inexperienced,” but I think my age would matter less.

Am I still “entry-level” just because I’m young? Sometimes I feel like I need to be at least 25, or have a higher degree to be considered anything but entry level. But that’s just my mind playing tricks on me and my billions of insecurities, right?

Who is Superior? Response to a Comment…

“John M said… I can relate to Ivy envy. I live near Boston on the East Coast (Harvard, MIT, etc.). It shuts you out of some really special positions. Most of suffer from not living up to our expectations. We percieve others as being superior to us, and that we are failures for not being perfect. I look at decisions that I have to make in the future and I realize that compromises have to made. There are many people with ADD who are successful. There are many people who aren’t book smart who are successful. Our perception of success may seem difficult because of the challenges we face. I am not perfect, but that will not stop me, nor should it stop you from being successful.”

John,

Thanks for leaving me a comment. I’m not sure if you’ll return to my blog or not, but I figured I’d respond to our comment in a new post.

I figured that the Boston area is similiar to the Bay Area in the way that either you’re “one of them” or you aren’t. I can’t complain about the whole situation much, though, because I just love being around smart people. It inspires me. I’d rather live here than in middle-of-nowhere hicksville, where 50 percent of the population doesn’t know how to multiply past single digits. But I’m also glad I’m not the only one who feels such Ivy Envy.

It’s interesting that we all view other people as being superior to us. I guess everyone does that, even people who are extremely smart with… proper pedigree. I realize that success is not defined by what school you attended, and that there are plenty of people who are successful sans any degree at all. Yet I feel trapped by my understanding of myself and my abilities. I’m terrified of risk, even though compared to some I’m quite a risk taker (I moved away from home for college and never looked back, I live on my own now, support myself, etc, etc). I figure one thing required for success is the ability to see failure as a byproduct, albeit hopefully a temporary one, of any opportunity worth chasing.

I’m sure ADD isn’t what will hold me back in the long run. So I have a hard time focusing and It’s in my nature to be terribly disorganized. But I’m a big idea person, and when I put my mind to something I’m always the person that puts in 200 percent.

I’m now tempted to write an entry on age in the workplace, so I’m going to sign off here for this entry and move on to the next.

Again thanks for your comment John. I hope you return to my blog. I love comments. 🙂

Ivy Envy

Two years ago, when I was just a wee soon-to-be college grad, I hadn’t a clue what “job stability” meant. I was all wide-eyed and bushy tailed, expecting my B.F.A. to ensure everything in life would work itself out, given a short bit of things smoothing themselves out.

I really had no idea what I was in for. I’m lucky, I have a savings, I know my parents are there for me if I’m desperate (although with the amount of savings I have and my history with the ‘rents, I’d rather run myself into serious debt than beg them for help.)

So after a year of interning for a slave’s wage, I found myself a full time job in the editorial department of fairly small magazine startup. I’ve been there for about a year. It’s been a great ride, that’s for sure, and I’m learning tons. What I’m not getting, however, is a promotion in title or salary, despite that I’m a fairly dedicated worker and I’ve put a lot of hard work into the job.

Besides all that, it looks as though the company is slowly but surely falling to pieces. It could always surprise me and make a fortune, but there’s been an increased dosage of pessimism that leaves me thinking I’m likely going to be out of job in a month or two, or maybe three at most.

Meanwhile, my apartment complex raised my rent to $1050 from $905 (utilities included) for my comfy studio apartment. Gosh, I can’t believe I’m paying $1050 for a studio, but that’s the cost of living in the Bay Area. I know, I know, I should live with other people because at $35k a year, I can’t really afford to live alone.

But the thing is, I’ve been depressed my whole life until I finally got my own place, and suddenly my brain and emotions have stabilized. Living on my own, I figure, includes the cost of therapy I no longer need (or at least no longer desperately need).

Still, expenses are tight, as I’m spending about $200 more than what I earn per month. It’s do-able with my savings, but obviously I can’t live that way forever. I kind of figure that eventually I’ll be making more money (hopefully sooner than later) and if I can manage to make at least $45k a year I’ll be set.

I mean, I’m a spender. I buy things. But I also rarely buy big ticket items. I’m the type that goes into the drug store for shampoo and leaves having spent $78. I did that today. I love little things. Sometimes I need them, sometimes I don’t. I’d never spend more than $70 on a shirt, and I usually try to find clothes at sale retailers like Marshalls or Nordstrom Rack. I’m rather stingy, for the most part. Or so I think. It’s just all the little costs add up. And then I’m left looking at bright red numbers with a minus sign in front of them on my budget reports in Quicken.

Sometimes I feel like I’m hopeless. When I lose this job, I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I’ve considered graduate school but the thought of taking the savings I have and spending it all on more schooling, plus going into debt over it, makes me want to puke. I mean, I’d be going to grad school for journalism, and the reality is that the salary I’d make at a job post graduate studies is equal or lower to what I’m making now. That’s just how the field works.

Meanwhile, my job prospects at the moment are pretty dim. They’re definitely not as bad as they were last year, when I was a college grad with a degree in the arts and basically no experience minus a few internships. I’m way ahead of that in terms of experience now, but still, I feel like the only jobs outside of journalism I can get are in PR. And not that there is anything wrong with PR, it’s a perfectly practical and admirable profession, it’s just not something I can see myself getting passionate about.

There are SO many things I want to do with my life, and I’m trying hard to do each and every one of them, but some things I just, well, I need more training to do, and I’m not sure how feasible that is. For instance, I’d love to learn how to code web applications, to work for a local startup as a project manager, to somehow magically obtain some serious computer science skills and build out a career from there. Of course it’s a bit late for that. I know HTML and some CSS and that’s about it.

Well, long story short, when I’m out of a job in a few months, I really don’t know what’s next. I’m looking for another position now, mostly because I don’t want to be left out cold. But I also want to take the next step in my career, as it doesn’t seem possible at my current company. I just have no idea where I ought to step, and meanwhile I’m just frustrated with myself for failing to be good enough for my company. It’s tough, I’m not an Ivy League grad, and for good reason. I’m smart, but I’m not book smart. I’m not as smart as 99 percent of the people who work at my company. And I try, believe me I try, but it’s hard to know that my brain perhaps doesn’t have the ability to keep up with my co-workers.

But that’s just what it’s like in Silicon Valley. Everyone here is smart. Everyone here seems to have graduated from Berkeley or Stanford. Well, I didn’t. I’ve got Ivy Envy, and for good reason. Tons of the interesting entry- or junior-level job ads on craigslist note that they’d prefer (or require) the applicant to have a degree from a “top university.” Thus, I’m out of the running.

Sometimes I wonder what the difference is between someone like me and a graduate of one of those top schools. Obviously they’re able to focus better and be more efficient with their time. Are they really all smarter than me? What is intelligence anyway? And can I be successful despite having a terrible case of ADD and perhaps not having an IQ that would allow me to so much as get an interview for a job at, say, Google?