The Role of Women in Romantic Comedies

sandrabullockIt has become a widely accepted fact that the plots of romantic comedies are just not realistic (for further proof, see here and here). Growing up with the now often-parodied teen flicks of the 90s and early 2000s, I can attest to the fact that the movies I watched when I was younger played a huge role in the misconceptions that I and so many of my peers had when it came to relationships. If a guy treats you poorly, he likes you. If you argue a lot with another person, it means you have chemistry. And if all else fails, you’ll probably just wind up with your best friend anyway.

I think we can agree that these misconceptions are harmful, but until recently, I didn’t stop to think just how harmful their portrayals of women could be. Most female characters fall into two categories: desperate to fall in love and get married (think of Ginnifer Goodwin in He’s Just Not That Into You), or too career-driven to ever want or attract a man (Sandra Bullock in Two Weeks Notice, The Proposal, Miss Congeniality or perhaps any other movie she has ever been in). Let’s call this second character Jane.

No-Strings-Attached_240These movies do an incredible disservice to Jane and characters like her because they paint them as cold, out of touch and clearly Missing Something. In fact, there is usually a best friend character prone to “messy” relationships who summarizes this sentiment early in the film by stating that Jane is so set in her ways and afraid of getting hurt that she risks finding true happiness. Also, would it kill her to put on a little more makeup and wear her hair down once in a while?

Never mind the fact that Jane loves what she does for a living and is well suited for it. Pop culture tells us that the woman who focuses “too much” on her career is simply doing so to distract herself from finding a soul mate. Only when she lets her hair down (literally and figuratively) and demonstrates some form of vulnerability, perhaps by crying or getting drunk in front of the male love interest, does she open herself up to a happy life. Only then does she truly become the character we like and root for. After all, what man would want to be with a woman who enjoys her job?

In real life, there are gradients between these extremes. Women who love their careers and enjoy being in a relationship do exist. In addition, there are plenty of men who like independent women. Why do we have to box ourselves into these two very limited categories? (And for the women who don’t ever visualize themselves in a relationship, who are we to judge?)

ginnifer-goodwin-purple-nails-he's-just-not-that-into-you-nubar-pasadena-purpleWe value a woman’s willingness to be in a relationship as a trait to be valued, but not her independence. In the movies, Jane’s “independence” is clearly just a wall she put up after someone hurt her, a wall that is meant to be broken down by the male lead. (Jane’s best friend or love interest in the film may actually use the whole “wall” metaphor in a big speech that makes her realize just how closed off she has been the entire time.)

If a woman rejects a man or decides to put her career first, pop culture labels her as cold. (Tweet this!) What the movies – and the people who watch them! – fail to think about is the fact that we all have different priorities at different points in our lives, and while a woman may hope to marry and have babies someday, she might not be ready for that stage.

There are a few exceptions to the romantic comedy genre that don’t posit relationships and careers as an either/or for women, but all too often, pop culture dictates that we must choose (and that “career” is the wrong choice). Society – and women especially – need to remember that these options are not mutually exclusive, and that they can have both.

The Freshman 15: How to Shine at Your Summer Internship

freshman15-internshipWith the June solstice just days away, many of us are already feeling the heat of summer. From beach days to lighter class schedules, summer can be the perfect time to soak in the sun and relax before life resumes its craziness in the fall. However, for many, summer can also be a great time for college students to gain real world experience (and earn extra cash!) through job shadowing and internships.

During the summer before my senior year, I interned part-time at a public relations agency, which allowed me to fulfill the role of an entry level employee while learning a lot about my craft and adding new writing samples to my portfolio. Throughout college, I participated in three other internships as well, each building on the skills I acquired during the previous one.

The people you meet at your internships will serve as important contacts throughout your career, and the experiences you have (both positive and negative) will guide you in your professional life later on. Because of this, it is important to give each internship your all, and learn how to stand out in the best way possible! This month, we’ll discuss 15 tips you can bring along to any internship you pursue.

The Freshman 15: How to Shine at Your Summer Internship

1. Dress the part!
I’ve talked about this time and time again, but the way you present yourself plays a huge role in how you are perceived. When I worked part-time in Career Services, I was amazed at what some of the students wore to job fairs – skirts that were too short, clothes that were too see-through (hint: anything see-through is too see-through!), outfits that were about three levels too casual. If it’s something you would wear to a club, it’s probably not something you should wear in an office environment. If your office allows casual clothes from time to time, follow the lead of the other employees, and if you are allowed to wear jeans to work, at least make sure they don’t have holes or tons of embellishments. As an intern, you are likely younger than most (if not all) of the people in the office, but if you dress that way, you probably won’t be taken as seriously regardless of the quality of your work.

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Alice-White-Rabbit_l2. Arrive early.
When I was a cheerleader in high school and our coaches scheduled practices, they always stressed that early was “on time,” and “on time” was late. In other words, arriving at least a few minutes early was the expectation, not the exception. This can apply to your professional life as well. Showing up a little early demonstrates that you care about the job at hand and that you’re willing to put in the extra time and effort.

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3. Do your research.
You may receive a formal introduction to the company when you arrive on Day One, or your internship coordinator may throw you an assignment right away. I’ve experienced a mix of both throughout my internships, and the best way to handle it is to prepare yourself ahead of time. Familiarize yourself with the company by visiting its website and social media pages, as well as any relevant news articles about them. This will make things less overwhelming as you adapt to a new environment, and will allow you to ask more specific questions and have better conversations with the full-time staff. It also shows that you have dedicated time outside of the office to learn about the company and that you care about what you are doing.

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4. Keep copies of everything.
Because my internships involved a lot of writing opportunities, I was able to keep physical and electronic copies of my press releases, pitch letters and published articles for my own records. As long as your work is not confidential, make sure you collect copies of everything you do so that you can refer back to them later on. Future internships and employers may want to see samples of previous work, so you will be able to present those much more easily if you already have them (instead of scrambling to ask former internship employers to email them your way). When I interviewed for my full-time job after college, I was able to provide a portfolio of past work that I can now refer back to if I need inspiration for current writing assignments. I can also look back at those pieces and see how much my writing has improved over time!

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5. Ask others what you can expect.
If you have a friend or classmate who has interned with this company in the past, ask them about their experiences! Your peers can be your best resources, and chances are, they will be happy to share. You can learn a lot about a company’s culture this way, which plays a huge role in how comfortable you feel in the workplace and whether or not you see a future there. Conversely, I have returned the favor and  answered questions for friends pursuing internships and full-time employment at some of the places I have worked, and it has been rewarding to do so. If you don’t know anyone who has interned there, see if your friends know anyone who has, and request introductions through LinkedIn or in some other way. You’ll be amazed at how willing people are to help one another. If the company is big enough, you may also be able to read reviews by employees on sites like Glassdoor.

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tumblr_inline_n6cjumawXi1qlr65v6. Take notes.
Take notes on everything – what you did each day, what feedback you received from your employer, what assignments you have received for the next week. These notes will help you perform your job better, but they will also help you remember some of the seemingly minor day-to-day tasks you fulfilled as well. You may wonder why those could be important, but in future semesters, you may come across another internship or job that requires that experience, and you’ll be able to include it on a more targeted resume. For more of my tips for a winning resume, click here.

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7. Do not badmouth the employer.
Even if your experience is less than ideal, you don’t want to burn bridges with potential contacts. Don’t post that your internship “sucks” on Facebook or say negative things about specific people through social media. In person, be careful what you say as well – you never know who knows somebody who knows somebody else, and regardless of all that, you don’t want to be regarded as the difficult person to work with. I don’t care how “private” your social media is; once you publish something on the Internet, it is never really gone.

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Studio Portrait of the Village People8. Take on new roles that are slightly outside of your comfort zone.
An internship is a learning experience, so you have to make the most of it! If the employer believes in you enough to entrust you with a task that you’ve never done before, then you need to believe in yourself enough to do it! Ask questions and do some research along the way, but allow yourself to try new things and learn from them. There is a first time for everything, and even in my current role, I find myself doing things I didn’t think I was capable of doing. On my first day at one of my internships, I was asked to work the teleprompter for a local talk show, even though I wasn’t interning in television. I was apprehensive about being allowed anywhere near all of that expensive equipment, but now I can say I’ve mastered the art of the teleprompter! Learn as much as you can every day, and you will get so much more out of your internship. (Tweet this!) It will also show the employer your versatility, and you may be asked to return for another semester.

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9. Be willing to take criticism.
We love to be showered with praise, but realistically, this isn’t how we grow in our professions. When you receive constructive criticism, take it. It can be hard to hear, especially in the beginning when you are still adjusting to a new work climate, but it is the only way you’ll get better at what you do. Don’t be overly defensive or sensitive – it’s (probably) not personal.

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messy-desk110. Maintain a neat workspace.
This may sound silly, but when your desk is reasonably organized, people automatically assume you’re a reasonably organized person and worker as well. You could be the best intern the company has ever had, but if your cubicle looks like a tornado has gone through it, other employees may make negative judgments. Keep your space neat and take pride in it, especially if you share that space with someone else.

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11. Accept tasks with a smile.
Be positive and don’t let yourself be “too big” for a task. While your internship should not consist solely of brewing coffee and taking down phone messages, realize that sometimes you may be expected to do those things. Be a team player. If you find that you aren’t doing a lot of what you signed up for, talk to your internship coordinator politely. Don’t complain – instead, tell him or her about your interest in a specific project or work function, and ask if you would be able to assist with that. Communicating with your boss instead of rolling your eyes or complaining to your mom via text will be much more productive and will allow you to actually change things.

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12. Get to know others on staff.
You may be a marketing major who is interning in the company’s marketing department, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to know people in human resources, information technology or other departments. Meet as many people as you can, and have real conversations with them about what they do in their role and how they got to where they are today. Show the initiative. You may learn that you enjoy another aspect of the company or simply that you’ve found a new mentor.

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love-exclamations13. Learn proper email etiquette.
Even in a professional setting, I still receive the occasional email written in all caps! Proofread before sending an email, especially company-wide. “Reply all” if multiple people are included on an email. Make sure you’ve attached whatever you need to attach before hitting “send.” Sometimes I like to write the email in its entirety before adding the recipients so that I can avoid sending the email too early. And of course, spell out full words – no “netspeak” that the older generations are always complaining about! It makes our generation look lazy. :)

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14. Make the experience your own.
Keep the lines of communication open. If there is something you would like to be doing at this internship and haven’t been able to do so far, just ask. The worst thing that can happen is that your internship coordinator says no, but then that leaves you right where you started. By asking the right questions, I ended up with so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise: I received on-air media training, I helped coordinate a press conference at a missile museum, I sat in on a radio interview and even transcribed a speech for Bill Clinton (and wrote an article about it). The people at your internship know that you are there to learn, so chances are, they will be open to personalizing the experience for you if you put forth the effort.

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15. Keep in touch.
With the invention of email and social media, there is no excuse not to stay in touch with employers after the internship experience is over. One of my biggest regrets from college was not doing a better job of keeping up with some employers once the new semester began, and it is the greatest wisdom I can pass on to you. Chances are, you are not going to find a job through a job listing when you graduate – you will probably instead find that job through the contacts you make along the way. Even if the company you interned for isn’t hiring when you graduate, they may be able to pass your information over to someone else in the industry who is. They can serve as references and role models as you pursue your career further, so send them an email every now and then to see what they are up to.

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For those pursuing internships this summer and in upcoming semesters, best of luck! Internships can be some of the most rewarding experiences you have in college, and you will be able to apply the lessons you’ve learned in the classroom. For more of my tips on how to stand out professionally while you’re in college, click here.

The Seven Deadly Sins of College Life

sevendeadlysinscollegeNow that freshman orientation sessions are in full bloom, it’s time to start thinking about your first year in college. It can be tricky to navigate those first few semesters of your undergraduate career, but with the right tools and resources, you can still succeed both academically and personally.

As you prepare for a new life on campus, keep these “deadly sins” in mind, and be sure to avoid them at all costs!

The Seven Deadly Sins of College Life

1. Lust.
Whether you’re new to the dating world or you just ended things with your high school sweetheart, it is easy to fall prey to this first vice. Unless you attend a religious school, you’ll most likely have more dating freedom than ever before when you first set foot on campus. You should take advantage of that freedom… to an extent. Meet new people, but don’t date every guy who lives in your dorm building just for the convenience or excitement factor. Remember that college is also a time to form other important relationships, like lasting friendships and mentorships. (For tips on how to survive your college relationships, visit my Freshman 15 post here.)

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2. Gluttony.
Once you’ve moved into the dorms, you will be exposed to more free junk food than you’ve possibly ever seen in your life. If you’re not careful, pizza can and will become a staple in your diet, as it seems to be served at most campus events and nearly every day in the dining halls. With more access to unhealthy food than you know what to do with, you may experience weight gain or other unwanted health issues. Allow yourself to indulge every now and then, but make sure you still get your fruits and vegetables, too!

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3. Greed.
If you decide to live in the dorms, chances are you will have a roommate. Regardless of your floor plan, you will need to learn to share your spaces effectively. Don’t be greedy and allow your belongings to take up the entire dorm room! Instead, talk to your roommate about those shared spaces so that you can coexist peacefully. (For other ideas on topics to discuss with roommates before move-in, click here.)

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No, not THAT kind of sloth!

No, not THAT kind of sloth!

4. Sloth.
Don’t let yourself get lazy in college! This often happens because of the freedom college allows students to choose their own class times and be accountable for their own work. Your class might not take attendance, but you will still see repercussions if you decide not to show up. You may have the ability to take all of your classes after noon, but if you run the risk of sleeping in even later and losing productivity time, is it really worth it? Without your parents or guardians around to wake you up for school or urge you to finish your homework, you have to push yourself to do these things on your own. Set alarms. Make lists. Learn how to manage your time effectively. These things will not only help you succeed in college, but they will also benefit you long after graduation.

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5. Wrath.
Because of all the changes you will experience in college, you may be dealing with a lot of emotions. You also might have trouble coping with difficult situations because you are still getting used to a new support system and environment. However, it’s important not to take these things out on the people in your life. Learn how to control your emotions and find what makes you happy when you’re struggling the most. When in doubt, visit an advisor or your university’s counseling center for a shoulder to lean on. These resources can truly make all the difference when you need a nudge in the right direction.

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6. Envy.
While you’re in school, you’ll likely meet a few people who seem to Have It All. These people seem to be in perfect relationships, are super involved on campus, win every award known to man, have more friends than they know what to do with and seem to be Better Than You in Every Way. I certainly knew a few people like this when I was in college, and it’s easy to become jealous. Of course, you’ll realize in time that everyone you meet is fighting a battle of their own, and that no one is living the perfect life. The best way to stop envying others for the lives they are living is to create the life you want for yourself. Get involved in the activities that interest you. Volunteer. Make new friends. Immerse yourself in your major. Figure out what will make you happy, and do that instead of dwelling on how much happier everyone else is. Your happiness will soon follow.

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7. Pride.
Admit your shortcomings and accept help from others. Early on in college, I knew quite a few people who felt they could do everything on their own, even when they couldn’t.  Although they struggled in some of their classes, they felt they were too smart to attend tutoring sessions or visit the professor during office hours. Their grades suffered because of this. I don’t know why our society raises us to think that asking for help is a sign of weakness, but you have to let go of that notion from the moment you start taking college classes. Don’t be “too smart” for your own good.

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If you could add an eighth deadly sin for college life, what would it be? Add your own in the comments section below!

The Weekend Five: Worst Boyfriends in History

henryred2When it comes to the world of dating, times have changed. From defining the relationship to breaking up on social media, our generation has definitely evolved in the way we look at love and heartbreak. We look back on the past as a simpler, more ideal time, when people went on dates before “going steady” and then marrying young. However, when we take another look back at relationships throughout history, we soon realize that things weren’t always hunky dory. When I think about some of these relationships, I am thankful I was born when I was, because for every awkward Facebook breakup today, there was at least one horrible king who beheaded his wife and moved on to the next.

We’ve talked about the worst boyfriends on TV and in literature (as well as the worst girlfriends on TV and in literature), so today it is time to take a little trip back in time for one of the most awkward history lessons you will ever encounter on this blog. Behold – history’s worst boyfriends!

I guarantee these men are much, much worse than even your most despised ex-boyfriend, or your money back. :)

The Weekend Five: Worst Boyfriends in History

1. King Henry VIII. For those who have read The Other Boleyn Girl, you may recall that Henry Tudor left his wife (the beloved Catherine of Aragon and mother of his first child) for Anne Boleyn, whom he later executed. But did you know that the English king went through four other marriages after that? One of those wives died in childbirth, but two of those marriages were annulled, one of which ended in the woman’s execution. Henry started his own religion just so he could get a divorce. If that isn’t a commitment-phobe, I don’t know what is.

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2. Ivan the Terrible. First of all, if the word “terrible” is regularly used to describe a man, is he really someone you want to be dating? Look at your life. Look at your choices. When he grew tired of his wives, he sent them off to the convent or worse, killed them. He also murdered his son and beat his pregnant daughter-in-law (leading to a miscarriage). Aside from some of the truly terrible things he is remembered for throughout history, let’s not forget his anger problems and untreated mental illnesses.

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imagesCA42RWO63. Rasputin. Pop culture might deem him “Russia’s greatest love machine,” but faith healer/mystic Gregori Rasputin would make a pretty controlling, manipulative significant other. By treating the Tsar’s youngest child, Alexei, Rasputin gained the trust of the Tsarina and had a huge influence on governmental affairs, leading to the downfall of the Russian monarchy. In modern day, Rasputin is that scraggly guy who finally wore you down for a date and ultimately became your boyfriend for five years, until you found out he was stealing your money the entire time.

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4. Emperor Nero. This Russian ruler was another monarch with a love for executions, including matricide. Not only did he kill his own mother (with whom he had a sexual relationship…ew), but he poisoned his stepbrother and kicked his pregnant second wife, resulting in her death. He also probably started the Great Fire of Rome.

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5. Vlad the Impaler. This is another classic example of why someone’s name might be a great reason to deter you from them. If you aren’t familiar with Vlad the Impaler, then you may have heard of him by another name: Dracula. Vlad the Impaler had a bloody reign, killing many perceived “traitors,” whether or not they had actually done anything to cause suspicion, and supposedly burned beggars after he allowed them to eat free food. If you do decide to begin a relationship with someone called “The Impaler,” you should be careful not to piss that person off!

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Who would you consider some of the worst boyfriends in history? Share your own thoughts in the comments section below!

Link Love THURSDAY: Terrible Real Estate, Frozen and Social Media Pre-Nups

6097da4d58773b2814cef7fea44965eeGood evening, readers, and happy June! How have you decided to start your month? I kicked off June with my third Whole 30 (because I am clearly insane!) and by participating in the 100 Happy Days challenge. For the next 100 days, I will photograph something that makes me happy – and I encourage you to do the same! If you’d like to see my progress (I’m on Day 4 so far), feel free to follow my Instagram!

Plenty of interesting/strange news has also come with the new month, so allow me to share this week’s batch of link love with you!

What links have you come across this week?

Dinner Table Etiquette: How to Talk to Someone With Dietary Restrictions

480845_601090163258974_1110035571_nFor the past few months, I have experimented with an elimination diet. Alternating between the strict Whole 30 program and a more relaxed, mostly clean eating lifestyle, I have learned a lot about myself and my reactions to certain foods. (As an added bonus, I experienced weight loss, increased energy levels, improved mood and the best skin of my life!)

During that time, I have discovered that no two people are exactly alike when it comes to what works best for them and what kind of diet/routine they can most realistically stick with. However, the more ingrained I become in my healthy new lifestyle, the more I have been met with skepticism and some very strange faux-concern, and the more that I have learned just how judgmental our society is regarding food and dietary restrictions.

I suppose I had witnessed some of this before, but never firsthand. When a vegetarian or vegan discusses his or her choice to stop eating meat or animal byproducts, naysayers are always quick to say, “That isn’t healthy at all! What about all those nutrients you are missing out on?” (The best part is when someone says this while eating something undeniably processed or bad for you, like a bag of Cheetos.) When someone mentions a gluten intolerance, we dismiss what might be a very real sensitivity for them as simply a fad diet. If a person’s choice in cuisine is different from our own, we lunge at the opportunity to correct him or her, regardless of how informed we really are.

Cartoon_--_crouton_makes_saladBack in February, I embarked on my first Whole 30. For the next 30 days, I eliminated gluten, added sugars, legumes, dairy and various processed foods. Since then, I have completed my second Whole 30 and am currently on Day 3 of my third. When I am not on the program, I occasionally add in some of the above foods in moderation, but find I have less of a craving for them and now am aware of which ones have had negative effects on me. While several people were skeptical (“What can you eat during this program?!?!?”) and it has certainly been a challenge (I love me some simple carbs), the program was actually quite similar to what my doctor had been suggesting to me for years.

And yet, we are quick to dismiss someone’s dietary restrictions or lifestyle because it doesn’t fit into our own nutritional ideals. Why? To me, the only other people whose opinions matter on this subject are my doctors and, to an extent, my parents. Aside from a few basic standards – fruits and vegetables are healthier than Dorito’s, for example – there are many points in nutrition and weight loss where people (especially non-professionals) are going to disagree. “Is paleo the way to go, or should I go on Weight Watchers?” “Should I weigh myself every day, or throw out my scale?” “Are grains really the enemy?” The trouble is, we each have different bodies, minds and relationships with food. Therefore, can we really all fit into one box? Should we?

2161-300x300When you meet someone whose dietary preferences or restrictions aren’t the same as yours, listen and be respectful. (Tweet this!) Ask questions if you wish to learn more, but don’t try to pressure another person into something just because you think it is the right way. (Of course, if a friend or family member is consuming dangerously too few calories or exhibiting signs of an eating disorder, you may want to step in. Again, be kind and check your judgment at the door – food and body image are very difficult and emotional issues for many people.)

I truly believe the Whole 30 has changed my life for the better, and will happily talk to friends who are curious about the program or about the less restrictive changes I’ve made. However, I don’t believe in pushing my views on somebody else. I know several vegans/vegetarians, people who keep Kosher, people who avoid gluten, people who count calories, people who want to lose weight and people who want to gain weight, and I believe that different bodies and minds will benefit from different routines. Aside from a few basic principles, there really is no one size fits all, so let’s not offer unsolicited advice that may not work as well for someone else as it does for us.

In short, be kind and don’t dismiss others. Isn’t that how we should be living our lives anyway? :-)

The Post-Grad 15: Advice from Readers

graduationTime to turn your tassels, ladies and gentlemen. Graduation is in the air! :)

Normally in May, I collect 15 tips from college students and alumni specifically geared toward your undergraduate years (see Year 1, Year 2 and Year 3), but my focus shifted slightly after receiving my Bachelor of Arts last year. After a year in the workforce, I shared 15 of the lessons I learned since graduation, and decided that this year’s advice from readers should also focus on life after graduation.

Whether you just graduated or are just beginning your college career, you will learn a lot from this month’s blog. Several talented bloggers and professionals have come together to provide their insight into life beyond the classroom, and I am happy to share their words of wisdom with each of you! Be sure to check out their blogs and social media, and add your own tips and questions in the comments section below.

Oh, and to all of those recent/upcoming graduates, congratulations!

The Post-Grad 15: Advice from Readers

1. “Make a list of every possible career path you can take with your degree, along with things that you find yourself doing in your spare time. Don’t immediately reject any opportunity you may come across either, no matter how off the wall it seems and especially if it’s on your list. Finally, stay positive throughout it all. You’ll figure out your career with time, so just enjoy this chapter of your life and know that the best is yet to come.”
- Nicole Simmons, University of Central Florida, Advertising/Public Relations major (Website: Nicole M. Simmons)

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perfectionist-image2. “Not everyone is going to work as hard as you. I’d like to believe I have always been a hard-working and diligent perfectionist. If I promise something is going to be done, it will get done (even if it means I practically sleep at the office). I have learned however, that even seasoned professionals don’t always work as hard as they should. Not everyone cares as much as you do, and it’s an obstacle you need to mentally overcome. Don’t let it discourage you from working to your potential.”
- Christina Frost, University of Florida, Applied Physiology & Kinesthesiology major

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3. “It’s a tough world and finding a job here in the UK, even as a graduate, is hard. Just go to Uni/College, do something you love and enjoy every minute. Employers don’t mind too much what your degree was in; they want to see you stuck to something that a lot of people can’t, and they will see you were determined to better yourself.”
- Kenzie Harvey, Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom), Performance for Stage & Screen major (Blog: Lemonaid Lies, Twitter: @LemonaidLies)

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4. “It’s okay to feel completely lost straight out of school. You spent the past 18ish years educating yourself and the world is a big adjustment, but you’re not alone. No one in their 20s has life all figured out, and if they do, they’re probably missing something huge. And always take time to take care of yourself.”
- Jennifer Zhou, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Chemical Engineering major (Twitter: @sprawlingdivide)

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lifebeginssmall5. “Step out of your comfort zone. If you want something you’ve never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.  Don’t be afraid to take chances.  One decision may change your life, but it certainly won’t ruin it.    It wasn’t until I left my job and blindly backpacked through Europe, that I found true happiness and purpose in my life.  Take the leap.  Believe in yourself.  Opportunities are everywhere, and it’s up to you to make your dreams come true.”
- Max Pankow, University of Florida, Finance major (Blog: Motivate Your Plate)

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6. “Here’s two things you should definitely do before you graduate: Apply for a study-abroad program and get an internship. You will be hard pressed to find a more eye-opening experience than living abroad on your own, and a degree is virtually useless without hands-on experience in today’s market.
- Jorge Rincón, University of Central Florida, Economics major

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7. “My advice is for college students to meet as many people as possible. Go to networking events, meetings and socials; join social and mentorship organizations; sign up or run for leadership positions to boost your presence in the community and show people what you can do. Make an impression. In the future, you’ll be remembered for your involvement and contributions, and your network will become one of the things you’re most thankful for.”
- Kevina Lee, University of Florida, Journalism major (Website: Kevina-Lee.com, Twitter:
@kevina_lee)

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72e0ad8cc08481dced5879b8099ea09c8. “A big change when moving from college to post-college life is that a lot of your built-in daily support system is displaced: roommates, friends, professors, RAs and other fixtures of college life are no longer quite as accessible as they once were. Sometimes the newfound ‘alone time’ or ‘quiet time’ feels strange or isolating as you navigate early adulthood.

But oftentimes, the moments that feel the most lonely are sometimes the best reminders you are connected to everyone else. Because everybody on this planet has experienced sadness, felt heartbreak, been sensitive to rejection, laid in bed at night with tears coming down their face. The moments that feel the most isolating are usually when you are experiencing the most universal feelings.

With that in mind, my best advice for post-college is to not be afraid to reach out when things feel tough. Something as simple as a text message that says “I feel sad today” to a friend or a parent can get you a little support, and help you deal with some unhappy feelings until things get better. Which they always do. Everything in life, and especially in your 20′s, is always getting just a tiny bit better, even if some weeks the ‘tiny bit’ feels extra tiny.”
- Molly Ford, Northeastern University, Smart Pretty and Awkward*

9. “Always remember that being good at something doesn’t make it exciting. Find what it is you’re passionate about and chase it for as long as it takes. Five years from now, you’ll be happy you did.”
- Mercedes Reinhard, University of Central Florida, Advertising/Public Relations major (LinkedIn: Mercedes Reinhard, Twitter: @isitbutadream_)

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Maybe this isn't the best example of mentorship, but you get the idea!

Maybe this isn’t the best example of mentorship, but you get the idea!

10. “My piece of post-grad advice is to find mentors who are able to guide you in areas of your life beyond just your career (but you need the career ones too) and seek out their advice when you need it or just check in and bounce ideas off of them. And no matter where your life plans and path take you, stay in touch!
- Kaitlin Border, University of Central Florida, Accounting major

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11. “My first year as a post graduate and young professional was wrought with highs and lows. I’ve learned so much that college didn’t prepare me for, but I wish someone has advised me to make time for myself and the things I find most important. I love my job, but I made a mistake in devoting myself COMPLETELY to my career. My advice is to focus on your career, but be sure to also make time for yourself, your friends, your family, and your health.”
- Beth Ginsburg, University of Central Florida, Elementary Education major

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12. “Talk to strangers. Actually, talk to everyone. This goes against one of the cardinal rules your parents taught you growing up, but now that you’re a “grown up,” toss that piece of advice out the window with your twin XL sheets and your astronomy textbook. Everyone has a story, or an idea, or a friend, or a piece of advice that has the potential to simply, yet chaotically, flip your entire world upside down. It’s important that you silence the butterflies in your stomach and reach your hand out to say hello and to introduce yourself to every person around you. Maybe you’re at a networking event and you’re just hanging, idly, by the bar. Or you’re sitting on a park bench, in silence, next to a guy who is also sitting there, in silence. Perhaps you’re on the subway admiring someone’s nail polish color or you’re in the elevator and the person is getting off at the same floor as you. That one ‘first move’ hello is all it takes in this real world to teach you something new. And in this real world, you won’t find lectures or a syllabus or a textbook the size of your coffee table to teach you things. The most important things you’ll learn out here come from the people standing right next to you. It’s that simple.”
- Jen Glantz, University of Central Florida, English and Journalism major (Blog: The Things I Learned From, Book: All My Friends Are Engaged, Twitter: @tthingsilearned

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prof-farnsworth13. “University leaders will be your advocate. It is very easy to get wrapped up in academics, friends, and social life that you might forget about the other people on your college campus who have the potential to strengthen your network.  Some of the most influential and interesting people at college are the employees that work at your university.  The directors of the departments, the deans of admission and administration, the list goes on. These people can not only mentor you throughout your undergraduate career but can also help set groundwork for your career by inviting you to attend important dinners with university leaders or even make a call to a friend for your first job interview. In my personal experience, the leaders at my university laid the groundwork for some of the most important experiences on my resume.  I participated in small job opportunities in their organization and that small job turned into lifelong relationships that still positively influence my professional journey.”
- Lexi Butler, Stanford University, Communications and Spanish major (CEO of The Grown Up Truth, Twitter: @lbee27)

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14. “Don’t take things, or yourself, too seriously, and stop worrying about the little things outside of your control. You are still young, in your early- to mid-twenties, and contrary to what you may think, you do not know everything. You’ll face adversity in time, so be prepared to roll with the punches that life will throw you, and remind yourself that you are not entitled to anything (besides being treated decently by others, which you should do as well). Work hard and be persistent with what you want in life, but be sure to make the time to take care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually.”
- Branden McCreary, University of Central Florida, Pre-Clinical Health Sciences

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15. “If a recent graduate has a specific job in mind during the application process, I would advise them to research former employees who had the same position. As important as it is to get to know who you’d be working with, it’s even more important to learn where a job might lead – did those individuals get the skills they needed in this position to land a killer job at the next level? If you feel it’s appropriate, you should even reach out to them to ask how their experience was.
- Kacie Boniberger, University of Central Florida, Advertising/Public Relations (Twitter: @kacieboniberger)

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A huge thank you to our wonderful contributors! :) Be sure to check out their blogs and social media.

Readers, what tips would you offer to upcoming/recent grads?

Link Love Wednesday: Remembering Maya Angelou

maya angelou“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.” – Maya Angelou

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This morning, I was devastated to learn about the passing of great American author and activist Maya Angelou. I first fell in love with her powerful writing during my sophomore year of college, when we read her poetry in a women’s literature class, and that love soon extended to her other noted work. Maya Angelou was truly an inspiration to so many of us, and I firmly believe that her work will continue to empower women and men alike for years to come.

The Five Most Popular Themes of Country Music

conway twittyLast summer, I found myself listening to country music. I’d grown sick of a lot of the Top 40 songs on the radio, and decided to give a new station a try. During that time, I developed an appreciation for artists I’d never heard and a genre I’d never enjoyed until then (except for this song, which introduced me to country music in my childhood… thanks, Mom).

Although I still wouldn’t call myself a diehard country music fan, I did pick up on some common themes the longer I listened to it! A few years ago, I wrote about the popular themes of pop music and rap music, so of course I had to follow up with a blog all about the popular themes of modern country music!

Disclaimer: This was all written in good fun, so I hope no country fans take offense to it! I like to poke fun at all genres. :)

The Five Most Popular Themes of Country Music

1. Nostalgia for summer, small towns and women.
Country artists are a nostalgic bunch, and many of their songs seem to be inspired by idyllic summers in small towns (which are written to be better than larger towns and cities in every way). These memory-laden songs often, though not always, reflect on first loves — whether or not those relationships are still intact. Country songs often reflect on a simpler time, when life was easier and things were done the “right” way.

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8ee9ee46742eb5b888815f5ffd8045772. Sweet, sweet revenge.
For every nostalgic country song, there is at least one revenge anthem to counteract it. In Carrie Underwood’s song Before He Cheats, she digs her key into the side of her ex’s “pretty little souped-up four wheel drive” and carves her name into his leather seats… pretty vengeful, if you ask me! Of course, Miranda Lambert’s Gunpowder and Lead is easily my favorite song in this category, even if the lyrics are actually quite terrifying. (Guys, revenge solves nothing, okay?)

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3. Pickup trucks.
Not to stereotype, but pickup trucks are a big deal in country music. These songs don’t resonate as much with me as many of the others, but there’s something to be said for how much the artists care about their vehicles!

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4. America.
Say what you will about country musicians, but they are nothing if not patriotic. :)

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5. Long-lasting love and heartbreak.
Compared to other genres of music, I’ve heard fewer country songs about one-night stands and many more about long-term relationships, marriages and deep heartbreak. Pop music may have some romantic songs that hit the charts (here’s looking at you, John Legend), but I’m not sure if any compare to the sweetness of Thompson Square’s song Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not? or Gloriana’s Kissed You Good Night. Of course, these are common themes in all genres of music, but it would be crazy not to bring it up for this one because it comes up quite often.

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What are some of the common themes you’ve picked up on in country music?

Link Love Wednesday: Tina Belcher Edition

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Happy Hump Day! The weekend may seem far away, but keep your chin up: it’s a long weekend. :) In the meantime, enjoy this batch of Link Love and hold on tight. Friday will be here before you know it!