Thoughts on a Sunday Night

In the past when I’m bored, I tend to find an online survey someone has posted on MySpace, insert answers containing my information, repost on MySpace and fall to sleep. To be honest, it’s sort of fun, but all kinds of lame. No offense to the people I repost from, because obviously I enjoy doing it – but you have to admit, it's lame. Especially when I could be doing other, more practical things with my time – like writing, in my blog… ugh, I’m pretty sure this is still lame. Oh well, I’m bored, and procrastinating. I really should be doing my time entry for work. It’s like I’m in college again or something. But I’m rambling and completely missing the point of this blog entry.

I haven’t blogged in awhile, and a lot of things have been going on in my world, specifically regarding my home. In an effort to actually care about my homestead and increase its rapidly decreasing value due to the recession and flux of homes on the market, Justin and I have invested in several home improvements that will hopefully pay off when we sell the house in five to 10 years. (Or never, I really love this house).

Among the improvements:
Fixed the sprinkler system – It had been on the fritz for awhile, and it turns out the builder did a crappy job installing it – lesson learned, don’t ever have your builder install your sprinkler systems.
Hired a lawn service – The yard actually looks kept, and we got it because Justin wasn’t “cutting it” last summer… oh that was puntastic.
Donated my old furniture to The Salvation Army and bought new furniture at Ikea – I had this furniture suite since I was five, I’m 26 now… I’m not going to lie, I felt like I was giving away my teddy bear or something. It was hard.
Painted a bedroom and a bathroom by ourselves – It took almost four months. We are never doing that again. We both suck at painting and came a little too close to killing each other on a few occasions.
Got built-ins for the study and the living room – Dude, if you’ve been to my house before, it looks different. Amazing what wood and a ridiculous amount of money will get you.

You might be asking, why now? Or not. But I’m going to tell you anyways because like I said, it’s Sunday evening and I’m bored. When we bought the house, Justin and I had a vision – a vision that required money. After purchasing the house, we realized we had no money. Because we didn’t want to go into debt or be silly and frivolous just because we wanted stuff we didn’t really “need”, we devised a “Phased Home Improvement Plan” to slowly make our home perfect. Here are the phases and the current status of each:

Phase One – Furnish home with necessities, such as living, dining and master suite furniture, guest bed and blinds. Status: COMPLETE. For the sake of our neighbors, I’m very glad we got blinds right away. I wish our next door neighbor had the same courtesy when he moved in. YIKES!
Phase Two – Purchase outdoor furniture for our back patio. Status: COMPLETE.
Phase Three – Get curtains and matching bedspread for the master bedroom. Status: COMPLETE.
Phase Four – Acquire built-ins for living room and study. Status: COMPLETE. We’re still waiting for the paint to cure in the living room, but woot woot! It’s done!
Phase Five – Get new outdoor grill and outdoor television for back patio. Status: NOT COMPLETE. Estimated Completion Date: Summer 2009. Justin doesn’t like our current grill (probably because he takes absolute zero care of it) and when we built the house, we wired for cable on the patio. He gets to suck it up this year though. It’s his own dang fault. And hopefully the prices of outdoor televisions will fall. The outdoor TV I think I’m the most excited about because it’s my dream child. And people wonder why I love doing technology PR. Because I’m a dork, that’s why.
Phase Six – Middle bedroom decoration. Status: NOT COMPLETE. Estimated Completion Date: When I get knocked up. HA! What is the point of spending a couple G’s on a room for a bed and furniture when we plan to have a baby in a few years? No point. So it’s currently an homage to Dave Matthews Band (way too many posters), a blow-up bed and Justin’s entertainment center from high school. It’s functional, but ugly.
Phase Seven – Build pool. Status: NOT COMPLETE. Estimated Completion Date: When I can convince Justin we need one. Pale red head doesn’t want a pool. Easily tanable (and probably skin cancer-prone), burnette wife does.
Phase Eight – Hardwood floors. Status: NOT COMPLETE. Estimated Completion Date: Probably never. I want them, Justin doesn’t. Starting to see a pattern with these last few?
Phase Nine – Mini Cooper. Actually, that has nothing to do with the house, just a pipe dream of mine. That won’t happen either. Haha.

Anyways, here are a few pictures of the recent improvements. I’ll update with some more once we can put stuff on the living room built-ins, I install this shelf in the guest bathroom and the grass gets a little greener outside. Oh, and the following comment from Justin absolutely made my week regarding my decoration of the guest bedroom: “Shit, this looks like it’s something out of Pottery Barn.” Clearly, he doesn’t look at the Pottery Barn catalog that much, but the compliment was awesome, and more importantly, sincere.


Sneak Peak! Strategies for the College Graduate

Last week, I was surprisingly asked by the Women in Communication's Austin chapter to speak to their counterparts at the UT chapter on my long path to getting a job in public relations.

I won't bore you with the details surrounding my long and tortured (and quite humorous at times) path, but I will share with you what I plan to tell these to-be college graduates. Welcome any feedback/gripes ;)

Strategies for the Recent College Graduate

1. Pimp yourself. Develop a portfolio that includes your resume, references and writing/planning samples. Do the hard work for the employer by providing this information before they ask you to – and while you’re at it, showcase your presentation skills by putting it in something other than a plain white folder. It speaks volumes about your preparation skills – key to any communications job. If you can’t sell yourself, the company won’t think you’ll be able to sell them.

2. Consider the dreaded “unpaid position.” Are you passionate about non-profit work? If you are, and have the monetary situation that affords this, work as an unpaid professional with a non-profit organization that needs assistance with their communication plans. These positions are ripe with experience you most likely wouldn’t be able to get at other jobs. Other options include doing freelance work and interning at government agencies, who usually pay zero to minimum wage.

3. Never sacrifice your morals for a job. There are plenty of jobs out there that prey on recent graduates. They’ll advertise that you’ll move up quickly into management positions, have the potential to make $120K a year – only to find out that it is a pyramid scheme or something more unethical. The wise saying that if it’s too good to be true, it definitely is. If you find yourself in a job or interview that makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t worry about burning bridges – save yourself the headache and potential fallout from the shady behavior of others by walking away.

4. If possible, be willing to move. Austin is an awesome town and full of opportunity – along with a strong workforce coming out of the University of Texas and surrounding universities. Unfortunately, there are only around three Fortune 500 companies based in Austin, which means the majority of communications support for corporations and the agencies that support these companies staff relatively small offices or are based in other areas. If you are willing to be flexible with your geographic location, do it. And remember, you can always move back after you get some experience under your belt.

5. Intern is the new entry level position. Unfortunately, many agencies rely on their internship programs as a source of recruiting. If you are looking to work at an agency, and don’t have experience under your belt, you aren’t going to get hired as an account coordinator. Be willing to accept that intern position, even if you’ve already graduated, because in the long run, it is a foot in the door.

6. Look at agency headquarters. If you are willing to move, first start out by looking where the bigger agencies are based out of, and where they have the largest number of their employees. WaggEd has substantial offices in the Pacific Northwest, Fleishman-Hillard has its headquarters in St. Louis, and GCI has much of its staff out of Austin. If you are in advertising or marketing, look at places that have large offices, as they hire more often.

7. Make yourself an expert. What are you passionate about? And can it correlate back to public relations – absolutely! Do you have a passion for medicine or healthcare, do you follow politics religiously, or are you constantly checking Engadget or Gizmodo for the latest technology news? Use your interests to position yourself as an expert with an agency.

8. Research! Look for companies and agencies that fit the direction you want to take in your career. If you are interested in technology PR – look at WaggEd or Porter Novelli. Are you fascinated by public affairs – there are multiple agencies with a presence in D.C. This will require some deep soul searching on your part, and some research on which companies bet fit your career goals.

9. Be an active participant in a professional organization. Many professional organizations, such as AWC, PRSA and AMA, offer reduced pricing for recent college grads. These professional organizations are a great way to meet people and network. But warning – don’t just show up with to a meeting expecting a job, you still have to earn it. (and many people avoid meetings just because they get bombarded with resumes) Take “card-carrying member” a step further by joining a committee within the organization where you have the ability to showcase your skills and talents. It gives people a reason to hire you and is a great resume builder.

10. Learn to accept failure. The hardest part about looking for a job, especially in economically uncertain times, is that you’re told “no” – a lot. And most likely, you’re not used to it. Have faith in yourself and your abilities and don’t give up, even when others (or parents) are telling you to. You may have to stray from your path to make ends meet at the beginning, but that perfect job will come soon enough.


Loving Elizabeth, Loathing Emma and Learning from Elinor

About a week and a half ago during a shopping excursion to the Tyler, Texas, Target (don’t ask me how I ended up in East Texas!!!), I stumbled across the best find of my Target shopping career (far surpassing the time I bought three pairs of shoes for under $12). In fact, I squealed so much with excitement that a few people stared, and then I had to call my BFF to relay the news – a woman in England managed to tap her inner Jane Austen and write, “Mr. Darcy’s Diary” – a day by day account of how and why Mr. Darcy fell in love with Elizabeth Bennett in the literary classic, Pride and Prejudice.

While I think the author was writing at a fourth grade reading level, I didn’t care. And while I believe that the author mixed up Mr. Philips and Mr. Gardiner’s professions (I think she had Mr. Gardiner as an attorney, not in the trade business), I didn’t care. That was the best airplane, poolside reading I’ve had in years. If you want to borrow it, let me know, but I must warn you, I’ve already got a waiting list!

The Friday after we returned from our vacation to Las Vegas, I stayed up until 2 a.m. re-reading Pride and Prejudice. And the next day, I watched the A&E five-hour version of the book. AND THEN I went to Target again to purchase Sense and Sensibility, along with the semi-biographical movie, Becoming Jane. Due to a promise to my BFF, I’m not to watch that movie without her. So on Sunday evening, I watched Sense and Sensibility and Emma. Apparently that night, a redo of Sense and Sensibility was also on Masterpiece Theatre, but it didn’t come on until 10 p.m. The review of that version in Friday’s USA Today was quite glowing and I can wait to watch it when they show a repeat!

As I’m typing this, I’m re-reading Sense and Sensibility on the airplane to Seattle (well, not typing and reading at the same time… I’m taking a break) and I’m coming to a conclusion, a mission of sorts. I’ve got to read all of Jane Austen’s novels and watch all of the movie adaptations before the end of April. Why? Well, why not! But seriously, there are a few reasons – well, not as much reasons as they are an explanation as to why I like Austen’s writing (I don’t have reasons for being obsessive compulsive):

- Austen’s novels are an acceptable form of reading romance novels, without the dirty, white trash looks from strangers on planes and/or husbands. It’s like a modern day romance story, just without the “his rough, muscular hand gently caressed her porcelain smooth, apple-shaped buttocks” bull crap that makes me either cringe or laugh out loud (assuming I read that filth… yes…)
- Her prose is simple and flowing, yet I usually have to read the paragraph a few times to get the full meaning of a character’s witty remarks. And even then it doesn’t hit me until a few pages later.
- I enjoy reading about 18th century society women being utterly consumed with the concept of money first, and love second. It’s treated as if marrying up wasn’t a vanity issue, but more of a quality of life (food, shelter, rich husband) frame of mind. Was the idea of marrying for love alone (even if he was a poor farmer) so abhorrent to all of these women? As much as I love Elizabeth Bennett (Elinor Dashwood a close second), even she was the first to admit she fell in love with Mr. Darcy the second she saw his property (or failed to recognize that her witty banter in previous meetings with Darcy was a sign of unconscious love not acknowledged by my heroine…). The whole concept makes me wonder if I had lived back then, what I would have done.
- To piss Justin off. Haha. I don’t think he understands my love for fiction literature. He constantly is amazed at my ability to quickly read and comprehend books (i.e. my Friday read of Pride and Prejudice). He just wishes I applied that ability to something that would make me knowledgeable and smarter (i.e. to be like him). While my part of the bookshelf in the study is filled with literary classics and contemporary fiction novels, his is filled with history- or economic-based non-fiction novels, with more than the occasional conspiracy theory and poker strategy book. I guess the difference between our reading styles is he chooses to read to make himself smarter, and I read as a form of entertainment, to escape from reality into the lives of richly developed characters.

So there you have it. At some point I want to take a class on Jane Austen, but for the time being, I’m content with my own exploration into her literary works.