December 26, 2018No Comments

Motivation pops up in the strangest of places

Do you have that one person that, no matter how much time has passed, you can connect with as though it had been mere hours since your last conversation, not the months it had been?

I do.

I have quite a few people like that, all of whom I connect with on different levels and for various things.

Yesterday was a day that renewed my motivation for writing to you. It started with a delicious latte, a gingerbread cookie, and meeting a good friend who I went to college with. We don’t see each other very often, and our lives have taken us in different directions. She focuses on research; I focus on information architecture. She works on educational systems; I put my focus into healthcare. Our audiences are different, but our careers are intertwined.

I asked her what motivates her. I asked her what gets her writing on a daily basis, and what gets her sharing her brilliant mind with the world.

There are two types of motivation: Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Motivation.

Extrinsic motivation is the most common form, and it often leads to burnout. Those New Years Resolutions you plan? Those tend to be based around extrinsic motivators.

Look back at your resolutions. Why are you doing them? Some of the most common examples include:

  • More money; this buys happiness and status, right?
  • Being thinner; most of us compare ourselves to our friends and those photoshopped models in magazines
  • Flaunting your ability to do something difficult – such as waking up early in the morning; not everyone can do this and surely they end up scrambling through their days trying to get everything done!

All of these are external things that others can see and weigh. You are pushing yourself to prove something, not because it makes you feel good.

Intrinsic motivation is what becomes sustainable and enjoyable. I draw because I love the feeling I get from creating something new, not because I’m building my portfolio. I want to blog because I want to be able to feed my need for social interaction, not because I want to post x number of times in a month.

Some other common examples of intrinsic motivation include:

  • Curiosity; I want to learn more about women in technology and how I can make a difference in my own little way
  • Independence; I don’t want to ask for help… I want to do the things I love to do without needing to ask for help
  • Acceptance; I want my co-workers to accept me for me, because I am an awesome person and I am happy with where I am in my life

So where am I at?

In looking back on my conversation with my friend, I realize that extrinsic motivators were creating most of my goals… and that was why I was unable to keep up with them. I would look at my bullet journal each morning and sigh with frustration when I couldn’t check off my habit tracker for the days before. I was burning out and only two months had gone by this year.

  1. Why am I blogging?
  2. Why do I want to open my own Etsy store?
  3. What benefits do I gain from losing weight and getting myself on an exercise plan?

These are the questions I began asking myself. This coming month is my time for self-reflection. 2019 is going to be a year of change and improvement for me but it’s going to be as such because I am inspired to change for myself, not for others.

Let’s chat!

What motivates you? I would love to learn about your thoughts around what motivates and inspires you!

December 26, 2018No Comments

Balancing work and life and why we need it

We all take our jobs seriously. It’s a daily grind and, though hopefully, you love your job, it can become taxing when you don’t take time for yourself. I know I struggle to step away from the office and take vacations, even when my manager asked me repeatedly to do so.

So why did he keep pushing me to take time off? Why was it so important?

If work consumes your life, you will, eventually, burn out. It is inevitable. I work in a creative field for a living, and that area requires my artistic side to stay always plugged in. Writers get writer’s block. Designers lose inspiration to design. Constant meetings, deadlines, and expectations begin to weigh us down, no matter what our job is. Taking a step back to breathe is key to survival in the adult world.

Oh, it’s hard, there’s no doubt about that!

The constant thoughts and concerns begin running through my mind when I take time off become: if I’m out, will I become a blocker? Will my developers understand the designs that I have given them? If I’m out and my team receives design feedback, when will I find out? Who will defend the work that we’ve done? The list goes on and on.

To truly step away and relax, to find that proper work-life balance, think about some of the key ways you can leave the office and feel that your team can handle your absence for a day or two.

  1. Give your team ample notice. At the beginning of each sprint cycle, I look at my schedule, and if I have appointments or vacation planned, I inform the team. If I know that I’m going to be on vacation for a longer period, say a week out of a month, I’ll send out an email at the beginning of the month with my plans and how people can reach me.
  2. Review your work a few days before you leave. If my designs need to be vetted by higher-ups or some people haven’t seen it yet, I try to plan ahead and get it in front of them before I leave.
  3. Ask your team if they need anything before your planned time off. I always check to see what’s coming up the pipeline and if it looks like designs are going to be needed, I review with my team
  4. Turn off your work email and enjoy yourself!

So here’s my question to you! What do you do to make sure you find that perfect work-life balance? Have you been struggling with this? Let’s figure it out together!

December 26, 2018No Comments

When enough is enough

You’re safe and secure at your current job, but you’re up every night, worrying about a project, what your coworker said to you over coffee, or that email you sent too late for your manager’s liking. When do you say enough is enough and leave? How do you get out without burning bridges?

by Katerina Simpkins

It is so easy to fall into a rhythm, to turn a blind eye to stressful situations, to let the world continue to revolve around you while you stay safe and secure in your unchanged little corner. So... what happens when you find yourself stuck in a rut at work but you can’t afford to up and leave when things begin to spiral downwards. You have tenure, you know the ins and outs of the workplace, and you’re probably decently comfortable in your job security. Finding a new job is draining. It takes time and effort and, yes, some lying to your boss and coworkers. It sucks.

How do you get out?

I recently went through this exact situation and, while it was so rough during the job hunting process, it was completely worth it. Let me explain:

I thought I had landed my dream job. For the last two years, I had worked at a fantastic company, but I was ready to move on, and I wanted to expand my experience from designing solely for the web to focusing back on the mobile world, specifically native iOS and native Android. I had started my job search a few months back and took a chance to contact a big California company. It was a prestigious name, it offered a salary over 50% higher than my current pay, and it would give me the chance to work in both the responsive and native worlds.

The interview process was intense. Stressed for weeks over getting ready for interviews and then, after sitting in their office for 5 hours, waited a few more weeks for a decision. At the same time, work was picking up at my current employer’s place, and it was hard to stay motivated while I sat on the cusp of change.

Two days before my birthday, at 9:00 pm, I received an email asking me if it was okay to chat on the phone. The East Coast/West Coast thing was going to be tricky... something I never considered throughout this entire process.

I accepted the call and was overjoyed to learn that I had a job offer. Hard work pays off.

It only took a week to realize that my new job and I were not a good fit. There is a general sense of nerves or remorse when leaving a job you’ve been at for years. You’re in a new situation, you’re uncomfortable, and you don’t know anyone. It always takes time to get adjusted. For this situation, I should have followed my gut from day one.

Nothing went right from the start.

The next few weeks should have been a red flag for me.

  • My start date was delayed due to some complications with building management and my service dog. My new manager didn’t know until I mentioned it to her.
  • I had applied for and initially received the senior user experience title. The company called me and told me that they’d keep the same salary and that I could use the title on LinkedIn but that I wouldn't have the title in their system because I “technically wasn’t qualified” and the candidates could sue them if they found out.
  • I interviewed with one team, that I had applied to, but was put on a team that I never knew about when I started. (In the five months that I worked with the company, I never once worked with the team that I was supposed to be 50% allocated to)
  • There were three other creatives in the remote office I was in. It was extremely rare that I was not the only creative person in the office for weeks at a time.

I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t just leave right when I started. I couldn’t go back to my last salary with the price of living in the Boston area. If I went back to my old job, I’d look like a quitter and completely unqualified. I felt like I was between a rock and a hard place.

I stayed for five months. Why?

I didn’t want to look like a job hopper. I had been at my first two jobs for two years each, and I couldn’t just leave right after starting. Three jobs in such a short amount of time from graduating from college felt insane. It would ruin my resume and reputation. Right? Wrong.

Not knowing what to do and, after receiving conflicting feedback from my family, I reached out to my former manager. She had been a fantastic person to work with at my last job, and I knew she could always help me think about the bigger picture. We got coffee. We talked about what I liked, what I didn’t like, and we talked about what I should do.

At first, she told me to give it time. This conversation was merely one month into me being at the new job, and I had a trip to the West Coast coming up in a few weeks. Perhaps things would change once I was on the main campus and mingling with my manager and team face-to-face. I was both excited and nervous about the trip. It would help distract my future at the company.

It became more and more apparent that I could stay at the company. The trip was a success in that I made it out there and met everyone, but I still felt like an outsider, like I had no place within the group. I reached out to my former manager again. I told her my fears, and I told her about all of the issues I was having. She told me to get out. What my resume said would mean nothing if I was completely burnt out and miserable all the time. I had gained more weight, my stress levels were off the walls, and I regularly had nightmares about various people and projects at work. Towards the end of my term there, I was working from home 3 or 4 days out of the week. No one cared. I was beginning to understand why the other creatives in my office were never present.

All of this began in September. At the end of December, and because of my ability to work from home, I started applying for new jobs. I updated my resume and my portfolio. I planned out my response to “Why are you leaving so soon?” I reached out to other design friends to learn more about their jobs and how they made sure they were finding good fits.

I was ready to make the change.

I left my company at the beginning of February.

I did get a lot of questions from recruiters and interviews about why I had such a short tenure at my job. I was honest. I told them that working in a remote, disconnected office was just not what could work for me. I needed to be in the heart of the work, with my team in a collaborative setting, and I wasn’t getting that at the time. Everyone understood. A lot of folks even had similar stories. I made friends with other designers who had left my company before my time there. We connected, and I learned.

So, here’s my advice to you.

  • Be upfront with a company about what you want. I wanted to have a management position over time, which I had mentioned briefly, but never made it a priority and later learned that I would never have that chance in a remote office.
  • Ask lots of questions. Ask about processes, typical collaboration efforts, how long people see themselves staying
  • Take your time with accepting a job offer. You’ve done your part, now make sure the company will follow through with their promises.
  • If you take the job, always have open conversations with your manager. If something feels off or you feel concerned, tell them. They are there to help you be successful.
  • Give your new job some time but if it’s apparently a bad fit, don’t sit and wallow in your misery. Do something about it.
  • Find a mentor or a career coach. Use your connections and your support system. You don’t have to go through these stressful times alone.

Do you have a story of a terrible job fit? Have you helped someone get through a similar situation? Let’s chat!

December 26, 2018No Comments

What does success mean to you?

Is success owning the fanciest car? Is success buying a house on the water? Getting that corner office in the company you’ve put your blood, sweat, and tears into for years? What is the definition of success to you? How much does it differ from your friends; your family? Your coworkers?

Success is, by definition, a favorable or desired outcome. Many think of it as the attainment of wealth or favor.

My summer was a crazy one. Besides changing jobs, which you’ll learn more about in another blog posting coming soon, I had the chance to lead a group of co-workers through a program called P3. P3 was, primarily, the best thing that has happened to me since starting my professional career almost five years ago.

What is it? P3, which stands for “purpose, passion, and principles,” was started at Whorton Business School as a way to get the conversation flowing between students around the idea of success.

Being a participant, and then a facilitator, was a fantastic experience.

We began by talking about our families and how those closest to us helped define success while we were growing up. For me, as a student, the only measure of success was getting good grades. My parents were both school administrators, and my siblings all became teachers. I had to prove myself. Some of my peers saw success as being active members of church groups or having lots of friends.

Our families guided us and the moment we were out on our own, that all changed. Rules were gone. We no longer had that safety tape guiding us on a set path.

The sessions then began to dive more into the idea of happiness and how happiness can be a measure of success. We talked about the various things we were strong at, where we struggled, and what we hope to accomplish in 15 or so years.

Each week was a different prompt, a different reading in one of two books. We looked at various articles online or shared new ideas through Slack to keep the conversations going between sessions.

In total, I participated for two quarters of the year. Defining success still wasn’t easy for me… until just the other day.

I was sitting at home after a long day at the new office, watching the news and eating dinner, when an email popped up from a former P3 participant that I had facilitated. The email was short and sweet… a simple thank you for bringing her through the program and just being a part of the discussion. She said that she continued to apply what she had learned from P3 in her day-to-day and that, to me, was the moment that I knew I had been successful. For me, I had been successful as a facilitator and as a participant. It felt amazing, and it lifted my spirits.

I later learned that there had been hundreds of layoffs from the company and that it had been a terrible day for everyone. I am so grateful that I was able to be a light during such a trying time and that is what success means to me.