All posts tagged: Work

And Still I Rise: Answering the Midnight Muse

3:27 a.m. That’s what time she woke me up this morning. Two days ago, she woke me up at 3:49 a.m. Today? Tomorrow? Who knows. I’m talking about the writing muse — that seductive voice that whispers in my ear when an idea strikes me, and I’m compelled to jot it down, explore it. My Muse comes in many forms: a memory, a feeling, a longing, a joke  As a non-fiction writer working on a memoir, I welcome my muse. I need her.  I love her. Just not at 3 a.m. in the morning. At first I would fight her. Wait it out. Lie in bed, unable to go back to sleep but refusing to move. Or I’d turn on the television; its bluish glare illuminating my darkened bedroom. Now I know better. Now I give in. Now I know that nothing will satisfy the early morning mystery except my writing. So I’m prepared. Before I go to bed I make sure I know where my laptop is. Or my legal pad and pen. Or my journal. …

Not Going Gently Into the White (Blonde) Light

As I edge my way toward 50 — with curiosity, no fear and only a few regrets — vanity is on my mind. But I’m not fretting over wrinkles and the general softening of my flesh. I’m curating my look — as I always have, at every age. But what’s different now? I never think about my age in doing so. And, I won’t lie, I fucking love that beautiful irony. When I was much (much) younger and in leadership positions at a precociously young age, I felt compelled to dress for the respect I wanted to command from the businessmen (yes, mostly men) I did business with, which translated into bright-colored suit jackets with black skirts and pants, mostly, while keeping my youngish hairstyle. Once, I met a friend for dinner after a business meeting, and she greeted me with “God, take that thing off,” referring to my apple-green jacket with its teensy shoulder pads. But the bright armor and nude pumps did what they were supposed to — project that I was playing …

The Boss of Me

He was the editor of a well-known men’s magazine. A short man. Not an attractive man. After I interviewed with him I said to my boyfriend at the time, “Why he looks just as much like a turtle as a man can look.” This was the 1980s. This was my first media job, although we called it publishing back then. I interviewed in a navy linen suit from Bonwit Teller, nude pantyhose and navy pumps trimmed with flat grosgrain ribbons. I was a 22-year-old from Iowa and I thought the look I should be going for was “appropriate.” Inexplicably, I was hired. And I realized within the first hour of my first day that I had it all wrong. “Cool” was the style that prevailed among the girls on staff. A girl called Muney wore a pink tutu and black motorcycle jacket like Cyndi Lauper. A girl called April, who was whippet thin and wore lank bangs in her eyes, rimmed all around in kohl, wore leather jeans, the first I’d ever seen. Let’s just say …

I Learned Everything I Needed to Know at a Vegas Cosmetic Counter

In the summer of 1989, I got myself gussied up and stepped onto a gleaming marble sales floor ready to beautify the world, or at least those fortunate enough to pass my counter. A 21-year old small-town girl with retail stars in my eyes, I had confidently parlayed my limited (and decidedly unsophisticated) local-mall sales experience and a few freelance makeovers into credentials for this glamorous new gig, but I was unprepared for the insane, international and immensely delightful cast of characters who would teach me everything they knew about selling and survival—whether they meant to or not. Why and how I came to be in the cosmetics department at Saks Fifth Avenue in Las Vegas is a story for another time, but suffice to say it had to do with a car breaking down in the desert and someone’s uncle’s girlfriend knowing a manicurist who knew someone in human resources. Long story short, Saks—and later Neiman Marcus—empires of elegance, service and style, served as my first salt mines. Livelier and more luxurious than any …

Sleeping Your Way Around The World — No, Really

I used to think traveling for work would be an amazing benefit, collecting miles and points for my personal use later on. While living in San Francisco, I even took a job with a company partially because it boasted offices in 31 cities across 16 countries, and lured me with project collaborations in Paris and Rome. I never travelled further than Palo Alto. Eventually, I moved back to New York and was hired by a company that wanted me to travel quite a bit. That was when I learned a hard truth: work travel is nothing like vacation. It’s more like a series of redeyes to minimize hotel expenses, and thus, sleep. I’ve arrived at many meetings and conferences feeling like one of the faceless cast members of the The Walking Dead. But I’ve also learned that while there’s no substitute for a comfortable bed in a dark, quiet place, there are some tricks and tools that can help you sleep just about anywhere. 1. Pack for Comfort Remember when all airplanes and all the …

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I Went All the Way to Switzerland, and All I Got Was Chewed Out by My Boss

Seeing my hairbrush down the hall from my hotel room after a long day of not-so-helpful interviews should have been my first clue that this was not going to be the reporting trip of my dreams. In 1996, I took my first international reporting trip to Switzerland, researching the wealth of Swiss billionaires for my magazine’s annual billionaires list. My portfolio of targets included a family with vast grain holdings, a private bank, oil interests, the family behind Swatch, a cement baron, and the scion of a pharmaceuticals company that made good use of nuns’ urine. I was also asked to report on and write a lifestyle piece on the state of the Swiss watch industry, which was then rebounding from a Timex and Japanese-based assault. Getting to go on an international reporting trip was a coveted boondoggle, not that rare though in the flush 1990s when magazines sold so much advertising that editors begged reporters for more copy to fill the pages. Two fellow reporters famously went to the Far East every year for …

What It Really Feels Like To Be 25 in 2016

Before you get swept up in the nostalgia of your own quarter-life crisis (crap bosses, three roommates, teeny tiny apartment, bottle service clubs, falafel at 4 a.m., hot dates), there are some women I want you to meet. These girls are living the 2016 version, where hookups are negotiated on Tinder, the boss is just as likely to be a girl who graduated a year ahead and likes using her newfound power to make you feel small and there’s not a single boozy brunch that isn’t documented on Instagram to elicit FOMO among all your followers. So while you’ve been there, there are a few things that 25(ish)-year-olds want to clear up for the older generation about what their lives are really like. It’s Sorta Lonely “On a recent, teary phone call with my mom about feeling stuck at work, I said, ‘I need to let myself cry about this, and when I’m done crying, I need someone to pick me up and help me figure out what to do. But I don’t know who …

Hey, Millennials: A Tunic Is Not a Dress (and Other Important Career Advice)

In the 20 years since I’ve entered the workforce (the past 10 of them at J. Walter Thompson), I have traveled the world, hung with Hollywood’s elite (and not so elite), had cocktails with the Marahana of Udaipur, sold major bling and counted stacks of moldy cash (literally, stacks) in the kitchen of an Aspen mansion on red mountain, met “The Donald” and all of his wives (yep, Ivana, Marla and Melania – at separate times for different reasons), been accompanied by one major Las Vegas CEO’s Belgian attack dogs (long story) and handled many major corporate crisis communications campaigns, brand launches, executive visibility campaigns and so on. Because of the nature of my job, some of my biggest accomplishments were keeping things OUT of the media, to protect either a brand or an executive. So when the fabulous Ann Shoket asked me to write about advice I would give to my 25-year-old self (or those starting in the work force), it was pretty simple. Today’s 25-year-olds don’t understand that Generation X “paid our dues” …

The “Vision Thing”: How to Un-See Yourself

I’m a starter. A person who starts things, makes things. I’m a little bit addicted to the blank page, the open field, the undefined future. In my career as a magazine editor, I was a part of four start-ups and led the rebirths of two magazines. I’ve written one book and am at work on another, lining up words and ideas and moving them around the page until they eventually add up to a focused emotional experience. Seeing what isn’t yet there and building it? That’s my specialty. But I want to share a secret about how to have “vision” — a talent that is generally attributed to a person’s having unusual creativity; the ability to pull, seemingly from thin air, an idea that is so relevant and alive we can’t resist it. It seems like vision is magic — yanking the rabbit out of a hat — but for me, my vision has always come from a very simple and readily available resource: seeing people in the world around me very, very clearly. Remember …

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8 Merry & Bright Home & Office Gifts

I had a trifecta of goals as I searched for items to include here: First, to bring you my usual explosion of patterns and brights (I am nothing if not consistent; this is my MO every year Tue Night asks me to compose a gift guide). Second, to only include items that are everyday useful because even the most workaday things in your life should be bold and fun. And finally, to feature only items that’ll run you $75 or less. Done, done and done. 1. Pendleton Bowl Pendelton is a fantastic resource for good prints and not just on their famed blankets. This bowl, in their Suwanee Stripe pattern, comes in a set of four and brings just that much more excitement to your morning oatmeal. $39.50, pendelton-USA.com 2. iPhone Case I just think this iPhone case is gloriously pretty. Enough said. $32, shopbop.com 3. Cork Coasters The fact that these playful cork coasters come in a set — but each have their own look — is pretty cool. $16, michelevarian.com 4. Mara Hoffman …

I Hit My Breaking Point and Asked for Help

I flipped my hood up and started walking, on my way to buy beer at midnight on a work night. I had gotten up from my desk back in the apartment when the panic set in that I wouldn’t have enough of what I called “my medicine” to get me through the assignment I was working on and then carry me on to maybe four hours of passed-out sleep. Where writing was concerned, I was sure I was much more productive then. Fueled by wine, adrenaline and a liberal shot of rage, words flowed out of the space between sober and drunk, a space where I spent a lot of my time. Whether the words were good or not is debatable, but I thought they were better — and only possible — with a few drinks in me. It’s a writer’s ego that values output over possible self-annihilation. Can’t do it if you’re dead or incapacitated, but what’s that small detail? Bless our hearts. That night, dwelling on my bullshit logic, I put on my shoes and …

The Most Important Part of My Job

As a Guidance Dean at a middle school in Illinois, my office life is very different from what it used to be when I was a classroom teacher. Meetings, phone calls and e-mails between parents and teachers and me seem to take up a significant amount of time. As far as being out of the office goes, I’m not in it all day, either. Each day a full hour and a half is devoted to doing lunchroom supervision. The lunchroom is where I do some of my best work. Though I will complain about that huge chunk of time when I’m not visiting classrooms where teaching and learning is happening, nor is it time spent in my office, it is uppermost in building relationships with students. If they don’t see me regularly, how will they trust me when they need a confidante? Now, more than ever, this important part of my job becomes known. My students are tech-savvy and all have cell phones with access to social media. Yet social media norms are something about …

A Girl’s Guide to Office Brocabulary

“Adorable” is the word Jennifer Lawrence uses to describe how women in business strive to sound. Wise beyond her years, the actress shared a story on Lenny Letter about how she was chided for speaking plainly to a male colleague. Her essay, a few weeks ago, kicked off a conversation about how “Woman in a Meeting” is a language all its own. Examples from The Washington Post, all of which I am guilty of: “This may be all wrong but…” and “Maybe? I don’t know? How does the room feel?” Lawrence’s story: “I spoke my mind and gave my opinion in a clear and no-bullshit way; no aggression, just blunt. The man I was working with (actually, he was working for me) said, “Whoa! We’re all on the same team here!” As if I was yelling at him. I was so shocked because nothing that I said was personal, offensive, or, to be honest, wrong. All I hear and see all day are men speaking their opinions, and I give mine in the same exact manner, and you would have thought …

The Affair: Cheating on My Fiancé with a Work Husband

This is an updated version of a piece Lauren wrote at a previous employer, several work husbands ago. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I’ve been cheating on my fiancé with someone from the office. Well, it’s not exactly cheating. And it’s not exactly a secret, either. I currently have not one but two leading men in my life at work. Alas, you may be a bit disappointed to know that my relationships with both of these men are strictly platonic. First and foremost, there is Frank, who sits next to me day in and day out at the office. Frank will HATE that I am writing this. He despises attention. But let me tell you, Frank is pretty much the most excellent person I know. I always say that if the building is burning, I’ll take Frank out with me because he is a Jack-of-all-trades who can solve any problem in the office — and often in life. Frank has helped me buy a computer, set up a new iPhone, …

Sharpies and Other Life-Changing Supplies

My last day at my last corporate job was gray, literally and figuratively. It was the end of October, and there was very little natural light coming through the windows. My boss, who suffered from stress headaches, required us to keep the overhead lights off, so I stepped from light pool to light pool to hug my coworkers goodbye. I was excited to manage my husband’s art studio, to peel out of this world and live a more bohemian life. But walking out of the building alone, my heels clicking for the last time on the hard stone floor, I was surprised by my heavy heart. I wondered whether I would miss The Office. All I brought home were my leftover office supplies. Being a practical gal, I boxed up everything in my desk that still worked: stacks of yellow sticky notes, a box of army green hanging file folders, branded notebooks from all-hands meetings. A thick handful of slightly used Bic pens and #2 pencils. Screen wipes. My everyday world. I had no desire …

Is Your Office Making You Sick?

Most of us spend the vast majority of our time (about nine hours a day, on average) at work, and for a large proportion of us, work time equals office time. Offices have evolved with our job descriptions, but the essence remains the same: Every day we leave our homes to join another group of humans in an environment that is not exactly tailored to our unique specifications but within which we must live (and live productively) for the largest part of our days. The first year I left academic research (working in a laboratory) for a corporate job (working in an office), I experienced a series of strange health ramifications. On the surface, one might imagine the laboratory environment, where I could potentially be exposed to various dangerous chemicals and strange bugs on a routine basis, would be less healthy than the open-plan office I moved to. But it didn’t play out that way for me. Within a year, I gained about 20 pounds and got sick more times than I ever had in …

40 Going on 25: Planning My Part Two

  I’ve been incredibly fortunate in the world of work. I got my first “real life” gig right out of college as a publishing assistant, and every job since then has pretty much fallen into my lap. That’s not to say that I didn’t work hard to become qualified for those jobs, or that I’m not proud of all that I’ve learned and achieved along the way. It’s just that I never had to sit down and carefully plan out what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go or how I was going get there. One thing just seemed to organically lead to another, and after spending close to 15 years total at three jobs that I really, really loved, it seemed like the perfect time to embark on a freelance career. So I did. This was about four years ago. But then life threw me for a bit of a loop. I suppose that loop had actually been there for a while, curling up tighter and tighter inside of me, making …

Frankly Speaking: How I Named My Business

When I was a young kid, the first thing my father would do when we sat down at a restaurant was find out our waiter’s or waitress’s name. Sometimes the server would give this information independently. But if they didn’t, my dad would ask. And once he knew it, two things could be counted on to happen. First, he would introduce himself, and always in the same way: “Nice to meet you Barbara, my mother named me Frank and she named me well.” And second, he would use Barbara’s name every time she came back to the table — as if the two had known each other for years. Now as a kid, this embarrassed the hell out of me. Because depending on the server, this didn’t always go gangbusters from the jump and could be a little off-putting at first. I’d see this fog of recognition slide down the waiter’s face and I imagined this internal monologue of, “Oh man, what kind of nut-job is this table going to be like?” But 100% of …

The Generational Pop-Culture Trivia Gap Explained

“Dig this guy cutting a rug out there like he’s Rerun or something.” I’m standing at my company holiday party, chatting with a coworker next to the dance floor. He scrunches up his face in reaction to my comment. “Huh?” Oh boy. Here we go again. “I said he’s cutting a rug — that means dancing — like the character Rerun.” “Rerun of what?” “Rerun. Rerun is a character. From the show What’s Happening!!” “Oh. Right.” He punctuates his acknowledgment with a blank nod and smile. I know this look. That’s him registering zero. I do a little Gene Gene the Dancing Machine shuffle to finish off the exchange as weirdly as possible. I’m writing this piece from what I call the Pastless Present: a place where brilliant youth are reinventing our future but seem to be utterly unaware of anything has come before. More specifically, I work in tech. In fact, I’m a woman in tech, and I’m 42, which is kind of like being a unicorn tap dancing on a rainbow. I like …

Can a Procrastinating Mom Change Her Procrastinating Son?

Some nights, I’d hear him puttering around in his room. Maybe he’d drop the tennis ball he was tossing up in the air and it would bounce across his bedroom floor. Or I’d realize he was poking around on Spotify, playing a fragment of one pop song, then a fragment of another. He’d only stop when I’d call out: “Are you really finishing your homework?” Silence. Then a highly unconvincing “Yes!” would fill the air. “You’ve got to stop wasting time,” I’d say in my most grown-up voice. “It’s almost bedtime and you’re still doing homework. The only person that hurts is you. You know you won’t want to get up for school tomorrow if you don’t get some sleep tonight. You said an hour ago you were tired. Just get your work done.” Just get your work done. I sounded so sure of myself. If he could have seen me on a hidden camera, he would have discovered that I was wandering around on Facebook, scrolling endlessly, pointlessly, through quippy comments and cat photos, pausing only …

Bored at Work? Adopt a Gig Mentality

Summer vacations were one of the best things about college. They provided me with a precious three-month opportunity to explore the working world without consequence – exactly when my appetite for adventure and real-world experience bumped up against the ugly reality of living wages and educational expenses. After my first year in school, I wangled a stipend to explore my passion for non-profits and the law. I volunteered at a major international non-profit sporting organization that planned, organized, marketed and led a weekend summer camp for the athletes. One day a week, I was a lackey at the county courthouse. In spite of organizational challenges, I was a veritable over-eager sponge. I had a burning desire to move faster, produce more and innovate around systemic efficiencies that were of little interest to my seasoned superiors. The whole time, my bright-eyed enthusiasm never waned. The reason? The start of the school year provided a clean break. These three months were a priceless, experience-building window that allowed me to bypass any regrets, resume concerns or awkward goodbyes. …

Margit’s Note: It’s Just a Job I Do…

We’ve all had weird gigs. Just after college I worked part time at a 19th century natural history museum, preserved as such — the Wagner Free Institute of Science in North Philly — where I did everything from dust off a cabinet filled with arrowheads and tomahawks, to filing William Wagner’s old letters in acid free paper, to drawing butterflies with neighborhood kids who came in after school. Huh. In hindsight, that was actually a pretty awesome job. Sometimes it’s those gigs that have nothing to do with your intended career that were the most fun — or taught you life lessons you’ve carried for decades. Like, to save everything (sorry, hoarders) and that prehistoric bones are very, very fragile. Oops. This week, we’re remembering what made some of the jobs we’ve had curious, fun or just plain bad. We’ve got some pretty intense pieces, some sound job advice, and a few downright hilarious situations, so there’s something here for all types of odd jobs and career paths: Day Job: I Was a Heroin Ethnographer by Judy McGuire …

Mad Men & Office Politics: Different Era, Same Drama

Like many of you, I harbor a very real Mad Men addiction. It’s not so dire that I need it in the morning before work (that would be very Mad Men, come to think of it), but it’s extreme enough that I often can’t get through the day without something triggering a knee-jerk Mad Men reflection, or a Mad Men-related Google search that leads me down a rabbit hole of mid-century minutia. I’m not proud to admit the number of times I’ve excitedly interjected the phrase, “That actually reminds of that one scene in Mad Men when…” into a conversation that, well, wasn’t about Mad Men at all. Even though the show is set in an office, Mad Men isn’t really a show about working, in much the same way that The Sopranos wasn’t really a show about the mob. It’s an evolutionary character study that just so happens to be set in a Madison Avenue ad agency. But strip away the intense psychological examination, and the show does realistically highlight the differences between workers just blindly tadpoling their way into …

7 Big Returns on My Intern Investment

An entrepreneurial artist and burnt-out mommy trying to keep her businesses going — that was me in a nutshell. My daughter was just three months old when I hired a part-time nanny and decided to return to work in my studio. If I ran to work, didn’t bathe, talk to anyone, exercise or eat, I could get in four solid hours of work a day. After dedicating myself to this schedule for six months, I saw little progress. I ended up throwing my back out and was confined to a chair for two work days. Not to mention that I was now running late on projects for the first time ever and my commission list was on hold. I knew I needed help and something had to change. Four different people suggested getting an intern. I didn’t listen at first; I’d had interns before with mixed results — they can be more of a cost than a cure. Example: I once had an intern make $300 worth of color copies from a black and white document. Yeah. However, …