Category Archives: Taking Chances

How I Changed My Failure into a Win

About a year and a half ago, my confidence took a solid beating. I had lost a job that I thought I was going to have a future with. Then, I got sucked into the tiresome cycle of temporary assignments that just generally wore on me. I was tired of starting over. I was tired of being underutilized. I was tired of having to go through the stressful cycle of job hunting each time the assignments ended. My resume was lost in the ATS black hole and being rejected interview after interview was not helping whatever little faith I had left in myself. I let questions like “what did I do wrong?” or “why am I not good enough?” or “why doesn’t anyone want to hire me?” torture me on the many nights that insomnia took over. Staring at the four walls of my apartment with the feelings of fading hope for the future put me in a dark place. I was defeated.

The negativity I felt about myself was the reason why I couldn’t move forward. Whether the failures or shortcomings were true or not, I let them waste valuable time I could have spent building myself up. Eventually, I let my “like-a-phoenix” mentality take over and I rose from those ashes. This time I was going to be the one telling people who I was and what I could do, not the other way around. I would be the one defining myself. I didn’t want to settle for something that didn’t feel right just so I could be employed on a permanent basis. I didn’t want to put myself in a situation that completely buried whatever little spark I had left. I was meant for more.

My newly found motivation caused me to reevaluate myself. I took the time to remember what I loved about working, my industry, and business as a whole. I considered what I wanted to be known for in the industry (at the time, I didn’t realize I was branding myself). Instead of trying so hard to fit neatly in the box that job descriptions put candidates in, I decided to go rogue. I brought my knowledge and experience to life. I gave it a voice and a purpose.

At first I gained momentum by sharing thought-provoking questions in relevant online groups. I was consistent and kept the conversation going. I made myself available to network with people further. Eventually, these conversations sparked my need to share my learnings. From there, my blog was born and I dedicated time to write to it regularly, sometimes even up to five times a week. I realized that the blog was a good portfolio builder but how was I going to get the word out? Social media was the answer and I ended up coming across a whole new world of business and social learning because of it. Discovering this social side of business changed the way I saw business overall. I was entranced.

The right person saw what I was doing and a few weeks later I landed a job. After achieving the ultimate goal I was aiming for (employment), I would have thought all of the effort I was putting in would eventually die down. Little did I know, all of these things became a part of who I am. What I did while I was trying to regain footing after my failure ended up changing my work ethic. It created my personal brand. It gave me something to be accountable for. More importantly, it allowed me to add value to my employer on a consistent basis.

Doing this has afforded me so many opportunities, personally and professionally, that gives me a sense of pride. I stopped waiting for people to tell me whether they thought I was ready or not and consistently made myself a better person on my own. I’m impressed with how much I grew once I broke through the barriers. I’m ecstatic that an employer not only saw this in me, but I’m also glad that they help keep that fire burning within myself. I’m grateful for my failure because it’s the reason why I am who I am today.

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Filed under Determination, Finding your Passion, Inspiration, Job Seeking, Online Presence, Personal Branding, Professional Growth, Self Branding, Social Learning, Taking Chances

Determination for a Successful Future

Recently, I was talking to some college students about their expectations for their careers. I was happy to hear that many of them had a bright outlook for their future but became a little distressed when I learned that they didn’t realize the lengths and effort they need to put into it in order to reach their career goals. Many assumed that simply getting a degree and getting a little experience from interning could help them easily land a job. I tried to explain to them that in this economy, the bare minimum just won’t cut it.

That conversation had me thinking about people I knew that were particularly admirable in this capacity. I instantly thought about my friend, Desiree Louca, who I’ve known since kindergarten. She had always impressed me with her drive and self-motivation, even when we were younger. As we grew older, she harnessed these personal traits and worked hard to obtain the future she dreamed of. Her determination allowed her to have a successful future at the ripe age of 21 years old. Her future gave her the financial security and independence to support herself in ways that some adults may never know throughout their lifetime. With that being said, I felt that she was a perfect person to interview for this topic. Here’s the story on how her hard work paid off:

Ashley Perez (AP):   How were you able to pinpoint what career path you wanted to pursue so early in your life?

Desiree Louca (DL): “Growing up, I always had a great feeling inside when I helped out people in need. I was always fascinated with the medical field, probably from watching so many reality shows of the ER in hospitals. This was the first position in the medical field I really had my heart set on. At 14, my mother took me to the local hospital and I signed up to be a junior volunteer. I volunteered for 3 years and it was such an amazing experience.

“However, after only a few months of volunteering, I quickly learned that being a nurse was not for me. I could not handle it emotionally. I always found myself to be extremely emotionally strong, but I could not bare certain situations that I watched. Maybe I was too young to have seen them and would be able to handle them better now, but it is something that will never leave my mind. I simply could not disassociate myself from my emotions on the job. You can’t have a cry break every 30 minutes as a nurse, especially in the ER!

“I still knew the medical field was for me, though, and that there were tons of other jobs in the field. Teeth were another fascination for me. At 16, I began a paid internship at a local dental office. I absolutely loved it! I worked at a multi-specialty practice, so I was fully able to experience every single aspect of dentistry. I was initially working as a dental assistant but I knew I wanted more, so I decided to go to school to become a dental hygienist. While in school I felt a deep sense of comfort, stability, and enjoyment. I knew that this career was meant for me. In conclusion, I was able to pinpoint my career path by basically going and trying out each field of employment that I felt I may want to pursue.”

AP: What course of action did you determine was necessary to get the experience and education needed to be successful?

DL: “Research and resources! We are lucky to have the internet these days but I feel that doing it the old fashioned way is sometimes better. Before receiving the internship at the dental office, I walked in to the office and asked to speak to a dental hygienist. That dental hygienist was very happy to sit and answer the questions I had written out on a notepad. My questions included; job description, schooling, and stability in life.”

AP: Did you have goals and timelines? What were they?

DL: “Absolutely. Procrastination gets nowhere. Everyone at this point in life knows that you will not get anywhere unless you make moves. Right after high school I went right on the path to becoming a dental hygienist while still working at the dental office. This helped me greatly because while learning everything I needed to know about the field, I was experiencing it hands on. My goal was to be done with school in 4 years, that way I would be starting my career at 21 years of age.”

AP: What are the sacrifices you had to make in order to stay focused? Do you regret making them?

DL: “Starting to work in a professional environment at 16 years old forced me to mature much faster than my friends. Going to college to become a health professional from ages 17-21 while all of my friends were partying at college and going out every weekend was very hard for me to deal with at the time. However, being on a career path that I loved was a constant reminder that everything was going to be okay and well worth it in the end. I have no regrets. Even though I hardly went out nearly as much as my friends, I still had the chance to occasionally, and that was all that I really needed. In the midst of my busy life, I sit back and feel very accomplished realizing where I am in life at 24 years old compared to most people my age who live in my area.”

AP: What advice would you give people just starting out?

 DL: “Be a go-getter! Don’t sit back and think something is going to come your way or that the wind will blow one way and magically you will know where you are meant to be. It is a natural instinct to have things that interest you in life. Write them down, research ways you can try them out; such as volunteering, internships, or actual employment. You will not know if it’s right for you in a day or even weeks, so give it at least a few months. As I’m sure most people have heard more than once in their life, ‘Just do it’.”

Desiree provided some great insight and tips on how to pave your way to a successful future. I’ve personally seen her dedicate time and determination throughout the years and can honestly say that it seemed to work. I’m proud of her success and happy to see that it paid off early on in her life. I believe that many college students and early careerists can benefit from these tips and should try to test them out as soon as they can. Desiree is living proof that putting yourself out there can help you secure a place in your career.

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Photo Source: Colourbox

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Filed under Determination, Finding your Passion, Inspiration, Job Seeking, Self Branding, Taking Chances

The Impact of Lost Dreams

Today I decided to do something a little bit different. I don’t normally include “creative writing” pieces on this particular blog, but I felt that this might tie in nicely with some of the topics I discuss. I wrote this short, fictional story a few months ago. Basically, this story discussed how sometimes people get sucked into work and responsibilities that they don’t realize their dreams and life are passing them by. This piece is meant to remind people that you need to sometimes stop, catch your breath, and make sure you don’t lose that deeper part of you completely. I hope you enjoy this break from the typical business blog post:

The Impact of Lost Dreams

By: Ashley Lauren Perez

 

I sighed as I rubbed my hand down my face. My phone was sitting on the passenger seat, beeping uncontrollably. Another voicemail from my mom asking if I’m still alive. A text from my boyfriend confirming that I won’t be home for dinner again. A Facebook comment from my friends wondering when I’ll see them again. An e-mail from my boss giving me directions to the restaurant where a networking dinner is taking place tonight. I’m being pulled in a million directions and even though I extend myself, I’m still falling short.

The sun had already set. I’ve accepted that this has turned into another unexpected day of working overtime. I can’t remember the last time I left work at a reasonable hour and went home to relax. I don’t recall the last time my social activities weren’t a work event. When was the last time I did anything for myself or took the vacation I promised myself? My life has been so filled with engagements and obligations that all these days have blended into one continuous day of rushing to the next thing on my to-do list. I don’t know how I got to this point.

I pulled out of my company’s parking lot and onto the highway. I slowed down to a red light at an intersection when my phone started ringing. It was my boss, most likely calling to confirm that I was on my way. I contemplated ignoring it but knew she would just continue to call until I picked up. I selected the “Answer” button as the light turned green. And that’s when it happened.

I turned my head to my left to see headlights heading straight towards me from the driver’s side. It felt like slow motion.  I knew I was defeated in this situation so I closed my eyes, gripped the wheel, and braced for impact. This couldn’t happen. I barely even got to live my life.

My breathing sounded foreign when I finally came to. My eyes slowly fluttered open and light penetrated my irises causing me to squint. That’s strange- I was driving at night, last I recalled. I slowly sat up and assessed the environment around me. I expected to see the highway, the inside of an ambulance, or a hospital. You can imagine my surprise when I realized I was sitting on a dirt path in some sort of forest. I looked up and saw the sunlight dancing between the fluttering tree leaves. Everything was silent except the faint sound of nature surrounding me. There wasn’t a person or house in sight.

I pushed myself up and tried to search for the best direction to bring me back to civilization but the path seemed to disappear into thick brush behind me. The only direction to go was forward, where I could see a clearing in the distance. I followed the path and enjoyed the feel of the soft dirt under my bare feet. The spring-like breeze lightly blew my hair away from my face and I couldn’t help feeling déjà vu. I felt like I’ve been here before but this version was better. I should have been terrified because I had no idea where I was or how I got there, but strangely, I felt more comfortable here than I ever have anywhere. I walked further.

After a few minutes of walking I had finally reached the clearing and my breath caught in my throat. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. Directly in front of me was the beach and ocean, but the scenery was far better than any travel magazine could ever attempt to capture. An expansion of white sand and colorful tropical flowers led the way to the clearest, bluest, and calmest ocean I could ever imagine. The sound of the rolling waves onto the shore was soothing. But that wasn’t the thing that caught my attention. Every direction I turned had a different landscape. Surely, there could be no place in the world that could combine all of these things in one place. Where was I?

I wandered off to the right side into a deep, heavily treed part of a forest. Ducking under low hanging branches, I stepped carefully on smooth stones to cross a cool-watered creek. Across the creek, I came upon an abandoned stone building. Part of the ceiling had caved in and a tree sprouted out of the opening. It looked ancient and I highly doubted anyone roamed in there for decades. I stuck my head inside and saw a disheveled library hidden among the rubble and vines. Curious, I stepped through the door and traced my hand along the uneven, stoned walls. My fingers felt the dirt and moss that lingered on these walls until I came upon a loose stone. I wiggled it free and noticed a leather-bound book hiding in the hole.

I slowly pulled the book out, careful not to potentially destroy the weathered pages. The cover gave no indication on what it could be so I opened it up. The first page had a statement written in sweeping, beautiful calligraphy. It stated, “Only in the purest solitude will you rediscover forgotten dreams.” I fanned through more of the pages and concluded that it was a diary of someone’s hopes and dreams.

I crossed the creek again with the book in tow and headed towards the left side of the path. This side offered a wide expanse of meadow, peppered with colorful wildflowers and a distant mountain range for a backdrop. Wild horses galloped and played, while others grazed peacefully. I trudged along through the tall grass to a lake surrounded by blossoming trees. The fragrance of lilacs filled my nose and reminded me of an old tree I had in my backyard as a child. Soon, I found a swinging hammock tied under a cherry blossom and decided to lounge in it. The branch shook as I got situated in the hammock and caused the petals to fall around me like slow rain.

I got lost in reading the words on the pages. It seemed as if this author had the same thoughts and hopes I once had. A soft smile spread across my lips as I felt the passion and optimism in the words. I felt something inside of me change, like I was young and innocent again. I was inspired; almost like these dreams were truly within my reach.

I lost that feeling along the way when life’s obligations took away my imagination and only offered a reality that left no room for it. The more I got rejected or told that these things were impossible, the deeper these dreams got buried in my soul, to a place that they would never be found again.

As I read further, I came across a dog-eared page that simply stated, “This is your world now. You will need nothing more and nothing less.” I reflected on those words and quickly decided that they would resonate with me forever.

I didn’t know where I was or if I’d ever find my way back home but there was one thing I knew for sure- I will fight to take back my life and I will never lose that part of me again.

 

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Filed under Creative Writing, Finding your Passion, Inspiration, Job Seeking, Taking Chances

Become a “Rock Star” While Job Hunting

On Friday, I had written a post that talked about building up your confidence through the grueling process of job hunting. It’s tough- trust me, I know. There are plenty of days that I want to throw my laptop out the window from pure frustration. However, I’ve learned to pull it together during a time that really wanted to test me. Perhaps it’s my defiant nature, but I’ve vowed that I will beat this. Having this “can-do” attitude is helping me tremendously and I would love to help you get to this point, as well. Therefore, I’ll be happy to share some tips and suggestions on how to make yourself become a rock star while searching for your next employer.

First, I would like to mention that there are many beneficial reasons for harnessing this sense of self-worth. To name a few:

• You’ll display yourself in a confident demeanor during interviews.
• You’ll keep your sanity if you’re unemployed and bored sitting home.
• You won’t let rejection defeat you.
• You’ll keep your priorities in check and won’t accept a job just because it’s the first thing to come up.
• You could discover something interesting and useful about yourself.

As you see above, there are plenty of reasons why you should take a break from the job boards and take some time to work on yourself. Rejection after rejection can kill confidence which will end up hurting your job hunting progress. If you’re currently reading this post, then it is apparent to me that you care about finding a good job. Since I understand your current state, I would love to do anything I can to help you. Therefore, below are a few suggestions on how to build up your self-assurance and potentially get employers interested:

Break out of your comfort zone: Go to local meet-and-mingle events for professionals with the sole intention of learning more about the businesses in your surrounding area. Don’t come off as desperate by starting it off with a “please hire me” campaign. This tactic could potentially put up the “gatekeepers’” defenses. Instead, spend time asking questions about them and their company. Conversations like this could help you figure out which companies you’d want to target. Additionally, this can allow you to create a networking relationship with them. These gatekeepers are the ones who determine if your resume gets through or not, so get on their good side.

Be a socialite: Talk to anyone about anything. You may be pleasantly surprised at the new insight you gain. I’ve spent time reaching out to people all over the business spectrum and ended up learning a lot. These individuals have taught me: life lessons that changed my perspective; introduced me to businesses that fit what I’m looking for; gave me new tips on how get employers’ attention; and directed me to new resources that helped me learn about specific topics. I was also surprised by how willing people were to help and how supportive they were.

Get virtual: Join professional networking sites and contribute to discussion boards in various groups. You can learn more about business and expand knowledge by talking to professionals throughout the world. I have been utilizing sites like LinkedIn and Twitter to get exposure. I have found that using these websites and really taking the time to communicate ideas thoughtfully have taken me further in my job search than simply submitting resumes to job postings. Even if the individuals I’ve spoken to couldn’t help me directly, they have been kind enough to connect me with someone who could.

Take time to do something you love: Only focusing on the job search can create stress that hinders your productivity. Take a breather and do something you love to break up the search stress. Taking this break could put you in better spirits and in a better mind-set when attacking the job boards again.

Reward yourself: Most job seekers beat themselves up over their unemployment or underemployment. However, you’re making an effort in the right direction and deserve to reward yourself for working hard. Trust me- you’ve earned it.

Try something that interests you: Too often we focus on what we have done previously rather than what we’ve always wanted to do. Give it a shot- take a class; watch an instructional video; or read a “how-to” blog/book. You could discover you’re better at something new rather than something you’ve been doing for years. Learning this about yourself could open yourself up to opportunities you’ve never considered before. Opening your mind can help you break out of the box you may have trapped yourself in.

Realize it’s never too late to switch gears: The world is full of options. It’s also full of resources to obtain the experience and education you need to pursue those options. It is never too late to switch career paths. Like my father always said to me, “I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.” He’s been a loyal employee of the electric union for over 25 years. It’s nice to know he still has the mentality that opportunities are always there, no matter what you’re doing in life. I always appreciated the fact that my dad encouraged me to find what feels best for me instead of pushing me into a specific major or career. That inspiration is helping me more than ever right now.

Put yourself out there and take chances: If playing it safe isn’t getting you the response you need (or any response at all), then you need to try a new tactic. Take a chance, try something new, get exposure, and put your all into it. People respect others who show courage. You may be able to catch the attention of the right people because of it. My blog is my example of putting myself out there. I was happy to know that this approach could be successful, as I read in this article.

Life sometimes has a way of making the steady ground you stand on become unstable. Unfortunately, we can’t control when or why this situation occurs. However, you can control how you handle the circumstances. Job seeking isn’t easy but these suggestions can help you get back on your feet.

Send me a tweet and let me know how these suggestions have successfully worked for you: @AshLaurenPerez

Links:
How to Blog Your Way Out of That Entry-Level Job
10 Tips for Job Seekers in the Digital Era
Intel’s Networking Tips Blog Post

Companies mentioned:
LinkedIn
Twitter

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Filed under Inspiration, Job Seeking, Taking Chances

Putting Yourself Out There

As I was thinking about what I wanted to put in this post today, I realized that I’m surrounded by some pretty amazing people. Daily conversations with them have allowed me to easily come up with topics to write about. The theme of this weekend seemed to surround the idea of pursuing the things you want in life. Of course, going after the things you love and want can be terrifying and most people find ways to talk themselves out of doing it. However, sometimes you just need to put yourself out there and see what happens.

A few months ago I was talking to my cousin, Andrea Daniel, about work, life, and everything in between. She and I are a lot alike in the sense that we are the “wanderers” and “adventurers” of the family. She’s been a bit braver about going after the things she wants, though. She’s lived in multiple states, traveled a bunch, and even studied abroad on a cruise line to allow her to visit multiple countries. I’ve always been a bit more cautious for fear of failing, so I’ve always admired her courage to not hold back and also her relentless nature to roll with the punches.

In our conversation, she told me that if I really want to do something or really wanted to be somewhere, to just do it. She said to figure out a way to get where I needed to be and find a way to make it work once I got there. Going after the things you want in life aren’t always going to be easy and won’t happen overnight, but what kind of life would we lead if we never tried? Will there always be a part of us that tugs on our heartstrings, urging for more? Her advice has stayed with me and I’ve slowly started to follow it. Additionally, I’ve paid it forward and gave others the encouragement to put themselves out there.

First, I started with Jim Sweeney. Over the last six months I watched him get extremely excited about the idea to start a software development project that first specialized in apps and PC games, then eventually business software. He holds weekly meetings with the members of his group to go over ideas, recruit new members to fulfill different duties, and attempts to teach himself programming languages. I also saw him get a little deflated about the idea because he couldn’t find a programmer nor was he able to teach himself to be functional in coding on his own.

He was clearly passionate about it, seemed to love the idea of creating the software, and was trying hard to learn. So I asked him, “Why don’t you go back to school for it?” He told me that he didn’t have time to go back to school because he worked full-time. I wasn’t accepting that answer. I worked full-time the majority of the time I was going to school. I found a way to make it work by going to Thomas Edison State College. Of course, it took a bit longer to get my degree but I still got it.

Soon after our conversation, I introduced him to the college and now he is an enrolled student pursuing a degree in Computer Science. He will have his degree in about a year and I’ve never seen him happier. He knows that in 12 months he will have the capability to move forward with his project without having to rely on finding a programmer. It is empowering him to be able to make his dreams a reality from start to finish. Additionally, it would allow him to gain the skills to move forward with his current employer, Amazon.com.

Seeing someone who knows their dreams are within their reach can be inspiring. So, I took my own advice. Writing has always been a passion of mine but I never pursued it seriously because it always had a stigma that if you were a full-time writer, you would live the life of a starving artist (I don’t particularly like starving). Feeling like I would fail before I even started had me shy away from the idea in the past. But, like Andrea said, you need to just do it and make it work.

So here I am doing it. I haven’t been this mentally engaged or excited about something in a long time. Will the right person see this and offer me a job? Maybe. Will I end up paving my own way and make a career on my own doing this? Possibly. But even if neither of those things happens, the fact that these writings could potentially inspire even just a handful of people is enough for me. Making a difference in someone’s life by doing something I love is going to be marked off as a success in my book.

Now let’s fast forward to this weekend. My friend, Laura Grotzinger, just returned from a scuba-diving trip in Honduras. She was absolutely radiating with happiness and went on to discuss about how that trip got her back into doing photography and art. She went on to explain how she hoped to create photos, paintings, and inspirational posters using pictures from her travels and adventures. It was nice to see her doing the things she truly enjoys.

After she finally caught her breath from telling me all her wonderful stories, she took notice that I also seemed to have more of a positive demeanor since the last time she saw me. I told her about how I’ve been expressing my ideas through my blogging which has already allowed me to connect with some fascinating people who have introduced me to interesting concepts. I showed Laura how to use WordPress and she left my house even more ecstatic than when she first arrived (I didn’t think that was possible). She told me she couldn’t wait to create her own so she could display her art. Additionally, she planned on blogging about her other passion: travel. I watched her as she thoughtfully considered posts that intended on helping other travelers learn some tips for planning a trip. I hope her articles will help her land a dream job with Intrepid Travel one day.

So many people get discouraged from going after what they really want because those around them can sometimes be unintentionally unsupportive. The point of this posting is to show you that there is always a way and that it’s never too late. You can easily work on achieving your goals in your free time, step by step. It may be a slow process, but the fact of the matter is that you’re still doing it and that’s a win on its own. The first and most crucial step is to put yourself out there. Maybe those in your immediate circle aren’t giving you the support you need to take that step but trust me when I say that the world is big and you will find plenty of people to give you the encouragement and validation that you need. Give it a chance. I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

With that being said, I’d like to give a big THANK YOU to my friends, family, acquaintances, and even strangers who have taken a moment out of their time to offer me kind words. That simple act of kindness and support has given me the courage to take that first step. I appreciate it beyond words.
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I’d love to hear more about your success stories or your plans to put yourself out there. Send me a tweet: @ashlaurenperez

Network with:
Andrea Daniel
Jim Sweeney
Laura Grotzinger’s Blog

http://laurasglobetrotting.com/

Companies/school mentioned:
Amazon.com
WordPress
Thomas Edison State College
Intrepid Travel

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