Why Taking a Break is a Good Thing

Life

It’s been a little while, I know. After years of consistently blogging, guest blogging, Tweeting, social networking, and so on, I took a step back to assess.

In the beginning, I used blogging as a way to build a personal brand in the pursuit of landing a good job. Once I got that job, I used it to continue thought leadership and develop my career in the direction I wanted it to go. After creating that portfolio, I was able to prove myself and get the promotions I was looking for.

But, now what?

I know that in order to stay relevant and knowledgeable about current trends, it’s important to keep up with your social and blogging persona as much as your IRL one. But being everything to everyone can be a little overwhelming, at least for me. If I wasn’t glued to my laptop, I was glued to my phone. Before I knew it, years passed by and I felt like I had accomplished very little in my personal life. Not good.

Being successful in my career is important. I had a lot to prove to myself and, sure, I still have a lot to prove. However, I don’t want to look back on my life and realized that I missed out on living it. I have goals to move, travel, write books, pick up a hobby, learn a new language, learn how to get better at baking, enjoy the company of my husband and puppy, visit family more, be a better friend, try something extreme, and more. Unfortunately, I’m not the type of person who has an insane amount of energy and can dominate both being professionally “on” 24/7 while still managing progression in my personal affairs. I envy those people and often wonder how they find time to sleep. And if they are running on no sleep, how do they achieve everything so flawlessly?

Every so often, you need to be honest with yourself. Can you truly do everything you want to in a reasonable time frame or do you need to start chipping away at the excess and focus on what matters? For me, it’s time to pull back a little on being proactive in the social and blogging world for my personal brand. Once work’s daily closing bell rings, I decided to turn off the HR/Recruiting/Employment Branding/Whatever-else mentality and focus more on being a well-rounded person… at least for a little while.

I do believe taking a break is a good thing. It helps people recharge and become reengaged in the things they were passionate about. New perspectives are born after taking a step back. This is what I’m hoping for as I pursue this break and focus on personal goals.

So, thank you so much for supporting this blog over the last few years. I truly hope you all learned as much as I’ve learned from many others in the social media and blogging world. This break isn’t forever and I’m looking forward to coming back with renewed passion.

Stay tuned.

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2014 at a Glance

SAMSUNG CSC

Wow. We’ve made it through another whole year and it seems like they’re flying by faster and faster. As I take a moment to reflect on my personal and professional highlights of 2014, I’m reminded of how much can change in a year. It’s a nice reminder of what can be accomplished, but also that there is still so much more to do.

From a personal standpoint, I moved from Charleston, SC, to Boston, MA. After over a decade of dreaming about travel, I finally took my first European trip to Paris and Rome. I took the leap and became a puppy parent. And I made plans to finally tie the knot with my long-term fiancé in 2015.

From a professional perspective, I continued to build my strategic skills for the talent acquisition space, specifically in recruitment planning and employment branding. I finally had an opportunity to attend a human capital conference, which I absolutely loved. I was even able to meet professional contacts I connected with via social media over the years. Currently, I’m in the process of switching my employer/career, but that will come in due time.

As for blogging, here are the most viewed blogs posted in 2014:

 

Overall, I was both surprised and happy to see that my top post of all time was one of the first ones I wrote on this blog back in 2012: Basic requirements: A candidate’s search for a qualified employer. Since writing this post, my professional career has changed so much. I’ve learned more than I could imagine, gained so many new skills and really saw my potential. I was challenged often and always found a way to rise to the occasion, no matter how impossible it may have seemed.

As I restart my job search in 2015 and finally have a moment to reflect, I reviewed this specific blog post from 2012 and realized that even years later, the things I want from an employer still ring true today. I’ve had a great opportunity to work for a company that hit most of these points for the last 2+ years, letting me know that these companies really do exist. I’m hopeful and looking forward to seeing what 2015 has in store for me.

Happy New Year!

Why Being Content Terrifies Me

Typically, I write about some sort of HR topic but it’s nice to internally reflect every once in a while. Some readers might relate to me in this post while others might think I need therapy to avoid a future nervous breakdown. Regardless, this is a topic that many people have probably considered several times throughout their lives and could be applied to any part of it. Today, I’m reflecting on what it means to be content and why it terrifies me at this stage of my life.

While growing up, I recall doing just enough to get good grades in school. Once I entered the real world, I did what I was told, followed direction from my superiors, and tried to quietly do my work well enough without causing any need for red flags or to be in the limelight. It was easy. I progressed slowly and steadily. I felt content in what I was doing and then one day it dawned on me that this way of living was not going to cut it.

Contentment for me meant settling. It meant just skirting by in life. It meant being involved in things that let me sleep soundly rather than having maddening (yet amazing) ideas keeping me up at night. It meant that I was blending in, trying to tip toe through life so I played it safe. I often wondered why many days I felt uninspired or like something was missing. Then I realized that I wasn’t doing anything that spoke to me as an individual.

It wasn’t until I lost my job over a year ago that I finally found something worth fighting for. I worked harder than I ever had in my life to figure out what mattered to me and how I could excel at it. I wanted people to see that spark in me, to recognize my hustle, and to see me marching full speed ahead. Did I have to be a pioneer? No, but I had to do something that made me feel like I was making an honest and unique impact. I wanted to have a voice worth hearing and I wanted to be worthy enough to be involved in conversations with people I admired.

After finally discovering what it feels like to have something worth striving for, I don’t want to be simply content any time soon. Sure, some days my head hurts from absorbing a ton of information and I might be exhausted from the extra work I put in, but in the end I’m doing something that I’m proud of. I can look back on it and know that I was the one who made that happen and that any successes I encountered throughout my life were due to my hard work.

Being content might be an option for me far down the road but definitely not now. Some might argue that I push too hard and that I’m not taking the time to feel satisfaction for the goals I have achieved along the way. To me, hitting a goal is just an affirmation that I’m making the most of my energy and effort. They’re not meant to be a resting or stopping point. At this time, I’m perfectly ok with how I’m progressing as long as I’m doing it well and with integrity. This is my time to feel things greater than contentment and I’ll keep moving forward to ensure I continue to feel this sense of stimulation and accomplishment in the things that matter to me.

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.

Photo Source

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

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.

 

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