Standout Tips from NYWICI Career Conference

View of Washington Square Park from New York University’s Kimmel Center, location of the NYWICI Foundation’s 2012 Career Conference.

I walked into Washington Square Park that Saturday morning feeling anxious but excited. It was a beautiful day in New York City, crisp but warm, and only a handful of people populated the normally bustling park. Attired in a pencil skirt and heels, folder in hand, I mentally prepped myself as I circled the square. I was on my way to the New York Women in Communication Foundation’s (NYWICI) annual Career Conference.

The day-long conference at New York University featured over 40 communications professionals speaking on topics ranging from social media marketing to news reporting to producing video for online platforms. One panel, “Secrets to a Successful Job Search,” was dedicated entirely to resume and job networking do’s and don’ts from four recruiters. Keynote speakers for the event were Kate White, former Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan, and Jenna Wolfe of NBC’s Weekend TODAY. Both were fabulous. While I practically filled an entire notebook with tips and tricks from these ladies, I’ve listed the SparkNotes of their speeches below.

Kate White
Kate White, former Cosmopolitan Editor-in-Chief. Photo courtesy of NYWICI Facebook page

KATE WHITE
Standout Quote: “Listen more than you talk. Contact + curiosity = opportunity.” 

Go big or go home
-Make your boss say “wow” on a regular basis. If you’re not doing that, you’re not doing enough.
-Ask yourself once in awhile, is this as gusty as it could be?
-Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want

Manage your success
Be a relentless architect of your career
-Step back periodically to “drain the swamp” of your personal and professional lives and think about the next step
-Actively “adopt” your mentors by developing relationships with key people. They won’t come to you.

Dare to set boundaries
-Refuse to let your smartphone control you
-Don’t bite off more than you can chew
-Make time to do what you love

Weekend TODAY’s Jenna Wolfe and me at the NYWICI Foundation’s Career Conference on Nov. 17.

JENNA WOLFE
Standout Quote: “Make as many mistakes as you want — just don’t make the same mistake twice.”

-Be comfortable in your skin
-Stop being nervous and anxious. Everyone makes mistakes. You don’t want to seem insecure.
-Appreciate where you are in the journey. Look ahead but don’t forget to enjoy the moment
-Believe in your potential

Show what you can do
-Do something great and then let your superiors see it, don’t just tell them what you can do
-Work harder than anyone else
-Meet as many people as possible, and always look for networking opportunities

If you’ve got a personality, use it
-Carve out a niche in the business. Lots of people can do the job well, but what can you do that’s different?
-Don’t change to fit the mold; you might regret it later on
-Just. Be. You.

***

To be completely honest, I left the conference feeling invigorated by their stories, but also a bit discouraged– most of these women had accomplished so much at such a young age, and I had to wonder if I could ever near their levels of success. If so, what should I be doing now to get there? With the future so uncertain, those competing emotions — hope and discouragement — seem to characterize the lives of young professionals.

But I’ve tried to internalize exactly what Jenna Wolfe emphasized to us– and that’s to enjoy the ride.

Election Eve in NYC

It’s Nov. 5 and New York City is glowing red, white and blue. On this chilly Election Eve, the city buzzes with excitement as people anticipate tomorrow’s close race between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. It’s uplifting to see so much color, light and energy in the city again after Hurricane Sandy took such a toll on New York residents and others from the area.Below are some shots taken tonight in Times Square and Rockefeller Plaza.

ND Magazine: Looking out, looking over

Author’s Note: this article was first published in Notre Dame Magazine at magazine.nd.edu.
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Looking out, looking over

BY SARA FELSENSTEIN ’12

After work one night in September I met up with a friend from Notre Dame, Meg, for drinks at a rooftop bar in New York City. We’d been talking about doing this for a while, getting to a rooftop bar before things got too busy and the summer passed right by. After consulting timeout.com and conversing via Facebook we chose The Press Lounge, located on the West Side and overlooking the Hudson River.

It was something to look forward to, something to break up the monotony of the week. And in a way, going to a nice bar like this after work on a weekday feels like a young-professional-in-New-York-City rite of passage.

We arrived around seven, ordered glasses of Pinot Grigio and took a prime spot facing the city to watch the sun set while we caught up on our new lives. We talked about how beautiful the city looked from this angle and how we hoped to never become one of those jaded New Yorkers who goes about life in such an irritated rush that the place loses its awe-inspiring quality.

Meg and I graduated from Notre Dame the same year and both grew up in New York City suburbs. We talked about college, of course, but it was strange how removed we felt from it after only three months as young alumni.

We realized there is a clear disjointedness to those two lives, college life in the Midwest and home life outside of New York City.

Those two lives don’t seamlessly meld into one another, but rather seem to be self-enclosed bubbles of months or years, sharing adjacent positions on the timelines of our recent pasts.

It’s odd too thinking that during those undergrad years, college was everything. Total immersion in papers, practices, clubs and parties meant I’d sometimes lose track of major news events, even family updates — as if all that mattered was Notre Dame.

Despite semesters in different countries, summers in various cities or breaks at home, as soon as we were back on campus and thrust into the regular workload, those other experiences faded.

It was like we had never left.

Then, all through senior year, our impending graduation was this distant siren growing louder by the month, but never quite loud enough to demand serious acknowledgement. Even weeks before graduation, some of us were still in denial it would happen.

If we remained firmly grounded in this place, in everything Notre Dame, how could we suddenly end up on the other side?

Of course, after summer break ends and students move back in — that’s when the reality of graduation really sets in.

I think that’s what Meg and I realized that September night at the rooftop bar, surrounded by dresses and suits and foreign accents, wondering how much this vibrant place surrounding us was actually our place. Letting go of the feeling that this could be any other summer we worked in the city, that our professional lives were just practice for later and we could still be going back and accepting that four years of college is actually a relatively small amount of time.

It’s hard to keep that perspective as a student, to really feel how short four years are.

Until they’ve passed.

So yes, college was dearly, dearly missed. But we were also thrilled with being in New York and completely in awe of the sights in front of us. We couldn’t stay out until 4 a.m., but there were no tests, papers or job applications in our immediate future.

We were “done for the day,” a brand new concept.

One that we very much liked.

“Manicure”

Captured over the summer from The High Line, this photo is one of my favorites. I love the surrealist nature of the billboard, which itself seems surreal against the the muted brown tones of the city, the grays of the clouds. And those floating fingers are just endlessly interesting.

From the pages of Cosmo to real life

One of the great things about being in New York is you never know what will happen, or who you’ll run into, on any given day.

The craziest things can happen and they make for the best stories.

Last Wednesday I had plans to meet a friend for pre-work coffee in the basement of Rockefeller Center. As I rushed down 6th Avenue, bordering on late for our 9 a.m. meeting, I received two somewhat puzzling texts from her.

With my wallet temporarily missing and my arms full with the contents of my bag, I didn’t immediately register what she meant.

Until I got to Rockefeller Center, walked downstairs, turned the corner and saw 50 of these guys sitting in tables. (And my friend Katherine, waiting at a table next to them.)

SOURCE: orbitcast.com

(Actually, this is the group from 2007, but it gives you the idea.)

Every single table in the entire seating area was taken up by hunky-looking guys in black T-shirts that said “Cosmo Bachelors 2012.” On the front of each T-shirt was the individual guy’s home state.  Each year, Cosmopolitan Magazine selects the most attractive single guys from every state in the U.S. and publishes short profiles on them in the November issue.

I couldn’t believe it. For 9 a.m. on a Thursday morning, being surrounded by these guys just seemed beyond ridiculous.

But it was indeed real. See? That’s me with Mr. Illinois and Mr. Massachusetts.

Oh, just me and two of the best-looking guys in the U.S.

Katherine and I were so giddy we barely wanted to leave the area to grab coffee. Needless to say, we didn’t do much catching up that morning, or need much caffeine.

Epilogue: it turns out the 50 bachelors were on The Today Show a little while later with Kathie Lee & Hoda. They played Truth or Dare and then helped the dynamic television duo carve pumpkins. (Yes, they assisted in the pumpkin-carving. True gents.) Watch this video clip of the segment, it’s pretty hilarious.

ND Magazine: The Subscription Dilemma

The approach of another new year begs the question: is it time to give up our print subscriptions? Check out my first blog post for Notre Dame Magazine below!

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The Subscription Dilemma

BY SARA FELSENSTEIN ’12

PUBLISHED: OCTOBER 18, 2012 POSTED IN: ALUMNI BLOGSSCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY, AND SOCIETY & CULTURE Bookmark and Share

I remember one morning as a 10-year-old I was up early, reading a book by the living room window. A black car slowed before our house, the window rolled down and a package was thrust onto our driveway. I paused for a moment before running outside to retrieve the paper, thrilled that I’d actually seen the man who delivers The New York Times. My excitement was a mere step below seeing Santa or the Tooth Fairy. The paper’s magic was still preserved — I didn’t know where exactly they came from — but I was one step closer to solving the mystery.

That was 12 years ago. Twelve years ago, we had barely purchased our first bulky Dell, much less consider taking the morning news from a backlit screen. Twelve years ago, we still had dial-up Internet, woefully barren email inboxes and asked Jeeves instead of Googling.

A lot has changed in 12 years. That’s why my mom recently sat my dad down at the kitchen table to bring up a two-word, volatile phrase in my household: digital subscription.

“Bruce,” she said, “Don’t you think it’s about time we get a digital subscription to The Times?

I knew where this conversation would end even before it started. My dad shook his head and sighed.

“Sally, please. We’ve talked about this. It’s really not that much cheaper. We’re just not getting one.”

My mom protested, laying down her arguments. That we read the news on the NYTimes.com each day, pretty much only reading the physical paper on car trips. That it’s a heck of a lot of recycling and wasted paper for a low percentage of use. That the most functional purpose of the paper at this point is not the paper itself but the blue plastic bag it arrives in, which we collect and use for doggie waste receptacles.

“It’s an unnecessary expense,” my mom argued.

“We’re keeping the subscription,” my dad said, and that was that.

While it wasn’t my place to weigh in on this discussion, partly because I’m not paying for the subscription but mostly because I read news online 95 percent of the time, I was privately relieved at my dad’s decision.

As a member of the digital age, I spend most of my day working and socializing in the online sphere. But with The Times, I wasn’t ready to go digital. Somehow, making my life both wireless and paperless feels less like moving forward and more like giving in.

I tried to determine why I am so attached to print newspapers when reading news online is more convenient for my lifestyle. I guess I’m nostalgic for “old times,” remembering the excitement I felt as a kid when “I read an article Mom!” or picked up the morning paper and the ink was still wet. Even at a young age, I had a basic understanding of what amazes me today — that all of these stories were compiled, researched, written, packaged and delivered — in the span of one day.

That sense of a day’s entirety is lost on the homepage of a website. The NYTimes.com constantly updates and changes its top stories throughout the day. I rarely do it, but I want the possibility of reading from cover to cover, the satisfaction of tackling the news without the nagging feeling that some bold headline appeared just as I looked away.

The scope of The Times website is infinite — between all of the articles, archives, photo galleries, timelines and podcasts, I can never read enough, be on top of the news enough. Sometimes, this wealth of information and visual stimulation is exactly what I’m looking for. But I do find myself flitting from headline to headline and am much more committed to a story when I read it in print.

Those are my reasons for being conflicted. Of course, my dad has his own.

With the click of “submit,” so goes another year, another print subscription. Yes, we’re essentially buying the paper for the off-chance that we go on a car trip, that we want to read in bed, that the Internet goes out, but for now, that’s good enough.

I’ve decided The New York Times and the NYTimes.com are not interchangeable.


This article was published first in Notre Dame Magazine.  

Imagine.

I visited Strawberry Fields in Central Park with some close college friends the morning after our first post-grad reunion.  I’d never seen the “Imagine” mosaic in person, but a poster of it hung in our college dorm room for a few years! Sitting on a park bench with our bagels, chatting about life and watching the dogs and strollers pass by, it was the perfect New York morning.

Blue Bottle coffee: ‘so good it’s almost beer’

It’s a warm, breezy afternoon in summer and my grandpa and I are strolling along New York City’s High Line park.

We’ve walked about 15 blocks when we come across some vendors selling art and a few scattered food carts. One is Blue Bottle Coffee, a California-based organic coffee brand that also has a few shops in Manhattan and Brooklyn.  You probably shouldn’t judge a coffee shop by its barista, but the guy behind the cart has that scruffy, indie look that makes me think he takes his coffee seriously.

“Let’s try it out,” Papa says. “I’ve heard it’s good.”

Of course, I’m not going to object. It smells amazing. I wonder though, realistically, how anyone has time for Blue Bottle.

There is no line when Papa and I order our Three Africans Blend drip coffees, but it takes almost five minutes to make them. Not exactly conducive to New Yorkers on the move, but I guess when you’re strolling on the High Line you’re supposed to be relaxed.

With our coffee slowly dripping through the filter, it’s awkward not to make small talk. The barista starts telling us how the Blue Bottle brand has a “cult-like” following in San Francisco, but is just beginning to catch on in New York City.

“In San Francisco,” he says, “Where people only have to be at work at ten, ten-ish, they’ll wait on line forever for a cup. It’s different here.”

Honestly, I can’t imagine people having the patience for that in New York. After all, a cup of coffee is a cup of coffee, even if it’s a really really good cup of coffee.

But we have plenty of time today, and  by this point I’m pretty sold by the scent of the coffee grounds, picked up and swirled around by the High Line breeze.

We finally get our coffee and sit down at a little table in the sun near 15th street. It’s about 75 degrees — if it were any warmer drinking hot coffee might not be enjoyable, but it’s perfect in this weather.

Papa takes a sip first.

“It almost tastes like beer it’s so good,” he says says, smiling.

I start laughing. My Irish grandfather loves his beer. I actually know what he means though — the coffee is so thick and rich-tasting, it’s almost filling.

I take a sip.

“Wow, this is good.”

Now I have to rationalize the high price.

“Starbucks lattes are like $3.75,” I say. “I mean, $2.90 for a cup? It’s still not as bad as being a latte person.”

We talk and talk about how delicious this coffee is. One of the best things about loving coffee is talking about how great your cup of coffee is with another coffee-lover who is genuinely enjoying his or her cup.

“I think this is one of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever had,” Papa says.

“Really?! The best you’ve ever had?”

 I’m thinking this is a pretty big deal for him to say, after a lifetime of drinking the stuff.

“Well, not the best, but close.”

Papa has never been a gourmet coffee drinker, preferring a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts black or the dark roast from Wawa. His all-time favorite — a 7-Eleven blend — was tragically discontinued a few years ago, and he’s been searching for a replacement ever since. He would never willingly step foot in a Starbucks; he thinks their coffee has too much of a burnt taste, which I agree with even though I buy it all the time.

Needless to say, I’m pretty happy about his newfound love for the trendy Blue Bottle.

We continue walking along the High Line, savoring our Three Africans Blend for the next 15 minutes until the coffee’s the same temperature as the outside air. It still tastes good.

That night I arrive home to an email from Papa, informing me of Blue Bottle’s dangerous new Rockefeller Center location.

“How can any one be able to save money working near a Blue Bottle coffee kiosk?” he writes. “There ought to be a law against this type of temptation.”

Writer’s Block

Taken on FDR Drive on my way to Brooklyn!

Like I said, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my next longer piece of fiction. This is always the hardest part, coming up with an idea. “It’s not about what you write– it’s how you write it” might be a writer’s anthem, but still, there’s definitely merit in writing that presents a fresh, new idea.

How do you make an old story fresh, or a new story relatable? How do you avoid writing what hundreds of people have already written?

One thing I know for sure is that I want to write in the vignette style. Some of my favorite works of fiction are written this way– Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies and Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street. I love how vignettes allow for multiple perspectives on a common theme, and let the writer flip through time effortlessly. There’s also something poetic about a series of vignettes, because each one is pretty brief. Sometimes a never-ending chunk of text, no matter how amazing the writing, is exhausting. Vignettes let the reader and writer breathe.

I’m a fan.

But what to write about?

Right now I’m at that stage when ideas are still forming; for a moment they’re immensely exciting and I can’t wait to put pen to paper. Then the feeling fades. What was I thinking?  I can’t write about that. Whoosh. Off to the trash.

When I was younger, I always saw fiction as a total escape from my  suburban life, a chance to travel outside the bubble. I wrote about things I had no experience with: flappers from the 1920s, a drug-abusing mother, children with mental disabilities, a quirky New York City coffee shop. I want my new work to fall closer to home. I’ve found that good fiction writing always involves opening up somewhat. Fiction doesn’t have to be based on your life, but on some level it has to be based on your experiences.

Much of my family history lies in Brooklyn, N.Y. My grandfather (mother’s father) grew up in an Irish tenement in Brooklyn in the 1930s and 40s. My father grew up in Brooklyn Heights in a Jewish neighborhood in the 50s and 60s. People usually think of Brooklyn through its context with Manhattan, but for those who grow up there, Brooklyn is its own entity, harboring a history and character independent of “The City.”

When I think of Brooklyn I think of rising housing prices, veganism, the Brooklyn Bridge, trendy bars, artists’ studios, and hipsters. The Brooklyn I see is totally different from my father and grandfather’s Brooklyns. My story would be set only partly in Brooklyn, and would not be focused on history, but it would be interesting to somehow show the area’s development through the lense of a modern-day 20-something-year-old.

Sparknotes of a book that’s not written:

Vignettes/Flashbacks. Brooklyn. Manhattan. Midwest. Social Networking. Newspapers. 9/11.

I’ll elaborate on the other themes in a later post. Vague, I know, but let’s see where this takes me…