EDIT: Skip down to the advice part if nothing else. It’s actually pretty legit. If I’m judging myself that is.
In case I’ve not said it recently, I absolutely love blogging. Not only is a some sort of self-realized therapy, but it’s also a great way to connect with people. Sometimes just via the internet, other times in person. The latter, I used to think incredibly “weird,” but somehow it’s not anymore. Crazy how opinions evolve…
Often, I’m emailed questions from readers. Most of the time it’s about clothes, but the rest of the time it’s about my job. And since graduation time is just around the corner, I’ve decided to post one of questions I’ve recently received about my job and answer it here. Mainly because I have 4 to answer on the same subject and I think it’d be easiest to share this way…
“I was wondering what are the most important pieces of advice that you could offer or skills that you learned along the way that would perhaps help me in my future endeavors. Also, how did you know that politics/government route was the correct path for you?”
Where to begin…
Throughout my college experience I wanted to go into a every field imaginable: professor, politics, psychiatry… the list goes on. At some point my parents just convinced to get a degree and get out the door. And thus, I FINALLY graduated, off-schedule of course, with a degree in the Classics. Think Latin and Ancient Greek.
Having been editor at my university’s newspaper my senior year, I had decided that writing was my passion. My closest friend at the time, a fellow newspaper staffer, had a dream of moving to DC and being a reporter. I borrowed her dream and decided to make it my own. Perhaps more dedicated to a goal than those around me, I applied to every political rag in town. As luck would have it, I was offered a reporting job with a startup paper in DC. But in a visit up to the city I balked. Worried a startup would fold before I even whet my journalistic appetite and instead I took a gig with a lobbying firm. *Worth noting, said startup is now the best of all 3 DC political rags. Go figure. Funny how things work out.
So nearly 2 months before graduation, I had a job set in a city hours from home, where I didn’t know a soul. I had NO idea what I was doing with my life. That’s the important part of all that I’ve said thus far. I HAD ABSOLUTELY NO CLUE.
Working for one of the last bastions of Republican consulting, I began to find myself. I realized what a die-hard politico I had become throughout the years. I knew my strength still lie in writing, but I wasn’t necessarily writing the way that I wanted to at the time.
Throughout the next two and a half years, I jumped in to every political opportunity I could find. From endless campaigning, to becoming Chair of the Alexandria Young Republicans, I did all that I could to walk the talk of a politico.
October 2009 – December 2010 are more painful than productive. Working as a Political New Media Manager at the Republican Party’s HQ. Managing a Congressional Campaign. Working as a Press Secretary for a U.S. Senate race. Unemployment.
This whole time taught me that sometimes life doesn’t go as planned. If you read my blog during this time, you know I was more upset with life than happy. It made me question what I wanted to do. Did I belong in DC? Was trying to get on Capitol Hill and ruling out all private sectors jobs foolish? Was Press work just a pipe-dream? I had no idea. I was clueless and so downtrodden you wouldn’t believe…
Fast forward to this January. I landed my dream job on Capitol Hill — Press Secretary. Working for a new Member of Congress. The pay is far less than the private sector would offer and the hours are ATROCIOUS, but I love what I’m doing so it’s hard to complain. Well complain and complain too seriously anyway.
Looking back now, I can see that all the things I’ve done say the past 10yrs of my life, has lead to me to this place. From writing for the university newspaper to College Republicans, to working at a lobbying shop, to campaign work… they were all small pieces of the puzzle that I couldn’t understand until now.
1. Take risks. Risk Failure. Realize that you’re young (heck, even if you’re not) and go with your gut and pursue your dreams. Life presents many opportunities to make decisions. Sometimes this will lead you to failure. But failure’s only temporary. It all comes down to how you get back up and move forward.
2. Learn how to wait. And when to wait, and what to wait for. Creativity has a different schedule and a different rhythm than other forms of work. It doesn’t like to be rushed but sometimes it is urgent. Investigate the difference between procrastination, avoiding work and gestation, waiting for the work to ripen and oneself to grow into it. Sometimes there is a great difference between gestation and procrastination; other times they borrow each others’ clothes. Sometimes we need to invite the creative into our lives with attention, awareness, personal rituals. At times we are waiting when we need to act. Other times we are busy trying to make things happen when it is time to wait.
3. Accept the loss of control. Life is consistently inconsistent. Much as we’d like each of our days to be calm and trouble-free, there are so many things beyond our control that this just isn’t realistic. As much as you may want to always stay in control, God knows I do, sometimes you it’s in the moments where you lose control that you find yourself landing in the “just right” place.
5. Be willing to start over. If you find something doesn’t work for you, move on. It’s your life, don’t waste it. You don’t want to make up one morning and realize that you never followed your dreams. Life is too short to say “I’ll do it tomorrow” or “I’ve got plenty of time to do that”.
6. Demand more. Set goals that challenge you. That s-t-r-e-t-c-h you. That have the ability to take you to the next level. I would much rather fail trying to do something that made me work out of my comfort zone and expand my abilities and work harder than I ever thought possible, than to succeed at doing something I knew I could accomplish with my eyes closed. Stretching yourself is what sets you apart from everyone else. Most people are content with “just getting by.” Demand more of yourself.
SKILLS I’VE LEARNED ALONG THE WAY:
1. Confidence. If you were to ask me if I’m good at my job, I could honestly, and truthfully tell you there may only be one or two other people capable of doing what I do and how I do it. Confidence isn’t about a false reality. It’s about knowing who you are, what you have to offer and then owning the hell out of it. I wasn’t always so confident in myself, but it’s hard to deny what I know to be true.
2. Time management. I spent the greater part of 2007 and all of 2008 with a full time job at a lobbying firm and second full-time job working for the McCain campaign, both before and after the lobbying gig. Every day. And on weekends. Allthewhile I was also the Alexandria Young Republicans chair. President of my sorority’s alumnae chapter in DC. A public relations advisor to my sorority at the University of Maryland. A member of the DC Jr League…. and the list goes on. My point is, you can do a LOT if you learn what to juggle and when. When I know I only have an hour window to accomplish something, I get it done. When I know I have all day to finish that same one-hour task, I get it done in that hour.
3. Teamwork. Great things can be accomplished through teamwork. We each have different strengths, which is why at times, things can best be accomplished in a team setting. Teamwork teaches you to look at other’s strengths and put your ego aside in order to produce the best result.
4. Public speaking. The ability to speak clearly, persuasively, and forcefully in front of an audience – whether an audience of 1 or of thousands – is perhaps my greatest gift, but also a learned skilled. Being able to speak effectively means you can sell anything – products, of course, but also ideas, ideologies, world-views. And yourself.
Holy cow have I gone on and on in this post… clearly I’m not one for too much editing today. And I recognize that I didn’t directly answer the initial question that prompted this post, but that’s me. I rarely take a direct path to anything.
Oh well. If you’re only reading this, know that I’ve ended up where I am, by not having a clue where I was going. By following my dreams. By working through the hard times. By crying through the failures. By always working towards being better than I’ve been before.