YOU ARE MAGIC.

Photo by Almos Bechtold on Unsplash.

There’s something to be said for humility. Humility makes us approachable, coachable, and adaptable. It tends to focus outward more than inward. Humility says, “I am one drop in a large ocean. I am a work in progress.”

But there’s something to be said for recognizing the positive impact you make on the world around you, too.

I battle impostor syndrome, but I’m also motivated to “leave the campsite better than I found it.” I thrive on helping others, spreading kindness, and being a beacon of light (however small). When I don’t feel like my light is very bright, I reflect the light of others. Especially to those who can’t seem to see or feel their own warmth.

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash.

Several years ago, I started keeping notes from others as a way to index my positive effect. I kept a physical file called “Folder of Awesome” in which I’d place thank you cards, emails, etc. That evolved to also include keeping a list of wins and milestones, even if they seemed insignificant at the time. I do this to combat the effects of impostor syndrome—a way to validate, with proof, everything I have accomplished in line with my personal goals (see the campsite quote).

But this catalog of awesome also helps me get through rough patches, dark days, and times when I allow someone else to dim my light. (We all have moments when others cause us to question our worth, despite our best efforts.) Another unexpected by-product of this is an easy way to look back on positive highlights for writing bios, presentation introductions, and job interviews. The most meaningful way to convey the impact we make is through sharing our stories.

It’s easy to forget just how much light we put out into the world—how life-changing it can be. That person you wrote a letter of recommendation for—and they got the job! That student you inspired because you spoke in a class once. The words of encouragement that took you seconds to deliver but made a lasting impact. The mentee you took under your wing at work who is now blazing his or her own path. The kindness you showed when someone needed it most even though you had no idea at the time how alone he or she felt. Volunteering. Investing time. Investing resources. Investing yourself. Leaving the campsite better than you found it.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

Sometimes, we do these things because we genuinely care. Sometimes, we do them because we feel fortunate and want to extend grace and mirth. And sometimes, we do them because we know what it feels like to be down or lost—and we don’t want others to experience what we have.

Whatever your motivations, you are light. You are love. And while you’re out there, spreading kindness like confetti, make sure you show yourself a little of kindness, too. Take a moment to celebrate YOU and all that you’ve accomplished.

If this feels like bragging, stop right there. It isn’t bragging if you’re keeping a catalog of your own awesomeness for yourself. But you also deserve to toot your horn every once in a while. To look back on the love you’ve shared, the community you’ve fostered. Sometimes, looking back helps propel us forward.

You aren’t an impostor. You are magic. And don’t you forget it.

6 TIPS FOR LANDING AN INTERNSHIP AT AN AD AGENCY

Shout out to my current digital intern Samantha Whiting for joyfully posing with the "Hire me!" sign above. Sam landed her first full-time job while interning with us, working in marketing and social media for a local chain of restaurants. Way to go, Sam!

Shout out to my current digital intern Samantha Whiting for joyfully posing with the “Hire me!” sign above. Sam landed her first full-time job while interning with us, working in marketing and social media for a local chain of restaurants. Way to go, Sam!

Internships are a great way for college students to gain real-world experience and try on careers. A year ago, the full-service advertising agency I work for began a digital internship program. Each semester, we invite a local college student to join our digital team, trading their fresh perspectives and abilities for hands-on agency experience. We only have one position open a semester, yet we receive scads of resumes. As the applications have rolled in over the semesters, I’ve noticed an alarming trend: many of these applications really suck.

We’re talking about applications from students who have near-perfect GPAs, kids who I’m assured by people who know them are bright and creative, and kids who clearly want the job because they call or email every day checking on their application. These lackluster resumes and cover letters sell these students short and set the bar low for the competition. Many of them end up in our “pass” pile.

Here are six tips for crafting a standout, kick-ass internship application that will keep your name at the top of the candidate list.

Creative presentation gets attention. Advertising and marketing types are surrounded by creativity. Design is your hook–it’s what gets people to even read your application. To get noticed, you need to go beyond the typical black font on a white Word doc. Take time to design your resume and highlight your skills related to the internship. (If design isn’t your bag, there are copious resume templates available online.) Don’t bother with a generic summary at the top; cut right to the chase and tell the reader what you offer the company.

A resume submitted by a young woman named Caity applying for a digital internship

A resume submitted by a young woman named Caity applying for a digital internship

One of our applicants made her resume into a sandwich, stating on the cover, “I’ve been a sandwich artist for 4 years. This is my best sandwich ever. Take a bite.” Flipping through the sandwich, the different layers represented different aspects of her experience: the chicken was academic work, onion represented her professional work, tomato contained relevant skills, lettuce held achievements, and so on. She included a captivating cover letter with the sandwich, and I wanted to hire her on the spot!

Yes, you need a cover letter. Even if the prospective employer doesn’t ask for one. And that cover letter should be tailored to each organization/position. I’ve actually received backdated cover letters addressed to different organizations. No, really, it’s happened.

The cover letter is your opportunity to demonstrate you did your homework on the company and have the skills needed for the position. If you don’t have any relevant skills but are sincerely, strongly motivated regarding the position, just be straightforward about it. A little honesty goes a long way.  (And lack of skills will be evident if you get hired.)

Show ’em what you got! Be prepared to offer samples of work related to the position. If you don’t have any samples, don’t be afraid to make some. Research who the agency’s clients are and draft up some creative pieces around that client. Demonstrate your initiative and creativity. It’s OK to have fun with it!

If you’re serious about working in a creative field, consider setting up an online portfolio. Include a link to your work in your resume and cover letter. A simple WordPress website allows flexibility to showcase pretty much any kind of work from writing to photos to video. There are also portfolio sites that mix in a dash of social networking like Behance. And don’t forget to upload your work right here on your LinkedIn profile.

Read your own stuff. I cannot stress the importance of proofreading your application materials enough. I wish I were joking, but I’ve received resumes with my own name at the top instead of the intern applicant’s name. This shouldn’t happen. Read your own stuff, and then have someone else read it. If your school has a writing center, consider taking your application materials in for a good polish.

Ace the interview. Be comfortable and confident about what you bring to the table. You may get asked questions for which you’re completely unprepared (we actually do this on purpose to see how well you think on your feet), but you can at least prepare for the usual interview-type questions like “Tell me about yourself.” or “Why should I hire you?” Practice with someone else if you need to. Your interview should flow like a conversation between parties getting to know one another–because that’s all an interview is: a conversation. Don’t be afraid of it. It’s also a chance for you to interview the company. I’m always impressed when applicants ask questions that reflect an interest in the ad business and/or our particular agency.

And, above all, be yourself. Our internships span entire semesters. That’s a long time to work with someone, and if you don’t fit personality/culture-wise, it’s gonna be a long internship. (See my blog for another post I wrote on letting your freak flag fly.)

The power of “thank you.” Everyone’s busy. If someone took the time to meet with you, make sure you thank them. This seems like such a small thing, but I’ve seen thank-you notes seal jobs for folks because that’s what made them stand out. It doesn’t really matter what format you choose–email, snail mail, video, etc.–just make sure you do it (and do it promptly).

I keep many thank-you cards I receive. The one on the bottom with the handwriting was sent by Sam (my current intern).

I keep many thank-you cards I receive. The one on the bottom with the handwriting was sent by Sam (my current intern).

Bonus tip that should go without saying: clean your social media profiles. We google every single applicant and check out what they’re doing on social media. Because our internship is based on digital skills, we like to see if you know what you’re talking about in your application. But we also do it to screen out candidates that don’t align with our culture. So make those drunken party pics private or delete them all together. Make sure your social media profiles reflect an authentic, professional version of yourself. (You’ll earn bonus points with me if you post funny cat photos/videos.)

Young folks: I know you’ve got the skills and talent to knock marketing internships out of the park. Your application is the first step toward proving it. Invest the time and creativity in telling your story. Make it so compelling, the hiring manager can’t help but invite you to an interview. That’s the secret of marketing: persuading people to do something. If you want to market on behalf of a client, brand, or product for a living, start with effectively marketing yourself.You are your most powerful brand advocate.

“SHE HAD NOT KNOWN THE WEIGHT, UNTIL SHE FELT THE FREEDOM!”

abuse survivor story

If you ask people who know me to describe me, words that would likely come up: independent, stubborn, smart, strong. Words that one typically does not associate with the stereotype of an abused woman. A woman with those qualities “should know better.” I debated sharing this story with the world, but it’s important for people to understand that abuse (in any and many forms) can happen to anyone.

It’s also important for others in situations like mine to know that they deserve better, and–while never easy–they can get out of the dangerous cycle holding them hostage.

signs of an abusive relationship or domestic violence and abuse

Abuse comes in a variety of forms.

Looking back, all the warning signs were there. Immediate talk of “I can’t live without you” and moving way too fast. Explosive arguments. Confinement. A complete lack of personal space. Jealousy. The frightening lows were offset by highs of intense passion. That’s what makes abusive relationships hard to see for what they really are: I rationalized that I had never been loved like this, and, hey, everyone comes with baggage, right?

Relatively early on, he confessed to me that he and his ex used to get into these horrible, physically violent shouting matches. I should have known then, but my compassion and sympathy won out. After all, I am not the kicking, lamp-throwing, shouting kind. How could our disagreements ever escalate to that level?

We argued from day one (see “stubborn” in the first paragraph). I come from a home colored by the love of a single mother who didn’t yell much. I certainly was not accustomed to shouting men, and being around that kind of behavior just makes me shut down. This only elicited more rage from him. Each fight was worse than the last, no matter what I tried to do. It was like walking on eggshells. And it was exhausting.

signs of an emotionally abusive relationship

Just because it isn’t physical doesn’t mean it isn’t abuse.

There was much talk about how “we” needed to find “middle ground,” which I always felt like translated into “you need to conform to how I want you to be.” But, in hindsight, I don’t think anything I could have done would have been good enough. It was like he would gather all the materials to make a bomb, and I was just the excuse for him to light it–whether or not that bomb had anything to do with me. I was the outlet for some deeply rooted anger inside him.

But he loved me, so there was hope, right? Hindsight causes me to question. I’ve read a lot of articles–many of them written by mental health professionals and abuse counselors–to try to make sense of what happened and prevent it from happening again (click here for some good ones). Some of them indicate his “love” may have been just a show. Narcissists and sociopaths are extremely charismatic, especially when it comes to influencing others to get what they want. I was a moth trapped in his web, slowly being poisoned to death.

See, the thing about abuse is that it causes you doubt. After a while, you come to believe you are doing something to deserve that treatment: some remark you made, something you did, or the way you behave (or just who you are). It becomes a vehicle for self-punishment, even if you can’t see it at the time. More on that in a bit.

The fights were boiling over to a dangerous level. The last one we had was him shouting at me for three hours while I was curled up in a tear-soaked ball on the bed, frozen with fear. I had bruises from where he had grabbed and shaken me, where he had flung my arms back. I had invisible bruises from where he had demeaned and belittled me. Some of these bruises may never heal.

My psyche trembles and shrinks at the thought of what would have happened if that had not been the last fight we ever had. I couldn’t live like that. I retreated to my mother’s–my safe place–to sort it all out. He followed me. I told him to go home, and that night, I slept with a hammer under my pillow.

My mom (and some close friends and ex-husband) helped me see that I didn’t deserve this treatment. No one does. And I had given more than a fair share of forgiveness, patience, and compassion. Mom shared that she had suffered with abuse like this in her past–a side of her I had never really seen before. “I don’t want that life for you. I don’t want you to live in fear, second-guessing your every move or word,” she said softly, clearly hurting for her only daughter. That was the moment of my resolve: I had to get out of this poisonous relationship.

The worst part? The part I’m most ashamed of? Part of me still loved him. Despite all of the emotional, mental, and physical abuse, like a fool, I still cared about him. But I had to choose myself–my safety, health, and happiness–over him. I had to choose me. Even if my self-esteem had bottomed out and I felt pretty worthless, I had to practice self-compassion. When things got murky in my head, I’d ask myself, “If your best friend was in this situation, what would you tell her to do?” That’s how I found my way out.

abuse survivor quote

You have a choice.

And that way out was anything but easy. If he was so volatile in everyday life, how would he react when I told him we were done? I was terrified. My friends and I came up with safe words. I had standing offers from several people to stay at their houses, even without warning, if I needed a safe place to go. I had no idea what would happen.

But once he saw that I was no longer willing to play the role he had designed for me in his rage-filled drama, just as quickly as he dashed into my life, he was gone. There were the usual “we’ll still be friends” talks, but he changed. He became cold, distant, and eventually just disappeared without warning. We have not spoken since.

In the months that followed, I had PTSD to keep me company. I was drowning in anxiety, depression, and self-injury behaviors. I had become so accustomed to the self-punishment, I struggled with the void of it once the relationship was terminated.

Fortunately, I met a man who saw all the good in me that I could not see in myself. A man who was patient, tender, and kind. A man who understood what I was going through and how to deal with my triggers. A man who stayed my hand and quieted my uneasy mind. He was a good man who did not yell at me and would never raise a hand to me.

With his help and the help from friends and my mom, I began the healing process. I’m not sure I could have done it alone. And I don’t like thinking about how life would be with the alternative. How far it would have escalated… the damage that would have been done…

I still stumble. I still struggle with triggers. But several months later when I look back at it all, it’s like a nightmare. I fell asleep in someone else’s life, uncertain of how to make sense of it or escape, and then I woke up alone in my own bed, shaking in the darkness. But morning is coming. The birds are waking up, and warm light has started to kiss the earth.

I will be ok. But many other people continue to live in abusive situations every day. And abuse can start at any time in a relationship. If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, please know that you are worth more than that. Your life is worth more than shouting matches, punches, and angry words that tear you down. That isn’t love, and you deserve to be loved. If you’re ready to begin your own journey of healing, this resource will connect you with hotlines and shelters in your area that specialize in domestic abuse. Odds are if you reach out for help, you’ll save your life. And your life, no matter what you’ve been made to believe, is worth saving. You can heal. You matter in this world. Choose you.

abusive relationship quote

You are stronger than you realize. Prove it to yourself.

ADVICE ON WRITING

As Anne Lamott turns 61, she published a reflective post on Facebook. The whole post is worth a read, but I found this bit to be especially poignant:

Writing: shitty first drafts. Butt in chair. Just do it. You own everything that happened to you. You are going to feel like hell if you never write the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves in your heart–your stories, visions, memories, songs: your truth, your version of things, in your voice. That is really all you have to offer us, and it’s why you were born.

THE CASE FOR LIST-ENING ON TWITTER

grass-is-greener-where-you-water-itFirst, let me open by saying, on the whole, there is no right or wrong way to use social media. Anyone pounding their fist on the keyboard, harping that you’re doing it wrong simply means you’re doing it wrong for them. You have to find what works for you, your resources, and what you want to get out of social media. What’s more, with the ever-changing landscape of tools, apps, and features, what works for you today may not work for you tomorrow.

Maybe it’s the time of year–a period of reflection over the last 365 days while renewing a focus on what’s important–that has many people re-examining how social media is working for them. The fall guy du jour is Twitter. “It’s too noisy!” “The conversations just move so fast, I can’t keep up!” “Facebook is better because it doesn’t limit me to 140 characters.” Some have concluded that the only solution is a mass exodus-style unfollow. While mindful pruning of your connections (on any social network) is a good idea, a large-scale purge may not be.

Right or wrong, many people take social media personally. Especially when they know the person on the other side of the username in a face-to-face manner. And why can’t it be personal? For some, social media is their telephone, water cooler, and text messaging system all in one; it’s their lifeline connection to the world. A mass unfollow risks hurt feelings and/or confusion–perhaps doubly so if you use Twitter for personal and business connection.

“Oh, please. Hurt feelings over the internet?! They’ll get over it,” you say? Alright, consider this point from my insightful friend Kevin Mullett (whom I likely would not know if it weren’t for Twitter, by the way): “The more people of quality, or potential quality, that leave [a social network], the more the feeling, or perhaps reality, of it being a channel where less value can be had is perpetuated. (i.e., I hate to see good people give up, because it incrementally becomes less valuable for all.)”

Social media is, at its very core, an input/output machine. If you want quality and value, you have to be willing to roll up your sleeves, apply a bit of elbow grease, and make it happen. Otherwise, you’re quitting. But you’re not just quitting a social network: you’re quitting the potential it holds, the connections you’ve built, and the opportunities you may not find anywhere else.

If the real issue isn’t a lack of interest or commitment–if it really comes down to just time and clutter in your feed–there’s an easy solution. Think back to when you first joined Twitter. You probably followed your favorite bands, athletes, entertainment stars, products, and more, right? “Man, this is great! I’m following Justin Bieber! It’s like we’re buddies now!” (Oh c’mon, I know that wasn’t just me.) Suddenly, your Twitter feed is full of people you’ve never met and likely never will meet yammering on about what they ate for lunch at some swanky cafe, taking selfies with more people you’ve never met, and promoting their latest and greatest. If that’s what interests you then Twitter is working for you. But if you’re seeking connections with everyday folks in the city you just moved to, feedback on that creative project you’ve been pouring yourself into for weeks, or just want to talk about some of the little, dumb shit that fills our lives, well, those connections might get lost in the shuffle of Beyoncé, Taco Bell, and Google.

Enter one of the most underutilized Twitter features: lists. They take minutes to set up, are a breeze to manage, and help cut through the clutter in your Twitter feed. All the big name brands and celebrities that don’t even know I exist? They all go on a Twitter list called “entertainment,” and I don’t outright follow those accounts. (Except you, Charmin and MelloYello. You’ve been generous with the Twitter love.) I can check in with these accounts any time via this list without them flooding my feed. This allows me to focus on what’s really important (to me) when I pick up my phone or log in from my computer: engaging connections. I’m on Twitter for the conversation, to feel connected to the world, and to help others. To that end, lists can help again.

“If you aren’t ready to change your habits [on Twitter], double down and try to make it work–which is certainly understandable, as we all have to choose where to invest our time–then unfollowing everyone isn’t really going to matter. I would segment people with lists and just pay attention to a list,” advised Kevin. Lists work both ways: they can segment distractions from your feed or they can hyper-focus your attention on a select group of accounts. Perhaps these are your VIPs, must-read tweets, or morning news while you’re waiting in the carpool line. The beauty of Twitter lists is that they can be used in a variety of ways to optimize your experience.

Even with the vast spectrum of features and tools at our fingertips, some may still feel it necessary to purge their Twitter (or quit all together). And that’s OK. As much as I love Twitter, I recognize that it isn’t right for every person, organization, or goal. But if your chief argument is the clutter or lack of value, invest some time in resolving the issue before throwing in the towel. If you’re not willing to put in the effort, don’t complain about a lack of results.