Creating your own definition of professionalism

definitionI never expected graduate school to teach me what not to do. Don’t get me wrong, this journey has taught me a lot of good as well, but it’s the things you aren’t expecting that catch you off guard.

I am fortunate to be gaining knowledge about my profession in the classroom and through my position, which also allows me to work with a variety of professionals in my field. Everyone’s view on profesionalism and how to represent yourself is all over the place, so much so that I fear I’m losing sight of my own opinion on the subject. Who gets to define professionalism anyway? Wouldn’t it be in the organization you work in and the leader of that organization? Or is it just a floating definition that everyone carries to make it seem like it exists?

Professionalism is defined by the skill and competence of a person, but that is not the definition we see while working.

Like getting resume and interview tips, every person has a different way of seeing professionalism. To my supervisor, it is being completely open at work both personally and professionally to allow everyone to get to know each other. To others it may be your personal life is private and should be left at home. Some focus professionalism based on the clothes you wear or if you have any tattoos and piercings. There are so many ways to define it, it almost seems like an unrealistic common goal that everyone wants to reach.

What I’ve learned is not to follow the true definition of professionalism, but rather shape how I want my professionalism to be seen by others. I know that I will keep some things about my life private in the workplace, but allow people to get to know me so they know I’m the same person at home and at work. I know that I will always dress clean and if I ever decide to get any tattoos or additional piercings, I will make sure that its something that means more than just a blotch of ink on my skin. I know that when I come to work, I will be ready to do my job, but still have a personality to make it fun. I know there is so much more to define being a professional and I aim to find the ones that matter to me.

How do you define professionalism for yourself? Are there any stories of professionalism gone wrong?


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Be careful what you wish for (but don’t be scared of it!)

work loadI know I speak for a lot of us when I say that the first six months or so of my budding career were mind-numbingly boring. I would go around the office searching for any little project that I could help with. It didn’t help that the position I was hired for was one that I knew I didn’t want to stay in for long. I was looking for any way to have something more to do at work, rather than spending hours a day at my desk scouring through Buzzfeed.

Fast forward 15 months – I now have more projects at work than I know what to do with. I’ve transitioned into a role in my company that I actually want to keep doing, and I have a lot more responsibility. The “new kid” syndrome that I was complaining about last year is an ancient memory.

Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t change how the past year has gone one bit. I’m glad that I fought to change my situation. But now I have the problem of juggling more work than I ever imagined I would have in the second year of my career. Since transitioning into a different role, I have still been helping out with my original duties until my company hires a replacement for me. I am essentially doing the work of two people.

I can’t help but look at the circumstances and laugh. A year ago I was complaining about not having enough to do. Now I am complaining about having too much to do. As one of my good friends told me, it’s either feast or famine – no in between. I know once I get settled into my new responsibilities and role that my work load will level off. Until then, I just have to dig in and get to work.

Have any of you experienced a transition like this?

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The Freshman 15 (repeated)

weight-loss-scale-helpYou know what was awesome about college? The non-nine-to-five schedule. The rare occasion when I was like, “Oh! It’s gorgeous outside. Obviously I’m skipping class and going for a jog.” Getting to walk basically everywhere you need to go in a day. The fact that there was only food around me all day if I brought it with me. The living alone situation where I only had to cook for myself. It was so much easier to focus on me in college.

Now I have steadfast obligations and, don’t get me wrong, I’m one lucky girl. But now I have to be at work at 8 a.m. like the normal person. I have to be at work all day, regardless of the weather. I sit at a desk for eight hours a day. I’m surrounded by pastries, cookies, breads, you-name-it, at work ALL THE TIME. And I live with my boyfriend, so now there are two mouths to feed, which can make cooking a little harder since I have to impress him with my awesome (ha!) cooking skills.

Every day began to look the same for me. I got caught in a comfortable routine, time went on, and the next thing I knew, I was in the doctor’s office for a check up. The doctor looked at my chart and said, “You’ve gained 15 pounds since you were here six months ago. What’s up with that?” Having just been called out and feeling awkward, I tried to make a charming joke: “Well I’m working an office job. And those damn office pastries!” The doctor didn’t even look up at me when she flatly said, “Well. That’s gotta stop.” (Please note: I was offended that I didn’t even get a pity laugh.)

So. There I had it. You’re getting fat, girl. Stop it.

I put together a list of where I went wrong and I think I can probably help other people through the transition from “active college life” to “sedentary office life” with it.

  1. Make an effort. Even if you weren’t really physically active in college, you’ll probably be less physically active in the professional world. My advice is to bite the bullet and get that gym membership. If you’re staunchly against it, at least make yourself get out and walk or jog every day. It will lift your mood, your spirits and your butt. But you’ve got to make the effort.
  2. Watch what you eat. This is definitely the thing I have the hardest time with. I truly love junk food and all things carbs. I’ve learned I have to hold myself accountable for what I eat. This is easiest if you plan ahead and bring your lunch to work every day, as well as have a plan for dinner.
  3. Stay away from the damn office pastries. My biggest downfall right here. I know it seems impossible when someone brings in Krispy Kremes, but you need to put the shiny, sugary, glazed deliciousness down, and opt for a healthier mid-morning snack. Fruit, nuts or Greek yogurt are great as substitutes for your carb and sugar cravings. Give them a try.
  4. Find a fitness buddy. Chances are that you’re not the only person in the office who would like to shed a couple pounds or at least maintain their current weight. Bounce ideas off of them for meals, workouts, and substitutes for healthier choices. Maybe you can even take it out of the office and go to the gym or on a run together.
  5. Don’t forget about yourself. Boyfriend, girlfriend, roommate, obligations, whatever your focuses on different things, don’t let them be an excuse to forget about yourself. There is a happy medium- a balance- and I promise it can be found. Not only will you thank yourself, but those around you (boyfriend, girlfriend, roommate, etc.) will be thankful, too.

At this point, I’m back into the swing of focusing on me, my health and my happiness. I can’t put into words how much happier and more accomplished I feel now that I’m back running and eating healthy again… and resisting those pastries.


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The other ism: Ageism

baby-in-high-heelsWe’re all familiar with racism and sexism. I feel very fortunate that I haven’t personally experienced these forms of discrimination or prejudice. However, since starting my first “real” job, a little over a year ago, I’ve definitely experienced ageism on multiple occasions.

Agesim. As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is the, “prejudice or discrimination against a particular age-group and especially the elderly.” Well, I can’t speak for the elderly considering I’m only 23, but I can definitely say some of my co-workers have falsely preconceived opinions of me because of my age. Even though my office has quite a few young adults, I am the youngest employee in our office, not including our college interns. I assume I’ve receive the brunt of the “oh, you’re so young” prejudice since I am actually the youngest even if only by a year.

Ok, right now it might sound like I’m overreacting. Maybe I am, however to me it’s very important that I remain professional in the workplace and it’s hard to do so when I get taken less seriously than my older co-workers. Also, I assure you this has nothing to do with my attitude but everything to do with the fact that I’m 23 years-old.

I had a conversation one time with my boss on our new 401k plan. I’m in enrolled in the plan because I realize it is extremely important to start saving for my future and I want to start as early as possible. During this conversation my boss was lamenting the fact that I didn’t have to worry about savings. That 401k plans weren’t even a thought when she was my age, and that I was “SO LUCKY” I didn’t have to worry about that kind of stuff yet. I was surprised that number one she didn’t think it was important to have savings early on in your career and number two that she assumed I didn’t have financial worries or woes because I’m still in my 20s.

On another occasion I can recall being at a lunch meeting with a client and one of my co-workers referred to me as a baby because I graduated college two years ago. I understand she didn’t mean for this to come off as rude but it was definitely an unnecessary comment. The client then remarked that she couldn’t believe I was only 23. Her exact words were, “Are 23 year-olds even allowed to graduate from college yet?” Needless to say I felt annoyed, as well as embarrassed. It was hard to take myself seriously and I questioned if I was even worthy of the position I have at the company, even if it is entry-level.

My weekends are hardly crazed-filled with parties and bars. I’m much more likely to be out getting dinner with friends or playing board games on a Saturday night. Recently, I’ve had several friends get married and I know this will only continue. I’ve had several co-workers tell me it’s ridiculous that I have good friends who are married. “You’re too young for that,” they say. They must not realize everyone is different and just because they weren’t ready for that when they were younger doesn’t mean other people aren’t. Everyone has to make decisions that are the best for them, even if other people can’t relate to the decisions they choose.

Have you ever experienced this sort of ageism in your workplace?


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My 20-Something Murtaugh List

First, I need to give credit where credit is due. Thanks to the Twenty-Something Condition’s recent post for inspiring me to make my own Murtaugh list. In Twenty-Something’s post she references the How I Met Your Mother episode (Season 4, episode 19) where Ted references Roger Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon’s well-known catch phrase, “I’m too old for this shit.” And Ted creates his own list, which then Barney tries to do all the items on Ted’s list.  Being a die hard How I Met Your Mother fan, I could also relate to the episode. For those of you who don’t watch HIMYM, first shame on you, but here is a clip so you can understand where the Murtaugh list comes from. It’s short and it won’t kill you, I promise:

I might not be 30, which is the point of the HIMYM show, but this upcoming May I will have been out of college for two years. It’s crazy because it really doesn’t seem that long ago that I was triumphantly holding my diploma and taking pictures in my cap and gown. In the past two years a lot has changed. At first, I was un-easy about the change and that’s how this blog came to be, but I now welcome slowly slipping into adulthood. Just last week I wrote a recommendation letter for someone who later got an interview for the job, and that felt pretty damn good.  Maybe being a Borderline Adult isn’t that bad, maybe it just takes some time getting used to. Either way, there are a few things that I can’t help but declare, “I am too old for this shit” and I am okay with that.


1.    I am too old to have irresponsible roommates.  I might only be 23, but I feel like I’m too old to have to remind someone when rent is due, or when to pay the bills.  Or even worse, come home to wet and bleached carpet because my roommate’s friend threw up after a night of drinking and couldn’t make it the eight steps to the bathroom AND because my roommate didn’t know how to clean the carpet properly. We’re adults now, we should know and do better than this. Our apartment is now our home, not a dorm where we sleep eight months out of the year. 

2.    And speaking of drinking…I am too old to party every weekend.  Now, I’m not saying that I don’t like to go out, but I feel like I’m too old to go out with the objective of getting wasted every weekend. This is for many reasons. 1. I don’t have the money and 2. I don’t want to feel like shit for a majority of my weekend.  Plus, going out to socialize is much better than going out to get drunk. I have better relationships with my friends because of it.

3.    I am too old to not be able to prioritize my budget. I have real bills to pay now, and should be better at budgeting than I used to. I can’t always buy that cute skirt I want from LOFT, or the candy that I’ve been craving for that matter.  I have a credit card bill, rent, utilities, insurance etc…I might not be perfect at this one yet, but I’m working on it. 

4.    I am too old to have to rely on my parents/other family members financially. I am one of the lucky few to get through college with minimal debt, but after college due to some unlucky timing, I paid for two apartments in two different cities for six months. It left me broke and with a few thousand dollars on my credit card bill.  My Grandma (bless her heart) hates to see her grandkids in debt, so she kindly offered to pay off by bill, with the notion that I would pay her back with no interest. This was a very gracious offer, and one that was honestly hard to turn down, but in the end it’s my debt, and one that I need to deal with on my own.  It was my choice to sign a lease and not move in with my aunt, and it was my choice to go to Vegas for that Bachelorette party. I’m an adult, which means I need to take responsibility for my finances, and I can’t turn to my grandma or parents anytime I need financial help.

5.    I am too old to not take care of myself.  I weigh too much, and it’s not going to get any easier. During high school I was a year-around athlete and was in impeccable shape.  In college, I didn’t work out due to an intense work and study schedule. Plus, I ate late and horrible meals full of sodium. Now, I have the time to work out, which I do, but I am realizing that it would’ve been easier if I would’ve just kept it up throughout college.  Now, I’m 50lbs heavier and would love to just lose 30lbs of it.  I’m realizing that 10 years from now the actions I make consistently throughout my 20s are going to make a difference of how I will feel and look in my 30s and even 40s. 


I could easily add a few more to my Murtaugh list, but these are by far my top five. I hope I didn’t sound too cynical, but I think it’s important that we realize that there comes a time when we can’t (and shouldn’t) do certain thing anymore.  I mean, nobody wants to be the 50 year old woman acting like they’re 21, right?

What’s on your Murtaugh list?


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Why So Serious? (AKA Meet My Kitties)

So I’ve recently been dealing with a bit of writer’s block. Not in the traditional sense, more of a finding topics I care about sense. I have a list of topics that I would have no problem writing about. It’s just that I can’t bring myself to be passionate about them. And if I’m bored writing about a topic, you’ll more than likely be bored reading it.

So I’ve decided to focus on something fun this week for my blog post – I can write about the pressure of juggling a new position at work another day. Say hello to my cats – Cleopatra and Caesar.

Caesar Cleo 8

First day home from Wayside Waifs animal shelter, only eight weeks old. August 2013

I never knew how much I would enjoy having pets until I adopted these two sweet Siamese kitties last August. I mean I grew up with cats and dogs, but these little guys are all mine. I can honestly say, if you don’t own a pet, you won’t understand. And if you are a pet owner, I don’t need to explain it to you. I love my cats so much that I’ve seriously considered making a Facebook page for them. Commence crazy cat lady jokes… now!

And just so this post is somewhat educational, here are some of the top things I have learned from being a new pet owner.

9.  They hate water, but love the shower for some reason. In fact, I have no privacy while showering. They sit in between the clear shower curtain and the cloth shower curtain and watch the water.

February 2014 "This is our bed, right?"

February 2014 “This is our bed, right?”

8.  Nothing is out of reach. You think putting something on top of the refridgerater means you cat can’t reach it? Wrong!

7.  Cats do not like being put in costumes.

Halloween 2013

Halloween 2013

6.  Being obsessed with a clean litter box is pointless. They wait for you to clean it so they can dirty it 2 minutes later.

5.  The sound of a can opening brings them sprinting into the kitchen. I don’t even feed them canned food. Where did they learn this?

4.  I am definitely not ready for kids. Cats, who are incredibly self-sufficient, are still a huge responsibility.

3.  I am that person who spoil her cats and treat them like children. To my friends, I’m like that mom who forces everyone to look at pictures of her kids.

2.  Laundry basket full of freshly washed clothes makes a perfect cat bed.

They were too cute to move. So I took a picture instead.

They were too cute to move. So I took a picture instead.

1.  My cats love me so much. It’s something that can’t be replaced. I’ll always remember the day my sister and I adopted them.

Caesar Cleo 10

Wayside Waifs – Day of adoption – August 2013

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Adapting to Changes in the Workplace

Wellness21I feel pretty fortunate that I genuinely like the people I work with. I feel even more fortunate that I like both bosses I’ve had while in my current position. When I first started at my current job, my boss really took me under her wing. She understood that this was a first non-intern position and she helped me learn the ropes in the ad world.

Everything I did was done the way she taught me. I knew virtually nothing about my position so I had a lot to learn. We were always in sync when working together. I learned the tricks of the trade from her and therefore she rarely questioned my thought process since it was so in line with hers. However, three months ago my boss told me she was transitioning to another position within the company and she would no longer be my boss. I was disappointed when she told me this since I so much enjoyed working under her. A few weeks later my now, current boss was hired and that’s when things began to change.
The first month of working together felt like a struggle. Even when completing routine tasks, I constantly felt questioned and undermined. The way of organization seemed to be changing and at first I didn’t like the way it was going. However, I soon realized that my change in bosses did give me an opportunity I hadn’t initially considered. Although my new boss had years of experience under her belt, she was still new to the company. I on the other hand, had been at the company about nine months when she had started. There are things I knew and ideas I had that I could bring to the table as my own.
Previously, my old boss and I had worked so closely in tandem that I wasn’t able to work on my own clients or projects. I really felt like an assistant more than anything else. Now, with my new boss I am able to work on campaigns and clients separately without her help. She is able to see I can work independently and do fine on my own. I’ve also learned a lot from my boss through her previous work experiences. In turn, she’s also learned new things from me that I learned from my old boss. Although it’s been an adjustment, I’m grateful that I’ve been able to define my position play a more integral role in my department.
What changes have you encountered with your boss or in your position?
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This Shit Happens: Sexism in the Workplace

sexism_1365498827_540x540I don’t want to believe that this shit still happens. First off, I would like to say that I am a Feminist. Take that as you will. Most people don’t know the correct definition of Feminism and consider it a negative term. I am not one of them. To me, being a Feminist means that I am a person interested in civil equality and intellectuality—I am dedicated to fighting the ignorance that says people are controlled by and limited to their biology.  It means that I believe in equality for all.

Okay, moving on now. The other night I was having dinner with my roommate and we were discussing work. We both work in the same industry (me in account service at an advertising agency, and him as a graphic designer/developer at a creative firm), so our conversations typically revolve around our careers. He was talking about how a gal at his work who also worked in account service just quit to be a stay-at-home mom once her child was born. He said that they interviewed a few people and two of them really stood out, but one of them was hired over the other because the other woman had a young child, and the owners were afraid that she would quit for the same reason and/or be absent at work more than they would like.  I could tell that as soon as the words came out of his mouth, that he didn’t fully know what he just said. I could tell that he thought his boss’ expectations were normal and acceptable. Which might be the worst part about this story.

What is wrong with this picture? The woman, was not hired because she was a mother….What. The. Absolute. Hell. I asked my roommate that if they had interviewed a man, who had kids if this would’ve even been a topic of conversation. We both agreed that it probably would not have came up in the interviewing process, and he said that he never had even thought about it. This is where the problem lies. Sexism happens on a daily basis, but most of the time we either 1. don’t realize that it’s happening or 2. are too afraid to say anything.  It’s 2014 and that shouldn’t be the case. I know that I’ve been guilty of this in the past, but today I want to take a stand and say, “NO MORE!” In 2014, I’m vowing to stand up for myself and others when this kind of thing happens. I’m here to speak my mind and help people understand that we have to put a hault to this kind of mentality if we’re going to move forward.

Have you had something similar happen to you, a friend or a family member? Please share. 


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The Truth About Friends in the Workplace

workfriendsI never thought I would ever have to have a conversation like the one I had this week in my office. I’m sure people have dealt with coworkers that they do not get along with, but I am pretty sure no one had to blatantly tell them to their face for that person to realize it.

The shocked look on her face made me feel even worse when I, as nicely as I could say, said, “I mean, I understand we don’t talk much at work, but it isn’t a requirement for me to be your friend…”
I have always been told that you do not have to be friends with the people you work with, but you do have to respect them. This is how I feel about my coworker. We do not have any thing in common and our work ethic is completely different. I try to make small talk every now and then, but work is usually my main focus during my office hours. I think her idea of a good workplace is to be great friends with everyone, but in the real world, that is not the case. After I said what I did, and felt incredibly bad about being honest, I began to tell her that at my first full-time job, I definitely was not friends with everyone that I worked with.
I promised her that I would treat her with respect and do my best to small talk with her more, but I could not promise her happy hours or weekend outings together. I felt really bad about my actions, but I also did not want to be fake toward her when really, I could not see ourselves being friends outside of the space we work in. No one ever told me how to deal with the situation of not getting a long with coworkers, and I honestly never thought I would have to until I was approached with the “are we friends?” question.
Have you ever had to confront a coworker about your friendship status? Tell us and share what you would have done.
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Expectations vs. Reality

expectations-a-poemI feel like the first few years out of school can be really hard to put our expectations in check. Nobody knows what the “Real World” is going to be like until we’re living it every day.  I definitely had my own expectations of what landing a job, living in the city and getting my first promotion would be like, and some of them weren’t that far off, but the “Real World” definitely hasn’t been what I expected. Here are a few things I expected, and the reality of what has happened. 

Expectation: I will have a job as soon as I accept my diploma.

Wrong. Well, for the majority of us this doesn’t happen. If you do have a job, consider yourself lucky in the sense that you don’t have to worry anymore, but also I want you to chew on this – you don’t get a break between college and working an 8-5. In a few months the joke will be on you.  For those of you that don’t have a job lined up. Don’t worry about it. You’ll survive. I certainly did.  Also, read this past post. You’ll relate to it.

Reality: I was under-employed (working retail) for three months. I signed a lease in my college town, had an interview and was offered a position the next week. I then had to find another apartment in that city and was stuck with the college town apartment for six months, which left me broke and in a pile of credit card debt.  The situation was great and not exactly ideal all at the same time.

Expectation: I will love my job.

Reality: I’m not going to lie – the first six months I was bored out of my skull. I wrote my resignation letter in my head once a day due to boredom.  The agency I work for is great, but I just didn’t feel like I was doing anything substantial.  Eighteen months later, and I’m no longer bored but scraping for time. No more watching reruns of HIMYM on my lunch break, but that’s okay. Also, I got a raise and a promotion over a month ago, which felt pretty good…more on that in a future blog post. Now, I feel like I’m a valued employee who is actually contributing to agency objectives and goals.

Expectation:  I will make lots of money.

Reality: You’ll make more money than you ever had before, but it will never feel like enough.  I recently got a promotion and a 10% raise, which sounds nice, but when I received my first paycheck reflecting my promotion, I could barely tell the difference. Between rent, utilities, cell phone bill, gym membership, credit card payments and rental/car insurance I barely have anything left over. When does it get better? That’s a good question. I’m still trying to figure it out, and if you know, please tell me. I’m getting tired of being broke. One more thing to add on this topic is that when you’re searching for a job and get offered a position, don’t be afraid to negotiate. Being just a few months out of school I 1. Didn’t know how to negotiate and 2. Was just so happy to get a job offer that I took the first salary offered. I now realize what a mistake that was, and I wonder how much money I left on the table. I found this article about negotiating 101, it might help a few of you out.

Expectation: I will know exactly what I want in life.

Reality:  I’ve almost been out of college for two years (wow, has it really almost been that long?!), and it’s a struggle for me to say this, but I don’t think we ever really know what we want to do with our lives. I’ve changed my mind about four times…this week.  When we’re in school you always know what’s coming next – What classes you need to take and how much longer until you graduate, but once you’re in the “Real World” nobody is there to tell you how long to stay at one job.

What expectation vs. reality obstacles have you came toe to toe with? I’d love to hear them. 


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