Lost and Found

Lately, when people ask me how I am doing, I have been telling them that I am feeling very lost. With my US visa about to expire and my imminent departure from San Francisco approaching faster and faster, I have gone back and forth between ignoring my life and falling into sheer panic whenever I don’t. Everything I love is here. Everything I want is here. I belong here. And in a fair world I wouldn’t have to leave. I felt defeated and that’s not a good thing to feel.

When we lose ourselves, what we really mean is that we’ve lost our way. We’ve lost our direction, our end goal, our carefully charted course that we once found ourselves barreling down. We’ve lost the drive we used to use to propel us. We’ve lost the vision we once used to light the way ahead. We feel lost when what we had dreamed our life to be like falls through and it is beyond our influence to fix it.

But here’s the truth about being lost – we’re only ever as lost as we are in denial. When we don’t want the past to be over and the future looks too daunting to touch, we call it lost. When we’re barreling forwards at a thousand miles an hour but gazing determinately out the rearview mirror, we call it lost. When what’s been is so painfully appealing compared to what is coming up next, we call it lost. Because we’d rather be lost than be found in this new, uncomfortable place. And so we bury our coordinates. We toss away our compasses. And we declare ourselves citizens of no-mans-land.

The truth about being lost is that we choose it when we just aren’t ready to be found yet.

When you’re lost, you find yourself in every step you take towards gaining back control of your life. By stopping the cycle of passivity and replacing it with one of autonomy. You find your new self in each small choice you make, each risk you take, each opportunity that you fail to pass up, even if it ends up being a flop. You find yourself by re-creating yourself into the kind of person who is ready to take on what’s next.

Because the truth is, we can’t ever truly lose ourselves, because all ‘losing ourselves’ means is that we’re choosing a story that ended over the one that is still going on. It means we’re gazing in the wrong direction and calling our disorientation lost.

Getting found, by definition, is the simple act of recognizing where you are.  You simply have to recognize that you’re somewhere new now. Somewhere different and challenging and less than ideal, maybe. But there you are. And to find yourself somewhere new, you simply need to start walking.

You’ll find yourself in wherever you end up.

You’ll find yourself in any place where you go with your whole heart.

So, game mode is on. I’m fighting back. It sucks that other people decide that I can’t stay in the place I am so happy in, surrounded by the people that make me happy. It has been driving me mad. But here I am. Moving to Berlin to help my current employer expand to Europe. And working my ass off to come back next year. California is where I belong and heck, I won’t let anything get in the way off that. Well, at least nothing within my power. Now excuse me, I am taking back my life…

11996960_10207610361720040_1901933064_n

Advertisements

Pitch Perfect

So, I’m majoring in Marketing but before I can really get started on the advertising and selling, there is something called “Toolbox” all students have to go through for the first four weeks- Managerial skills, Individual skills, Teamwork skills, Quantitative- and accounting skills, tech skills. Basically, it’s four weeks of “How to become more employable in the  business world“. While exploring SF is gonna be a big part of my year, I am mainly here to study. Hence, I thought it was just fair to not only share fun Ari-the-Explari (lame pun, I know) stories but also some interesting insights into the academic side of being a grad student. Today’s topic- Selling yourself!

Selling myself has become the golden threat of pretty much all my info-and introductory sessions in the past two weeks. Both Profs and Alumni keep telling us how SF is so full of opportunities, you just have to network, attend all possible conferences, reach out to people on LinkedIn (after elaborating for half an hour how important a proper LinkedIn profile is), drop by Google, Facebook or Yahoo (“They are right around the corner guys, riiight around the corner!”) and really benefit from the entrepreneurial spirit in the city. To speak quite frankly, it scares the shenanigans out of me! I don’t know how to network!! Networking events, to me, sound like a theater play in which everybody pretends to be all smile and propriety in the hopes of getting the most attention from the audience. I feel needy asking someone to “have a chat about his/her great company that I am so interested in and happen to be an outstanding fit for” and knowing that all those opportunities are out there makes me feel like, no matter where I am, I am never at the right spot, I am always missing out on something. Potential employers could await me at any corner so could someone please get me Hermione’s time turner?! I know that people are right, I AM right next to Google and Co and you do feel this entrepreneurial business spirit everywhere you go, it’s contagious and exciting! It makes San Francisco such a neat place to start your business career….but where do you start looking for the first spark?

Well, today I sat in “Individual Skills”, led by a guy who seems to know God and the world, who has friends working at Facebook, who is bringing in guest speakers who worked closely with Steve Jobs, who just bought himself a new Maserati ladadada and, overall, he managed to hold my attention for three hours straight. His main topic of today: Elevator pitches and how important it is for me, for you, for everybody to have a 30-second speech ready for that one time you run into someone whom you really want to win over. That speech is not gonna be written within an hour and not practiced within half a day, it’s something one should really think about. Whether on a networking event, in a train, on a plane, in the supermarket between kale chips and soda or in an actual elevator, be aware that time is running. After the first “Hello” and a firm handshake you have half a minute to make the best out of your partner’s attention because for them, time is money and at this early stage you might be of interest to them but not enough so that they’d dedicate an hour listening to you rattling down your entire college memoirs.
Here are some bullet points that I gathered from today’s lecture:

  • State your name, your city/country of origin and one thing that makes you stand out from the rest
  • Refrain from vague phrases like “I’m interested in Social Media” (everybody has like 8 different social networks nowadays), “I am creative” (right, did you come up with 50 ways of building faces out of Jelly Beans or what?) or “I like Marketing” (well, that’s good for you then seeing that this is what you got a degree in). Be concrete, applied, concise.
  • Tell a story. Whether in Marketing or in Promoting, telling a story of a product, a company, an idea will stick much better. Try and make the others relate to what you are saying.
  • Speak slow and structured. Although your head might be full of excited voices screaming: “AAAH, this is the opportunity of a life time!!”, don’t let that rattle confuse your presentation. Tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.
  • Be confident (and I hate this part because mine needs work) but not too rehearsed. If you’re too stuck in the way you present yourself, then sudden questions are going to tear you apart and get you out of concept.
  • Be enthusiastic about your topic. Whether you are talking about yourself, a product of yours, an idea or just about the Napoleonic Wars in High School, don’t let your audience fall asleep. Try and reflect good mood and optimism, everybody loves happy people.
  • Don’t be afraid to exaggerate a little but also don’t forget to give examples of your statements, the more the merrier. It’s the applicable things that stick in mind.
  • Stay in touch- after a nice chat, it’s perfectly fine to add someone on LinkedIn, maybe alongside with a short message á la “Hi, this is …., we talked earlier at the ….conference. It was great meeting you, I would love to continue our conversation on hdjfdv in the near future!”
  • Keep in mind: A product is only as good as its kick-off. Even if the first iPhone could have teleported us to the moon and back, few people would have bought it if Jobs had had sold it sitting in a corner of a small stage, slouched into a chair and mumbling into his beard. Sit straight! Stand up! This is YOU we are talking about!

    As an inspiration, watch this 2-minute video. It’s an innovative product by a SF-based start-up, which invented a handy-dandy devise that should prevent you from every looking for your keys, wallets or other precious itema ever again. I had never heard of them before but after only a little while, I had to share it on Facebook, with you guys and make a mental note to look into that. All because of a convincing 2-minutes of presenting really well. THAT’S the power of pitching ideas!

Up until recently, my elevator pitch used to be something like: “Hi, I am Ariane from Germany and I study Management together with students from over 110 different countries, which taught me so much about teamwork on an international level!” Now, this might not be perfect and by all means, keep in mind that I am not trying to sell the ultimate truth here. I am just some grad student who had all this sensation overload today and so many things that keep my brain busy. I am still not sure how good I will be in selling myself once it really matters and networking still scares me like heck. But, it’s good to keep these things in mind when working on it. It’s a progress, life’s a ride and you all hopped on board a while ago, so that was one of many many stops. Next will be a lighter topic, promise 😉

Cheers,

Ari

“Heeeey, you. Sorry, I’m a bit late. I’m one of the presenters in the afternoon panel and my name is Soandso.”

“No worries, let me get your name tag and welcome package.”

“So… you work here?”

“Yes.”

“Mhm… so, what do you do… I guess you helped a bit with the organisation of this thing?”

“…”

The right job for me?

So, I’ve actually been back on this beautiful campus that I just left earlier this month with a diploma in one hand and my teddybear Aristotle Panda, a goodbye present from my friends, in the other. (Okay, and a car packed to the roof… I really mean it, chock-full of stuff, I spent the car ride holding a plant on my lap and arranging my feet in between a guitar and a box that I’m pretty sure contained about 30 bottles of nailpolish.)

But never mind the tetris-like arrangement of stuff in the car… I wanted to talk about something else. I wanted to talk about coming back to help organize a conference. And by that, I pretty much mean, sending a ton of emails. Event management can be summed up in two words – “many emails”. I don’t want to offend any event managers reading our blog, so here is a disclaimer: It’s not easy. It’s not a lazy-person job. All these emails that you send – you have to make pretty darn sure you don’t delete the important ones, don’t forget to respond to the urgent ones, CC the people who will otherwise be confused and/or upset at being left out of decisions, and of course, you have to keep track of EVERYTHING.

A conference doesn’t just need people attending and people talking. It needs coffee breaks, cold drinks, accommodation, schedules, dinner catering, changed opening hours for the cafeteria, travel cost requests and reimbursements, conference fees, participation confirmations, flight bookings, emergency numbers, bedsheets, towels, soap, a welcome desk, a chair and table for said welcome desk, glasses, water, wine, beer, more coffee (this time for the organizer), and the list goes on and on and on.

Truth be told, I like most of it. I like being a head organizer. I like that this conference is something I created. I like knowing that people will have a vegetarian option at dinner because I requested it, and that they will have Internet vouchers because I thought of them in time, and that they will have a campus map with colourful dots on it that will make their lives so much easier. You know when you go to an event and you feel that you’re not being given sufficient information? Everything might be organized perfectly but you feel lost because nobody told you where to go. I like thinking that this will not happen because I created a guide to put in the welcome package which will tell people how to use the Internet vouchers and where (and when) they can get food.

So don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s not fun. But despite the fact that I feel I’m doing a really good job so far, I am also pretty convinced that this is not the right job for me. I’m not planning on pursuing it, anyways, this conference is the last big task of a student job I have held since October. But you know how people tend to tell you if you’re talented in an area, that is probably the work you should pursue?

I disagree. And you know why? Because I’m good at event management, but I’m not passionate about it. And I still believe that there’s that one thing out there that will excite me for the rest of my life. That one thing that will make me want to jump out of bed at some crazy early hour because I can’t wait to go to work. I know it’s in the creative direction, and I have a suspicion that it has something to do with branding, brand identity creation, brand design – both the strategic and the graphic/creative part of that field. I wrote my Bachelor’s thesis on this subject and I will start an internship in this field soon, so we’ll see if my suspicion was right. In the meantime, dear readers, I see a lot more post-graduation-confusion coming my way, and therefore your way… it’s good to know that our stories seem to be entertaining you guys, and by the way, can we say a big THANK YOU to our now over 20 followers… we know it’s a tiny number in the blogosphere, but it is hugely exciting to us that there are twenty complete strangers who like reading our ramblings. We’re not going anywhere – stay tuned! 🙂

Hi, I work here.

There’s something really strange about working where you normally study. Suddenly people who you collectively referred to as “admin”, become Nancy from Accounting, Tanja and Bianca from Housing and Hilke from Purchasing. I mean, of course you knew the people from career services and the financial aid department, but when does a student really interact with the people in charge of purchasing? I like purchasing requests, by the way. You put these ridiculously large amounts of office supplies on a list, add up ridiculously high prices and then just give the form to someone else, and miraculously, stuff gets delivered and paid for. I’ve been considering smuggling in a few extra items I might need for myself… no, just kidding, of course.

My team is great. I mean, seriously amazing. Within three weeks they went from random faces to people I laugh and joke with. My boss invited me to a painting class the other day and my office mate complains whenever I am NOT playing music on my computer. He also brings me coffee, even though he likes to tell other people that it’s the other way around. All in all, I almost feel like I’ve been part of the team for a really long time, even though I’m an intern and even though I haven’t worked there for more than a few weeks. I’ll be a bit sad to leave in five weeks, really, even though that will also mean I’m finally going home.

I don’t really love the fact that campus has become so quiet with the start of semester break, but working eight hours a day is surprisingly tiring and while during the semester I tend to be most active in the evenings, now I generally just watch TV and then go to sleep early. So it’s okay… not perfect, I’d prefer my social life to be more… well… existent. It’s only for two months, though.

Anyways. I have a few more things I wanted to write about… I went to Berlin and Hamburg for work, for college fairs, and that was quite fun… but right now Criminal Intent is on TV and I’m gonna go watch that, drink tea and doze off… early day tomorrow!