Dear 2015: You Suck, I’m Moving On

Dear 2015: You have been the worst year of my life so far. I should have known that was going to be the case since you started with the death in the family of my, back then still, boyfriend. I was optimist enough to believe it could only go uphill from there. But, over the course of you, I have lost everything I have loved and let go of everything I had built for myself. Over the course of you, you have made me doubt myself in more ways and to more depths than any other year before you and there were few victories that did not come at a price.

Sure, you are the year I traveled to Hawaii, stood up on a surfboard for the first time and saw the magical fireworks show in Disneyland. You are the year I fought my fear of flying, saw my best friend twice and visited cities and states I never thought I would ever see. You are the year I got to enjoy countless breathtaking sunsets and dozens of beach walks. At your best, you are the year that made me realize, once again and this time for certain, what I want all years of my life to look like.

But you are also the year that leaves me with no certainty in any aspect of my life. You are the year that is making me start all over again. You are the year that has turned me into the ghost of a girl that I want to be most, to the shell of a girl that I used to know well… Heck, now you are even the year that makes me quote Christina Perri lyrics! You leave me incredibly scared of the future and pessimistic that things are going to get better. You leave me stranded, insecure and feeling like an idiot.

You might be the year I will look back at some day as the one that taught me the meaning of fighting, of not giving up, of growing. As the year that will pinpoint a remarkable change for the better, a year that will impact the rest of my life in hauntingly beautiful ways that I can’t even see from where I stand right now. But, until then, forgive me for hating you, for despising you and for impatiently waiting for you to be over. 2015, you suck, I’m moving on!

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Trust that everything will be okay.

There will, inevitably, be times when life will throw us curve balls before we’re ready to hit them.

There will be times where we feel so happy – or comfortably content- with our lives that we wouldn’t want to change a thing. But life wouldn’t be life if it didn’t throw you that curve ball every once in a while and suddenly everything needs to change. Perhaps the most challenging time of all will be the chasm that exists between these chapters in your life. When we have to walk away before we’re ready. When we have to leave what we want and what we love in the past.

Up till this point, I had always been ready for the next chapter. I could always acknowledge the memories made but would look forward to making more, different memories in the future. I had never been in a situation like this before, where I need to walk away from what I love before I’m ready to. Every fibre of my being understood that my visa will expire in September and there is nothing I could do about it. Every rational part of me knew that my situation wasn’t even all that bad: The company I enjoy working for wants to keep me employed and relocate me to Europe once my visa expires. And, since they don’t have an office established there, I could move anywhere in Western Europe as long as I have a working phone and internet connection. And yet, I’ve been spending the last 4 months either ignoring all that or trying to find a miraculous loophole or shortcut that would allow me to have it all. I wanted to linger.

But lately, I have been trying my best to return to my old self. The self that is adventurous and positive and happy no matter the place or the situation. In moments of transitions, you have to believe that there are so, so many better things coming than any of the things we have left in the past. You have to have faith in the future, in the unknown, in the tomorrows and somedays that will line up in ways you can’t possibly imagine from where you’re standing now. You have to have faith in yourself – faith that you will get yourself to where you want to go, even if you’re not entirely certain where that is yet. Faith in your future self to figure out if she wants to move to Berlin or London or Lisbon or Paris or Amsterdam or…

Yes, California has made me indescribably happy and I will leave a big piece of my heart in San Francisco. But before moving to this city, before making it home and becoming this incredibly happy here, all I had wanted was to stay in my protected bubble of friends and family, rainy German days and not push myself out of my comfort zone. I guess I sometimes forget that, just because the scene in the rear view mirror looks nicer than the scene on the road ahead, doesn’t mean you’ll never reach another beautiful destination.

It’s rare and it’s wonderful to ever find a place or a person or a certain situation that makes you want to linger for longer. When happiness hits us, we all want to cling to it as tightly and as mercilessly as possible. We want to capture it and hold it between our palms forever – not realizing that we have to let it go for it to mean anything at all.

I thing that, when we have to leave the things we love behind, we are allowed to mourn them. To miss them. To look back on them dejectedly and sadly. But we must never, ever forget that the best days of our lives are not all behind us. That there are more wonderful things awaiting us in the future than we could ever even fathom. That so many of our happiest days are still ahead. And that we have to keep moving to get there – no matter how tempting that view in that rear view mirror is. And in order to get there, we have to blindly and blissfully trust that it’s going to be somewhere indescribably worth going.

Five Things You Should Know About Job Hunting

I know. I know.

This has basically been Ari’s blog for the past months now. I’m sorry. One of the reasons I haven’t been blogging was my internship, which kept me busy basically 12 hours a day, if you count the commute and lunch break, which you can’t very well spend blogging unless you want to be known as the antisocial intern.

Well, my internship ended a few months back, but then instead of blogging, I started writing resumes and cover letters, hunting for a position that would be both a step up from interning and a step over in the creative direction, towards Indesign and away from Powerpoint, if you will. And there’s one thing I learned in the weeks that I was job hunting… it sucks.

I know some of you have gone through this, the rest of you will once you finish your studies, and unless you’re the kind of lucky genius who a) turns a student job into a permanent position immediately upon graduation, b) has already signed with Microsoft to start working at their New York office upon graduation (yes, a friend of mine managed to do this almost two years in advance) or c) is taking over your dad’s/brother’s/grandma’s business and therefore will never worry about applications… well, unless you fall into any of those categories, you’ll be networking and cover-lettering and resume-tuning until you’re dizzy and frustrated. Even if it’s only a short time (in the end, I was unemployed for exactly a month), it will feel like forever and it will most likely make you doubt if you’re EVER going to get hired. So, I decided I’d share my grand wisdom (well, okay, bits of wisdom) in the hopes that someone will feel marginally less frustrated with themselves and their career than I did. Here’s five things you have to know about job hunting for the first time:

  1. Most of your applications will be rejected. Something like 80% of applications I sent out were ignored for a few weeks before I got a brief email stating that they’d decided otherwise. From some, I still haven’t received as much as an acknowledgement that the application got there in the first place. Initially, when this happened, I’d follow up, concerned that maybe my email actually did not get there. The most I got out of that was a brief response that basically said, “Yes, your application is here, now stop whining.” I know people tell you to follow up, always, and I’m sure it doesn’t hurt, but if the company hasn’t felt like inviting you for an interview or hiring you after said interview, then a follow-up won’t change that, either. You can cry about it (I certainly did a few times) or you can accept it and move on.
  2. For every friendly HR contact, there seems to be an HR person who doesn’t give a sh*t about applicants. Don’t waste your time with those people, it’s not even worth being frustrated about. Even if that firm was interested in hiring you, what does it say about them if the people whose main responsibility is dealing with applicants are inconsiderate or even rude?
  3. Ask for feedback. If you’re rejected from a position, send an email back and tell them you’d really appreciate if they could let you know why they decided otherwise. Again, in many cases, you just won’t get a response. I once received an answer that almost verbatim said, “Dear Judith, we do not give reasons for our decisions. Sincerely, HR.” On the other hand, once my question started a conversation with the owner of a small advertising agency. He’s now a contact in my business network of choice and who knows, something good may come of that eventually.
  4. Always, always, always find out who your contact person is. This is the number one advice you’ll find when googling “How to write a good cover letter”. After writing over twenty applications and imagining how many of these PDFs a HR person goes through on a given day – well, I can sort of imagine them just throwing out any that didn’t even bother to find out their name. Additionally, sometimes, when you have to call to figure out a contact person, you end up chatting with whoever’s on the line briefly – and maybe they’ll remember you when the application comes through, or maybe they’ll even give you a more personal email address rather than the standard jobs@… . You never know! It really doesn’t take that much effort – show them that you’re willing to go that extra mile! (More like an extra yard and a half, really.)
  5. You probably won’t see it coming. I applied to several positions that I had a really good feeling about, and a few that I had a “meh” sort of attitude towards. Around application #20, I became a robot. When I finally got invited for a job interview, it was for an application I’d submitted half-awake, barely two hours before I got the response. I had really liked the job ad, but I’d felt like I was too exhausted to write anything convincing in my cover letter. Apparently, I was dead wrong – three days later I had an interview, and a week after that I started work! On the other hand, some of the applications that I sent in feeling like there couldn’t possibly anyone with a cooler cover letter and more convincing CV… I never even heard back.
    Now, a few days ago, I even got a second invitation for an interview – this time I vividly remember telling my boyfriend that the application was “the worst I’ve written so far”. I half wanted to just go to the interview to ask what exactly they saw in my cover letter!

The bottom line is: It’s a struggle, it’s tough, but you will get through it! Just don’t give up. Just keep writing. All you need is one “YES” – and it won’t matter if you got 20, 50, or 200 “NO”s before that. So… go get ’em!

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

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!