Determining Your Workplace Priorities

I’ve been thinking recently about the factors that I value most in a job. Below are some factors that I take into consideration. For each one, I make sure to ask myself several questions, “How will this work?” “Does it matter to me?” and “How much does it matter to me?”


Flexibility: Will you be able to take time off, set your own hours, and work from home occasionally? Can you work less than full-time? Can you pursue other projects on the side? To what extent do these factors affect your feelings about a potential workplace?

I value my flexibility as a virtual worker immensely. I love being able to work from home or Starbucks occasionally and take long weekends when I want, knowing I can make up my hours on weeknights or the following weekend. Most importantly, I love working part-time, owning a business on the side, and having time for my blog, Change the Triangle, and my social life.

Work/Life Balance: Along the same lines, are you expected to stay until 8 or 9pm or are you allowed to bolt at (or before) 5pm? Does the employer encourage you to have a healthy work/life balance or give your life over to the company? Either way, does it matter to you?

I don’t really have a work/life balance struggle since I work virtually. If I were to work full-time from an office, I would want the ability to maintain a healthy outside life. I feel like I lose a lot of my productivity when I’m forced to keep crazy hours and sacrifice healthy eating and exercising (that being said, I love the adrenaline of occasional late nights and firm deadlines).

Income and benefits: Will you be paid on a salary, hourly wage, or commission or a combination? Will you receive full benefits like a 401k and medical and dental? Do you have a back-up plan if you won’t receive benefits (like the ability to be on a family member’s plan)?

It’s important for me to have a solid income but if I were to pit financials against other factors, it would absolutely rank lower than some others.

Mental and emotional stimulation: Is the job mentally and emotionally challenging for you? Does it help you grow as a person? Again, are these priorities for you or are you fine taking a job that doesn’t propel you forward?

This is incredibly important for me. I can’t stay passionate for a job that doesn’t push me, challenge me, and help me grow. For me, there’s a time and place for doing work that you’re familiar and comfortable with, but tackling new exciting projects is a priority.

Physical surroundings: Think about the location and aesthetics of your workplace. Do you need a chic, elegant office or is a sparse cubicle fine with you? Does the office’s proximity to your home and local resources matter? If you will work virtually, will you work from your bed, a home office, Starbucks, a coworking space, a Regus office suite, or a combination?

My surroundings are somewhat important to me. I value natural lighting, comfortable chairs, and easy access to water, bathrooms, and coffee 🙂 For me, The Raleigh Forum is the perfect blend of comfy but chic. I don’t think I would feel comfortable in a super fancy office. A short commute is very important to me. Additionally, I like working in an office that has restaurants, coffee shops, and activities within walking distance. As a virtual worker, I also value having access to a coworking space because working from home 24/7 makes me stir-crazy!

Office setting: Do you want fun office amenities like a ping pong table and free beer on Fridays or are these superfluous for you? Do you prefer business formal, business casual, or Silicon Valley attire?

I love having a laid-back, fun office. When I worked at The Washington Diplomat, I felt more productive when I was able to take short darts breaks throughout the day! That being said, I don’t need crazy amenities like pony or helicopter rides 🙂 Business casual or office casual attire is the perfect fit for me- cute flats or kitten heels, a skirt or jeans, a cute top, and a blazer.

Coworkers & boss: How important is it for you to have good relationships with your coworkers and boss? Do you want them to be friends or just 9-5 acquaintances? Does their age, gender, and other factors matter to you?

Having solid relationships with my coworkers is important to me. I love feeling comfortable with my coworkers but I don’t expect my social life to revolve around them.

Autonomy: Along the same lines, does the job and your boss offer you autonomy and freedom? Will you make your own decisions or follow the instructions of a superior?

Autonomy is key for me. I feel most productive when I’m self-directed, passionate, and in control. That’s not to say I can’t take direction or I don’t value having a boss and coworkers that I can use as resources!

Security: In a rocky economy, job security is harder to come by. Are you comfortable with having a less secure job (like at a start-up) a or do you strive for a more secure career (tenure, anyone?)? What can you do to increase your job security (like signing a 2 year contract)?

I feel comfortable with the ambiguity of both owning my own business and working at a maturing start-up. For me, job security is a nice perk but not mandatory.

Company values & ethics: Is corporate social responsibility a part of the company’s mission? Do they do well by their direct and indirect stakeholders, including employees, the public, and the environment?

This is a big factor for me. I want to believe in the mission and values of the company that I work for. I strive to work for companies that not only do the right thing in the community but also internally (such as promoting a healthy work/life balance- see above).

What other priorities do you take into account? Which priorities are the most and least important to you when choosing a job?


Who Should You Consider When Making a Career Decision?

Some people will tell you that the only thing that matters when making a career decision is you. I disagree- which may seem like it contradicts what I said here, but I promise it doesn’t!

I do believe that, ultimately, making yourself happy is the most important outcome of all. But here are some other entities you should consider- partially because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it will affect you now or in the future.

  • Family: Your family is ultimately affected by your career decisions- either directly or indirectly- be it because of changing finances, relocation, or having to deal with your emotions. At my age, family isn’t generally a huge consideration except if you are in business with a family member, like I am with my sister. Fortunately or unfortunately, I have to consider how any career decision I make will affect her.
  • Coworkers: Your current coworkers will undoubtedly be affected by any career move you make, especially if you decide to leave without sufficient notice or during a particularly busy time. Even if you don’t have strong ties to your coworkers, consider how their perceptions and opinions may affect you in the future- like if they are asked for a recommendation by your future employer…
  • Future employer: Before making a career move, it’s important to think about how your future employer will view your decision. Do you come across as flaky and unable to commit if you leave your job before two years? Does closing your business represent giving up or making the responsible choice? All important questions to ask yourself.
  • Community: In a perfect world, the opinion of distant others wouldn’t carry much weight. But particularly in a small community, news travels fast and the grapevine is always hard at work. Unfortunately, thinking about how your career decision will be perceived by those around you is critical.

What other people should be considered before making a career decision? Do you disagree about any of the above? 

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a psa to recent graduates

This post is dedicated to all my friends experiencing quarter-life crises. I love you all, hence the tough love approach 🙂 

Photo credit

I come to you today with a revolutionary message: it’s going to be okay. There you go- straightforward, no bull. And I mean it.

So you want to go to grad school. Guess what? There’s at least one school in the world that will accept you, even if your GPA was less than perfect.

So you want to quit your first job out of college because it sucks your soul. Do it. I’m sure at least one successful CEO quit their first job out of school. And I think at least one recruiter at one company will choose to overlook the fact that you stayed at a job for less than the ideal two year period. They’ve been there.

So you don’t know where to want to be in life. Guess what? I think a lot of 50 year olds feel the same way. Quarter-life and mid-life career switches happen pretty regularly; my mom found her calling around age 50.

Remember- just being part of the group I’m addressing means you’re in the minority in terms of education (in 2010, only 27.9% of adults age 25+ had a Bachelor’s degree or higher). Had an internship during college? That’s another minority group you’re part of- only 37.5% of 2010 grads had internship experience…and that’s not taking into account all the schools that didn’t report, which I assume would make the percentage lower.

I’m not advocating that you throw caution to the wind or that you take your life for granted. As recent graduates, we’re primed to take advantage of our education and take on the career world. That’s not to be taken lightly.

But I am suggesting that you acknowledge that this is a rocky time for most recent graduates and make peace with the fact that you don’t need to have it all figured out.

“so, what do you do?”

A friend recently commented that his least favorite thing about visiting DC was that everyone’s first question is always “What do you do?” He interpreted this as a way for people to determine his social status and judge him accordingly. He very well might be right in this assumption.

But admittedly, it’s almost always one of the first questions out of my mouth when I meet a new person. First, it gives us a jumping off point for further conversation- if I find out that I’m speaking to a fellow recruiter, I can ask them their opinion on job interviewers demanding interviewee’s Facebook passwords. Or whether they think Pinterest is the new place for job seekers.

But I think what really prompts me to ask the question is that I assume {perhaps often incorrectly} that others enjoy discussing work as much as I do. I’ve always said I never want to be the person at a cocktail party who can’t say “I love my job!” but I suppose not everyone strives for that goal.

Lest someone think I’m a career snob, I have a solution. I’ve now started saying “What do you do…for fun?” Really throws ’em off!

What do you think? Is asking “What do you do?” curiosity or snobbery? 

P.S. I distinctly remember a night out in DC when an intern proudly told me and a friend that he worked at the DOD. I think he was disappointed that we weren’t blown away. But after four years in DC {and living a few blocks from the White House our freshmen year}, it was hard for titles {unless if it was POTUS} to wow us.

Source: via Carrie on Pinterest


Awhile back, my friend turned to me pityingly and stated, “That’s cute, Cristina still thinks everyone gets to do what they want for a living.”

I’m not so naive that I believe everyone gets to have a job they love. I’ve been on enough service trips, traveled to enough developing countries, met enough struggling people, seen the economy crash enough that I know the facts. Some individuals may always be working away in a job that isn’t their dream.

But there are those of us who do have the power to choose, so why not choose passion, dedication, and a love of Mondays?

Recently, I listened to someone dread the start of the week and mourn the loss of the weekend. I chimed in- in retrospect, unintentionally obnoxiously- that I loved the weekend too. But I also love Mondays. “Basically,” I stated chipperly, “I love life.”

As I wrote this post, I wondered if it made me sound pretentious and elitist. Should I advocate finding your passion when so many out there aren’t in a position to? And I came to a conclusion: yes. And if your passion is empowering others to find theirs? Even better.

my seven future careers

Someone wise recently told me that research finds that it takes 10 years to become an expert at something. And new studies show that we can live to be about 90. And most people want to try 6-7 careers in their lifetime. Which means we can do it all.

So what would will might I do?

  • Life coach: empower individuals to be happy and fulfilled in all areas of their lives, from fitness to career. Which leads me to…
  • Career counselor: From writing resumes and cover letters to compiling a career portfolio to dressing properly for interviews, self-confidence is an essential trait. I want to empower individuals to feel as confident as I do while job searching because they know that they are equipped with the necessary tools.
  • Business development consultant: My sister and I always speak of how empowering it is to start a business. I would love to share this feeling with other individuals (particularly women). Best of all, I could contribute to the creation and growth of a company (my strength) without having to sustain it (not as much my strength)!
  • Professional blogger: Get paid to write down my random musings? Yes please!
  • Motivational speaker: Get paid to speak about my random musings? Yes please!
  • Women’s entrepreneurship professor: My two entrepreneurship classes were- at the risk of sounding trite- life-changing. A class of just women creates an inspiring, comfortable atmosphere that can be hugely beneficial in sparking creative, innovative ideas.
  • Editor-in-chief of a home magazine: Working at Martha Stewart Living or Better Homes and Gardens would be absolutely incredible. I’ve shared my philosophy on comfortable, welcoming homes and I’m obviously very interested in creating healthy, fresh recipes. Do I sound like a 50s housewife when I say “A happy home makes a happy life”? Well, I believe it 🙂

The most visible common thread here? Empowering others, especially women.

confessions of a recruiting specialist, part 1

I have quite a bit of experience reading resumes- I chose 24 guides for Community Building Community, I helped choose 15 freshmen for Compass Partners, I’m in the process of hiring an Office Assistant with my sister…oh, and I work in a recruiting department.

So what advice do I have?

  • Don’t worry about applying to more than one job in a company, but don’t apply to too many (I get wary around 4/5)
  • Always read the instructions. Then re-read them. Then re-read them again. We’ve tossed applications for the Office Assistant position because they failed to write a paragraph on why they’re perfect for the job (which we specifically asked for).
  • Don’t  mass-email your resume. We actually had someone put multiple recipients in the “To” line. This should be incredibly obvious, but apparently it’s not.
  • Never say that your resume is available once you are offered an interview. I don’t know any recruiter who has time for those kinds of games.
  • Tow the line between a cover letter that is too brief and too long. Three to four paragraphs is Goldilocks-approved.
  • “Optional” does not mean “optional.” It means “Do it or risk looking like you don’t care enough to spend time on your application.”
  • Do not email from an address that is has explicit or implicit sexual  undertones. Again, an obvious. No “Sexy [or Sexi],” “4You,” etc. The “first name, last name” formula still works pretty darn well.
  • Volunteering is voluntary. Raising your own child does not qualify as a volunteer project.
  • Use punctuation. Period. And PrOpEr CaPitAlization. And well speling and gramar.
  • The standard format of a resume still works. No need to get fancy or “creative.” Bullet points > numbers.
  • Creativity is encouraged but don’t cross the line into inappropriate.
  • Personalize your application- a simple Google search can often tell you who to address your cover letter to.
  • Whenever possible, link to your LinkedIn profile and/or Twitter account. This demonstrates initiative and thoroughness, as well as experience with social media. If your Twitter name includes the word “stud” or “babe” or “sexy,” maybe don’t include it. Better yet, maybe delete it.
  • Google yourself periodically. Even better, set up a Google alert for your name so that you see all new posts about you.
  • Make your Facebook profile private. Hide any inappropriate posts/pictures/profiles, etc. Companies DO check this. If there are inappropriate postings about you out there, ask for them to be taken down. If they can’t be, begin building an online presence to push the bad results further down in searches (i.e. start a blog, a Twitter account, post on forums related to your interestes, etc).

P.S. My sister and I are cracking up as I write this post (with her assistance!). Oh, the memories.

What advice do you have for individuals applying to jobs?

*The views expressed above are my own. They do not represent the views of my employer.

lady gaga recently said…

“Some women follow men while others follow their dreams. When deciding which to follow, just remember your career will never wake up and tell you it doesn’t love you any more.”

 I respectfully disagree, Lady Gaga. We’ve all heard many a-story about cosmopolitan career-oriented women pouring sweat, tears, and countless hours into their fast-tracked jobs, only to be replaced by someone younger, “smarter,” “more in touch with the times,” or, let’s face it, sexier. So in a way, it’s a perfect parallel between a man waking up and telling you he doesn’t love you anymore. Only in this case, it might be a whole boardroom full of men.

I’m certainly not advocating giving up your professional dreams to pursue a man. If a man asked me to give up my entrepreneurial endeavors to follow him mindlessly, goodness knows that relationship would be over before you could say “Misogynist.” But I think it’s about balance. I know my own tendency to become single-minded in my pursuit of career goals, and I don’t think it’s particularly healthy to be that extreme either.

I think the most important takeaway to keep in mind is that focusing solely on one area of your life is bound to leave you unhappy. As my mentor Julie Kantor once told me, life is a juggling act. You have glass balls and rubber balls. You can’t afford to drop the glass balls because they’re irreparable. The rubber balls represent areas of your life that you can pick back up if they fall. Everyone has different priorities and circumstances, so here’s to determining your own path to work-life balance.

Still agree with Lady Gaga? Think I make an interesting point? Let me know 🙂 

a portfolio career- the way of the future?

In the past, it seems like there was a stigma against holding several part-time jobs. It was considered a curse of the flaky; an unstable solution.

But these days, portfolio careers are on the rise. According to Quint Careers:

…you work multiple part-time jobs (including part-time employment, temporary jobs, freelancing, and self-employment) with different employers that when combined are the equivalent of a full-time position. Portfolio careers offer more flexibility, variety, and freedom, but also require organizational skills as well as risk tolerance.

I think I’m destined for a portfolio career. I love the thrill of piecing together ventures, ideas, and projects to satisfy my different interests. Luckily for me, my interests- while diverse- revolve around very similar themes. Ideally, I would love to expand GW Bites, run my portfolio-building seminars for women, continue work on Harmonized Living, and launch The Roman Empire (a promotion company) with my sister!

I’m also very interested in the intersection of a portfolio career, portfolio entrepreneurship, and serial entrepreneurship.

Anyone out there with a thriving portfolio career? What are the pros and cons (beyond the obvious ones)?

P.S. Here is a great article by Claire Adler that goes into depth on portfolio careers.

found a great job? consider withdrawing your applications

I’ve had similar conversations with two friends recently. Both had full-time job offers from companies that they loved and in jobs that they wanted. But both were still waiting to hear from other companies, even though it was driving them crazy to have the unknown hanging over their heads.

My recommendation to them was this: unless you’re seriously considering accepting a new job offer, think about withdrawing your applications. This serves two purposes:

1) You can stop stressing and quit constantly thinking “What if I get the other job?” “What if it’s better?” “What if I’ll make more?”

2) You can salvage your relationship with the company- especially if you’d like to work there in the future! This saves them the time and energy of interviewing you, choosing you, and then having to go back to the drawing board to find another candidate. If I were an employer, I’d appreciate the person’s proactive and considerate action.