Top notch grades? Check.
Fabulous SAT scores? Check.
Extracurriculars out the wazoo? Check.
Full scholarship to the college of my dreams? Not so fast.
All that may not be enough anymore. How do I know? Take this example. Betty and Veronica both had excellent full-scholarship potential. They were interested in many of the same schools. They both went on numerous campus visits, identified their top picks and started the process for admission.
Veronica identified her top 3 picks, then applied for admission and scholarships to those and about 5 other “safety” schools. She then breathed a sigh of relief and waited for the acceptance letters and full scholarships to fill her mailbox.
Veronica got accepted at them all. And the money? Not there. A few minor financial aid offerings, but nothing substantial. Veronica and her parents were stunned. How could this happen? She did everything right, had an exemplary high-school career and practically glowed on her applications. What went wrong?
Let’s take a look at Betty’s approach.
Betty also identified her top 3 picks and applied to those and a few other safety schools. Then she switched into high gear. She visited her top 3 schools a second time to narrow her decision even further. She kept in touch with the admissions counselors via email and asked additional questions. She identified Vandaly University as her top pick, then made it very clear to the admissions counselor that she wanted to attend. She discussed why she felt an education at Vandalay would help her fulfill her goals. And how she was anxious to be an active part of the university community.
Can you guess the result? Betty received one of 5 full scholarships to her dream school — Vandalay University.
It’s not enough anymore to have the grades and the SAT scores. A lot of students have that. Instead, get noticed:
1. Adopt a “what’s in it for them” attitude. What will I bring to the school? How will I use my experiences after I graduate to become an asset to my community?
2. Be candid. We all have flaws, and it’s not shameful to admit them. If you’re a procrastinator, demonstrate how you’ll use your college experience to improve in this area.
3. Follow up. Send a note to those you met on campus (email is fine, but a handwritten note really stands out.) Be specific about what you remembered most from your conversations. Highlight what you like best about the school. Be professional, but not overly formal. You want them to remember you as someone with personality.
4. Keep in touch. A short email every few weeks or so ensures they don’t forget you. What to say? Have you done any job shadowing or community service? Share some highlights.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. And all of this can easily apply to a job search as well. Do you have tactics that have worked well for you?
We all have a network of some kind. Family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances. But how well do we nurture these networks?
Think about it. How many times have you heard from someone only when they need something? Or worse, a complete stranger sent to you by a friend who emails you a cryptic message saying, “Hey, Joe gave me your name. If you hear of any job leads, can you send them my way?”
Unfortunately, I face this on a regular basis. I treasure my network, and I nurture it well. It’s a lot of work. And people who don’t respect that raise my blood pressure.
That’s where this blog comes in. If you’re looking to build a network or strengthen the on you have, join me as we learn to “work it.”
I woke up yesterday morning with an extra person in my bed – my daughter. She’s twelve now, and hasn’t climbed into my bed in years, so I asked her what was going on. She explained that she had thrown up in her bed a few hours before. (*She also told me that afterward, she slept the rest of the night in her bathtub.)
The night before, we had a strange bit of behavior from “her” dog, Biscuit.
For background, our dogs stay downstairs in our house. We used to have a baby gate on the stairs to keep them from venturing upstairs (because they had occasional accidents up there), but have removed the gate and they stay down.
**For more background, Biscuit, now seven, is a sensitive dog, especially to weather. She gets very nervous when it rains, and generally hides in my closet during storms or even hard rain. Sometimes, however, she sneaks upstairs and hides under my son’s bed during bad weather.
So, Sunday night, Biscuit kept going upstairs. Instead of hiding, however, she kept going upstairs, then halfway down the stairs, then back up, then down, and so on. She finally laid down in my daughter’s room, still agitated.
My daughter has a day bed with a trundle, and she uses the trundle as an auxiliary night table, piling books, purse, and other items on it.
When I went upstairs to check out the situation, and to tuck in the kids, the girl and I decided that Biscuit was up there to stay, so we removed the books and other items from the trundle so that Biscuit could sleep there.
The dog stayed up there a few minutes, then came downstairs.
A few hours later, my daughter had thrown up all over both beds. As she correctly noted later in the day, if Biscuit hadn’t been acting so strange, she would have thrown up on her homework, her school books, her beloved Harry Potter books, her purse, and more.
She concluded that it was a great stroke of luck. I, however, remembered that dog spelled backward is God. And I thanked Biscuit for taking such good care of her girl.
*Yes, in her amazingly rational adolescent, fever-addled brain, my daughter figured that, even with an extra bed upstairs and a perfectly comfortable sofa downstairs, the best place for her to sleep was the bathtub. Because it was near a toilet. She went to the spare bedroom and got pillows and bedding and removed all the shampoo, soap, and other containers from the tub, and made a little bed there. The best I can figure is that she was running a high fever and was completely out of it. Because that’s one of the most bizarre things she’s ever done.
**We got a surprise snow event later that night, waking up to 3+ inches of snow that were not predicted, but I don’t think this was why Biscuit was so agitated.
So, this is what I saw when I was making mashed potatoes tonight.
Posts that have almost made it to the published blog:
Why I really hate Christmas
The whole story on how I lost my job
How my dog died in my arms (14 months ago)
I think, honestly, that I’ve done you a favor by not hitting the publish button. Especially the last one. It was the most intense hour of my life (including the car accident that nearly killed me and my unborn first child).
We’ve made it ten days into the year, and it’s probably about time for an update on my non-consuming progress.
I’m delighted to report that I’ve remembered to bring reusable bags with me every time I’ve grocery shopped this year. Sure, on freaking January freaking first, the cashier at the store insisted on wrapping my meat in a plastic bag and putting my milk into a plastic bag, which pretty much negated my use of two reusable bags, but every other time it’s worked out okay. I didn’t know, until today, that Target gives you a five-cent discount for every reusable bag used in your order. I also didn’t know, until today, how much a cashier could fit into a reusable bag. Impressive. Well played, Ms. Cashier, well played.
Frustrations? The big one is how few plastic containers are recyclable in our community. Memphis recycling only takes the type 1 and 2 plastics, but most of the products I buy that come in plastic tubs are the type 5, which has much less carbon impact in manufacture, but it darn near kills me to throw away those tubs. Sure, I could reuse them, but there are only so many sour cream cartons a girl needs! We haven’t purchased yogurt in quite a while (the kids lost their taste for it), but I may start making my own, and substituting that for sour cream.
I started some sourdough starter a few weeks back, and that’s reduced my family’s purchases of yeast and sandwich bread. I’m baking every three or so days, and the recipe I’m using slices very well and has a soft crust. I’ve substituted whole wheat flour for half the white flour in the recipe and it still turns out very well. It’s not a San Francisco-type sourdough…more just a solid bread recipe. My starter is pretty basic…a tablespoon (or one package) of yeast, a cup of flour, and a cup of warm water. Mix in a large bowl, cover, and whisk it frequently for a few days, then put it in a smaller container (mayonnaise jar?) and refrigerate. I make sure to use mine at least twice a week, feeding it with equal parts flour and water when I use it. (Basically, if a recipe calls for 1 cup starter, after measuring out the cup of starter, replace it with 1/2 cup each of flour and water. No need to replace the yeast unless the whole thing goes bad or dies.)
My consumer addiction is very easily swayed by television ads, I learned. We already know that I’m hooked on cosmetics, despite the fact I rarely use them. But a major makeup company has brilliantly bundled some eye makeup products by eye color (three shadows, an eyeliner, and a mascara), and I found myself in a bit of consumer lust. (No, I didn’t buy them. I’m not insane.)
One concession I made to the kids: the gift cards they received as holiday gifts? They got to “buy” brand-new products with them. The girl and I went shopping today, and she really enjoyed it. However, she seemed to enjoy our trip to Goodwill too. I think the paradigm can shift, even for a tween girl.
All in all? The first ten days of ’10 have gone well.
Yesterday, the first day of my year-long experiment in carbon-footprint-shrinking, we had an early fail.
At the grocery store, I had brought in my reusable bags (yes, I did have to go back to the car to get them, because that’s still not a habit), but I still got home with two more plastic bags because the cashier was quite insistent that my meat and milk needed to be in plastic bags so they wouldn’t leak onto my other items. And I was tired enough (and polite enough) not to argue.
Yes, we reuse all our plastic bags (when the husband delivers papers, when I walk the dogs, etc.) but I still hated bringing them into the house.
Only one impulse buy at the store, and it was something we do purchase frequently. It was on sale and had coupons displayed alongside, reducing its price to about half what we’d usually pay. If our freezer were less full, I’d have bought more.
The daughter is resigning herself to the no buying new stuff part of the experiment. She was horrified for a moment when she realized she hadn’t spend her Christmas gift cards, but I assured her that such purchases were perfect exceptions to the rule, especially because they were technically 2009 purchases.
Too bad it’s so cold outside. I’m ready to take down the holiday decorations and put 2009 entirely into the past.
1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Um, no. I don’t think I kept any of them. But next year? Big changes, and I’ve got other people on board.
My resolutions for 2010:
Don’t buy new stuff.
Buy local food as much as possible.
Reduce food waste to 10% or less (40% is the normal American family’s food waste).
Drive 25% less than this year.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My minister’s wife. My sister-in-law is still in the running.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
5. What countries did you visit?
None. Unless you count Arkansas.
6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
A job that doesn’t make me cry every day.
7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
There was that one Friday in April. That day particularly sucked.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Growing some fantastic tomatoes and herbs. And some various projects around the house that make me happy.
9. What was your biggest failure?
That whole losing my job thing. Actually, the failure was not seeing that it was about to happen.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing worth mentioning. A few cat scratches and a cold or two.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
A basil plant at the farmer’s market. And a car.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My kids’. Daily. They’re the most amazing people I have ever had the honor to know.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
The people for whom I used to work.
14. Where did most of your money go?
The mortgage and food.
15. What did you get really excited about?
Excitement has been hard to muster. I have a job interview next month that has me pretty keyed up.
16. What song will always remind you of 2009?
Pokerface by Lady Gaga.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
– happier or sadder? Sadder.
– thinner or fatter? Thinner, a little. Sadness has that effect on me.
– richer or poorer? Financially poorer, definitely.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Asking for help when I needed it. Writing.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
20. How did you spend Christmas?
At the in-laws’ house. It was great.
21. Did you fall in love in 2009?
22. What was your favorite TV program?
True Blood. Glee. I have trouble picking favorites.
23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Most certainly. About six people. I’m not proud of it, but I’m a terrible grudge-holder. And it’s truly amazing that I’ve not run into any of them since April. It would be an awkward moment.
24. What was the best book you read?
Good question. I’ve read a lot since April. I suppose “No Impact Man” was the most powerful.
25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Lady Gaga. Rediscovering Brittney Spears.
26. What did you want and get?
A new car.
27. What did you want and not get?
28. What was your favorite film of this year?
29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
It was just a few weeks after my job loss. I turned 38, and spent the day at a minor league baseball game with my kids’ school, then a picnic by the river with the family. Major sunburn. But a nice day.
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Not losing my job.
31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
Oops, I wore my pajamas to pick up the kids at school again.
33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I got nothin’.
34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Healthcare in this country.
35. Who did you miss?
My parents, but that won’t be an issue soon, when they move here.
36. Who was the best new person you met?
Hm. I dunno offhand. I like some of my kids’ new teachers.
37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.
Loyalty is rarely deserved.
38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
So what, I’m still a rock star!
If I’m going to quit the whole consumer hamster wheel, it makes sense to examine the insane ways my money disappears from my wallet.
Not too bad. Two filled compacts, one of Mary Kay products, one of Arbonne products. Total at this point: 9 eye shadows, 3 blushes.
Oops. Here’s where we see something a little scary. 14 eyeshadows, 4 blushes, 3 eyeliners, 7 lipsticks/glosses, one foundation, one eyebrow wax. Yikes.
One bronzer, one powder, another foundation, a couple of concealers/highlighters, and another ten or so lipsticks. And a homemade lip balm in a tea container. Hey, at least I’m recycling!
Under the bathroom sink. Lots of products. Hair, body, face, etc.
Here it is. My shame. 14, yes FOURTEEN hair products. 7 of them are curl enhancers. Are they truly different from each other? Not really.
If I added up the cost of these products, even if I only added up what they’re worth now (that they’re half gone, 25% gone, etc.), I think I could feed my family for a month or more.
Do these products make me look or feel better? Do I use them
Honestly? No, no, and mostly, no. My hair responds best to a weekly shampoo, every-other-day conditioning, and a little massage oil. My skin prefers the soap I make out of chamomile flowers, sage, rosemary, lavender, and unscented Dove soap. I wear makeup MAYBE once a week (but I wore it daily when I worked outside the home).
Which means I obviously have a bit of a problem when it comes to acquisition of products. Part of my year of non-acquisition will be dedicated to not only not purchasing, but also using what I already have. It’s clear that I have no business buying any kind of hair or skincare product for myself for quite a long time
I know I’m not alone here. What’s your poison? Where do you spend money that doesn’t make any kind of sense? What would make you change that pattern?
2009 was not my favorite year. At all. In fact, I can’t recall a year as bad as 2009. I’m not alone in this – unemployment is remarkably high, people have lost their homes at incredible rates, and we’re still feeling pretty insecure with folks trying to detonate bombs on airlines. Yeah, 2009 sucked.
But it’s almost over, which is great. Because, by tradition of calendar, we all get a reset button in a few days, as 2010 takes over the last four digits of the date we write on checks. (Do we still write checks?)
I, for one, am delighted to welcome 2010.
I have big plans for the upcoming year. Most importantly, I’m going to get a job. The kind with a paycheck and health insurance. That’s absolutely essential. Fortunately, the groundwork has been laid, and I feel quite confident that things will work out.
Beyond employment, however, I have other plans. After reading “No Impact Man” (as well as other things), I decided that 2010 was to be the year of not buying stuff. Sure, I’ll still buy food and medicine and soap and shampoo and deodorant, but I’m cutting out all non-essential spending. If I need clothes that aren’t already in my closet, I’ll borrow something from someone, or I’ll find it secondhand. If I can’t make it or borrow it or find it at a thrift shop, I’m not buying it. I’m not the first, or even the hundredth or thousandth person to do this, but I think it’s time to really commit to changing my behavior as a consumer.
Along with this change, I’m trying to reduce my (and my family’s) use of energy, creation of garbage, and any other wasteful behavior. The worm farm is already going strong (wow, those worms have gotten FAT in two weeks!), which is a faster compost solution than our outdoor compost pile. We only have one car, but we drive it more than we need to. While our house is already energy efficient, we could still be more mindful about turning off lights and using appliances more economically.
I’d love some company. Drop me a line if you want to join in my efforts.
New year’s is a great opportunity to turn on a dime. 2010 will be different from 2009.