The 101 on Your 401(k)

The 101 on Your 401(k)

You’ve probably heard of 401(k)s, and chances are, your company offers one, but what are they? How do you benefit? What do you need to know?

Well, a 401(k) is a retirement plan. It allows you to set aside a portion of your pre-tax wages to go toward your retirement savings. Most of the time, your employer will match your contribution (up to a certain amount), which is basically just free money.

We know what you are thinking: I’m 22, why do I need to worry about retirement? While it seems like multiple lifetimes away, getting started early, even if you contribute just a small amount each month, will benefit you majorly in the long run. For example, if you put away $5k when you’re 25, you’ll have roughly $370k by the time you retire at 65 (that’s with a 6% estimated return and estimated inflation). Do we have your attention now? That’s what we thought. Here’s your 101 for 401(k)s.

What’s good: Your 401(k) comes out of your pre-tax wages, which lowers your total tax bill, so it’s better than a normal bank account. That being said, you will be taxed on the money when you withdraw it, so just don’t. Leave it alone until you’re an old person.

If you leave your job, you can roll over your savings into an IRA. It’s super easy to do, you just need to contact your bank or brokerage (a company like Fidelity is a good example) and set up an IRA. Then tell your old 401(k) firm that you need to execute a roll over. It sounds scary, but it’s really, really simple.

401(k)s also give you good investment options, mainly mutual funds, which are a non-intimidating option, especially if you’re new to the investment game.

What’s not so good: You have to pay. They’re called expense ratio fees and they’re the fund’s expenses, like legal fees, that marketing and other business costs. They’re similar charges to bank fees.

At the end of the day: It’s free money, you guys. Once you’ve set up the fund and made some small decisions about how to invest (which the brokerage firm can totally help you with), you don’t have to worry about anything else. There’s really no good excuse not to take advantage of this benefit.

This article was originally published on The Politesse.

Photo: Thinkstock

Career 180: From Wall Street To Haiti

Career 180: From Wall Street to Haiti

All of us can relate to feeling so sick of sitting at that damn desk staring at a computer screen, soaking up every drop of our over-priced coffee, daydreaming of a tropical beach somewhere. But then we get an email that brings us back to life and we get back to work. But for Lucie Cincinatis, she couldn’t shake the feeling that sitting at a desk all day on Wall Street wasn’t where she was supposed to be. So she did something about it. The Columbia University grad (who’s from Belgium) was an international relations major and had always been very interested in social entrepreneurship after taking a class on it. The notion of sustainability was always a fascinating subject to her. “There’s a lot of foundations and charities, but I felt like there was a lot of hassle because you always have to fundraise,” she says. After graduation she was encouraged to take a job with a private equity firm. “It’s a good way to go because it’s prestigious and you make good money, but I really wasn’t happy. I really didn’t feel any fulfillment. It was just not a good fit for me. I was in front of a computer all day,” she says. She decided to quit and work at a summer education program. Through a connection with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, she landed a one-year fellowship that had her working in Haiti teaching English and developing arts and crafts programs in a school. “I thought it’s a great opportunity. I’m 23 years old. Let’s do it!”

She definitely got some crazy reactions because of Haiti’s plight, but Cincinatis wasn’t scared. Even so, Haiti was like nothing she’d ever seen before. “I had never traveled in a country that was so poor. That was eye opening,” she says of her arrival in Port Au Prince. “There’s no sanitation, kids are running around naked next to pigs, people rotate living in houses. The average daily salary is $2, so I definitely had a culture shock.” But she “just jumped in” despite her fellow student in the program dropping out after a month because she couldn’t take it. After a few months working, she took a two-hour trip to Jacmel (a beach town in Southern Haiti) which she describes as stunningly beautiful in an old-colonial style. She kept seeing wonderful artists everywhere either painting or doing paper mache. One artisan in particular that caught her eye was a man working with a calabash, a small evergreen tropical tree with simple leaves and a rough bark. It’s predominantly used to carry water. In Haiti, more specifically, the calabash is thought to be a “spiritual fruit” and is often used during voodoo sacred rituals. The artisan had one bag made out of the calabash. She asked him to make another one, just for her, though she did see some marketable potential. Cincinatis walked around with the  bag in Brazil and had everyone coming up to her asking her about it. She was still teaching at the time, but started working with the artist and selling the bags on the side. Soon she was selling 10 a week. She came to visit New York and people had the same reaction, though she knew the quality of the bag still needed work. The constraints of working in Port Au Prince was starting to frustrate her and she found herself going to Jacmel more. On a family trip to Israel she found herself thinking about the bags and turning them into a business. “I just thought, why not?” She left her program, moved to the beach in Jacmel (seriously check out the Instagram), found an atelier (small studio shop), and started hiring employees. “I really wanted to hire women and create a nice work environment for them. Women are the workforce of Haiti.” That small atelier turned into Jacmel & Co., which is now a company that employs local female artisans in Haiti to hand-make leather bags out of the calabash. With this project, Cincinatis’ mission is to promote jobs, empower women, and foster sustainable living. Around 75% of Haitians are either unemployed or try to make ends meet in the informal economy. ”People don’t need charity. They need jobs. You either give them fish or you teach them how to fish,” she says. Career 180: From Wall Street To Haiti Though the bag has caught the eye of renowned fashion blogger Leandra Medine of Man Repeller and our friends over at Refinery 29, Cincinatis insists she is no fashion designer. “The mission that I have is to create jobs because that’s the way to create sustainable living and empower them. Long term, my vision is to really beautify Haiti. Through the product, I’m giving a different image of the country. These are talented artisans. I’m going to give it a shot,” she says. The brand is rapidly expanding and getting some great exposure (while I was interviewing her she got an email from an editor at Vogue Italia), but Cincinatis’ main goal is to simply transform how we view Haiti and empower the women there. Living on a beautiful beach is just a bonus (and it’s better than any bonus Wall Street could have given her). Photos: Mitch Waxman / Courtesy of Lucie Cincinatis

5-ways-to-live-healthier

5 Ways to Live Healthier

I’m the farthest thing from a health freak. I almost never work out and I rarely make it to the grocery store to buy fresh foods. I’m a girl on-the-go who’s more focused on my career and squeezing in time to meet my friends for happy hour. That being said, I’ve recently made five simple ways to live healthier in my daily routine that makes my day-to-day lifestyle healthier mentally, physically, and emotionally. I promise even the busiest career-women can adopt these tips and make them her own.

1. Eat breakfast within the first hour of waking up.

We hear it time and time again how important it is to eat a healthy breakfast in the morning. I’ve made it a habit to always eat something in the first hour of waking up and now my body absolutely craves food right when my alarm goes off.

I’m not a big fan of cooking or going grocery shopping, so I always keep instant oatmeal on hand; it never goes bad and you just add some water, microwave, and voila! If I’m really in a rush, I’ll grab a ThinkThin bar and eat it on my way out the door. With 0 grams of sugar and 20 grams of protein, it’s a breakfast bar you can trust.

2. Stretch!

I know how bad it is to wake up and just start checking e-mail, Instagram, and last night’s texts. It can be hard to resist! To overcome the magnetic draw of checking my phone, I start off my day in a meaningful and self-loving way, spending a few minutes each morning stretching, taking a few deep breaths, and visualizing my day going exactly the way I would like. Stretching stimulates blood flow and wakes up the senses to give you that burst of energy that will last throughout the day.

3. Take the stairs.

I’m just not the type of person that makes working out a priority. To make up for it, I always try to take the stairs whenever possible. Hiking up the stairs in heels carrying a large purse is definitely considered a workout in my book!

4. Make to-do lists the night before.

In order to clear my mind before I go to bed and have a good night’s rest, I make my to-do list for the next day the night before. Getting everything on paper releases the stress and anticipation of the next day, and knowing that I simply made a plan of attack helps me go to bed with a sense of accomplishment. Of course, the benefits of planning help me stay focused and on-task the following day; I feel in control and on top of my game all day long. It’s a huge mental relief.

5. End the day with gratitude.

It’s human nature to feel like we don’t have everything we need or want. Even after all the amazing things we accomplish throughout the day, we always end up laboring over the things that went wrong or the things we wish we had. To overcome these negative feelings and to focus on the positive, all of the experts say to express gratitude. I was skeptical at first, I’ll admit. I felt like a second grader on Thanksgiving when I forced myself to write about all of the things I’m grateful for. But over time, I started to realize that throughout the day I was looking for things to be grateful for, so I could have something to write down at the end of the day. Training your brain to look for the positive instead of the negative is a much happier and peaceful way to live. I’ll take it!

What do you do to live a healthy life? Leave tips in the comments! 

Ask Jaime Petkanics how she stays healthy! 

Photo: Thinkstock

Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

In our increasingly on-the-go world and with the temptation of cheap fast food lurking around what seems like every street corner, eating healthy can be a major challenge, even if doing so comes with multiple benefits. Eight out of 10 Americans say they eat fast food monthly, and about half said they eat it at least weekly, according to a Gallup poll last year. While eating fast food might seem more affordable in the short term, eating nutritious food certainly doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are some tips to help keep your wallet fat while keeping your waistline thin.

1. Budget and plan out your week.

We’ve all been there: Walking through the grocery store on an empty stomach, shoving everything in sight into the cart. But shopping with a full belly, plus a plan in mind, can help prevent you from overspending and buying unhealthy items. An hour or two before heading to the grocery store, sit down, create a grocery budget, and make a list of groceries you’ll need for the week. When planning, search for recipes online while cross-checking them with your store’s weekly fliers to see what’s on sale. When you go the store, avoid temptation by staying out of the aisles that don’t include items on your list.

2. Buy in season—and in bulk.

When making your grocery list, consider the fruits and vegetables that are currently in season. Seasonal produce is usually plentiful and less expensive than produce that isn’t in season. Try to stay away from already sliced and prepared fruits and vegetables, which may be more convenient, but also are often more expensive. When shopping, consider what you buy often and buy in bulk. If an item you eat frequently is on sale, like boneless chicken or ground turkey, consider buying more than you need for the week and freeze what you don’t use. Similarly, for produce you use a lot, a larger amount could be a better buy.

3. Prepare meals ahead of time

Prepping ahead of time can help stop you from making unhealthy food choices in a rush. Set aside one day a week to prepare your meals in advance. This will ensure you’ll have healthy meals waiting in the fridge and help save time during the week. When searching for meals to prepare, look for recipes such as stews or casseroles to make the fresh, healthy ingredients you’ve purchased stretch further. When cooking over the weekend, try doubling the recipe and freezing individual-portion sizes for weekday lunches or dinners.

4. Limit eating out.

It can be hard to resist the temptation of dining out, especially at the office when co-workers are heading out for lunch. The average American eats lunch out twice a week, and spends about $10 each time, which adds up to an average of about $936 a year, according to a survey by Visa. If possible, it’s better to avoid dining out altogether. If you just need to get away from your desk for a while, consider having your packed lunch alfresco or taking a quick stroll around the block—your mind and body will thank you.

If you can’t always cut back on dining out, seek out restaurants with healthy options and regular lunch specials. Stick to water instead of sugary drinks, which can add to the bill and your waistline.

5. Grow your own

If you have the space, starting a garden of your own can be a great way to save money on produce. Seeds or small plants cost just a few dollars and produce fruits and vegetables last all season long. Depending on your region, plants like tomatoes, lettuce, or cucumbers can be grown in containers on your porch or balcony. When choosing what to plant, look at what you purchase most often, as well as what grows in your region. By having nutritious options in your own backyard, this will help ensure healthy eating. Plus, is there anything more rewarding than preparing food you’ve grown on your own?

This post was originally published on NerdWallet.

Photo: Thinkstock

4 Women Who Found Success Later in Life

4 Women Who Found Success Later in Life

Looking around, it’s easy to think it’s necessary to have your career figured out right now. Lists like the 30 Under 30 and tales of successful, young entrepreneurs (I’m looking at you, Man Repeller) can leave us with the overwhelming feeling that there’s a ticking clock when it comes to our success.

But not everyone’s career starts out early, or easy, and that’s perfectly okay. Here are four women who show us that sometimes success just gets better with age.

1. J. K. Rowling

It’s hard not to be enchanted by Rowling’s Cinderella story. Especially the part where instead of prince charming saving her, it was a widely acclaimed book series that she penned all by herself. In her late twenties, Rowling was a single mother, living on welfare and writing in her spare time. It wasn’t until she was 30, and had a few rejection letters under her belt, that the first Harry Potter book was released and Rowling’s rise to the literary top began. Oh, and did we mention that it’s her 49th birthday today?

2. Julia Child

It might be hard to believe, but internationally-known chef and author Julia Child wasn’t even interested in cooking until her 30s. After growing up in California, she went to school with dreams of being a writer and then later moved to Paris, where she enrolled in culinary school at the age of 36. It wasn’t until her early 50s that she published her revolutionary cookbook and starred in her own cooking show, The French Chef. She then went on to receive France’s highest honor, the Legion d’Honneur, as well as (what I would call) Hollywood’s highest honor when Meryl Streep portrayed her in Julie and Julia in 2009.

3. Kathryn Bigelow

Long before Kathryn Bigelow became the first women to win the Academy Award for directing, she was living in a bank vault in New York City and studying to be a painter. Bigelow didn’t venture into filmmaking until her 30s, when she made her first feature The Loveless, and didn’t win her Oscar until her late 50s. She was later named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People at 58, proving that with years of hard work comes unmatched success.

4. Diana Nyad

If there’s anyone who encompasses the phrase “never give up”, it’s Diana Nyad. An accomplished swimmer, Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective cage, all at age 64. Her fifth attempt at the 100-mile swim took almost 53 hours, but Nyad made it through, arriving safely on the shores of Florida and instantly becoming the ultimate #GirlBoss.

For even more inspiration, check out what these six successful women were doing in their 20s.

Photos: JK Rowling / Facebook; Thinkstock; Diana Nyad / Facebook; Julia Child / Facebook

My Career Path: Chloe Epstein, President of Chloe's Soft Serve Fruit

My Career Path: Chloe Epstein, President of Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co.

There’s no ladder to climb—today, it’s a jungle gym that takes you up, down, up, and side to side to reach your personal pinnacle. Even successful people fall, but they pick themselves back up again and learn something transformational from the experience. In this new series, we connect the dots on some impressively cool careers, and the people that go along with them.

career-path-chloe-epstein-graphic-new-a

What made you want to change careers?

It was challenging to picture my life working at the DA’s office and having a family. At the time I didn’t know I was going to start my own business. I had played with many ideas, but none of them felt right nor worthy of the tremendous risk that it takes to start something. My husband was always encouraging me to keep plugging away and gave me the confidence and inspiration to move forward and make a change.

How did you come up with the idea for soft serve fruit?

I have an intense sweet tooth, and at the same time, I’m focused on healthy living. After years of turning to frozen yogurt as a “healthy alternative” to ice cream, I became skeptical of the artificial ingredients and felt uncomfortable feeding it to myself and my children. However, I was not ready to give up frozen treats! My parter, Michael Sloan, is a triathlete with a ton of frozen bananas. We started experimenting with them and found that we could achieve the creamy consistency of ice cream using bananas alone. We were soon experimenting on soft serve machines, testing other fruits, and finally fine tuning our mix so that we could create a clean, simple, delicious alternative to everything else. We found that fruit, water, and a touch or organic cane sugar hit the spot and soft serve fruit was born.

Did you have help along the way?

The beauty of starting something later in my career is that there are so many forces around me, and people to look to that I trust. I had developed personal and business relationships in so many relevant areas: marketing, PR, real estate, and these friends were at points in their careers that they could really act as advisors, sounding boards, and real resources along the way. As a mom of 3, I most definitely could not have done any of it without my partner, who is filled with more energy than my 3 kids put together. Our talents really compliment each other and we’ve built a strong, impressive team of passionate and intelligent people to keep us growing.

Did you ever have any doubts?

I’m totally risk averse. If it weren’t for my husband and my partner, who are entrepreneurs to their core, and more importantly, an idea that was something I truly believed in, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to take the plunge. I felt so confident about this idea and it incorporated all aspects of my life–career, kids, health–it felt so right, I had to go for it.

What was your “ah-ha” moment?

I was preparing for a segment on a TV show to talk about Chloe’s and we wanted to introduce something different. We experimented with making our soft serve fruit into a pop, and it was fabulous. A creamy fruit pop without the cream–soft serve fruit on a stick! We packaged the test pops in some cellophane wrap and put them out for display in our freezer. Later that day, a children’s camp walked in and ordered 5,000 of them. They ordered 750 every Friday after that for 8 weeks. “Ah-ha” we were in the Pop business.

If you could give advice to your 20-year-old self, what would it be?

Sleep now! And enjoy the journey.

What’s next?

We want to cement Chloe’s as the new category in the frozen treat market. We’re working to increase brand awareness across the country and gearing up for the national launch of our Consumer Packaged Good–our Pops in a Box–soon to be in supermarkets across the country. There’s Frozen yogurt, ice cream, and now Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit.

Connecting the Dots:

1996 – Graduated from Tufts University with a major in political science and a minor in theater.

2001 – Graduated from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

2001 – Started working as Assistant District Attorney at the Manhattan District of Attorney’s Office.

2004 – Left the DA’s Office.

2005 – 2009 – Worked in real estate.

2010 – Opened Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co.

2014 – Chloe is now solidifying the brand’s place as a new category in the frozen treat market.

Photos: Sam Teich / Levo League

Can You Be Happy for Someone Else?

Can You Be Happy for Someone Else?

Imagine a moment in time where something you’ve hoped for has finally happened. Imagine it. Feel the joy. Feel the excitement. The smile that takes over your face. Maybe you’re walking off the plane on that dream trip. Or perhaps it’s because you’ve just found the love of your life. You know it, he knows it. Maybe your career is finally taking off and you landed the big new job. Or better yet you reigned in the courage of the heavens and quit that job to chase after your entrepreneurial dream. Maybe you finally got the time off to fly home and spend it with the family you haven’t seen in one too many months. Or you just closed on a house with your soon to be fiancé.

Are you feeling the joy of your good fortune yet?

Now imagine that thing you want, happening to someone else. To a best friend. To a sibling. To one of your seventeen hundred facebook friends.

Do you still feel the joy? Or is their a twinge of something else…

My guess is, if you’re anything like me, occasionally there’s a twinge of something else. Jealousy feels like too strong of a word here, but you know the feeling. You notice in the lives of others that which you feel is lacking in yourself. We all do it. When I’m feeling insecure about my SF housing woes, it’s as if all I notice are people and their perfect homes. Or if I’m tired of the dating scene, somehow I’m always noticing other people’s passionate relationships.

Big news: we all freaking do it. My housing freak out is you questioning your purpose is another person’s ending of their relationship.

But here’s a little word that’s about to rock your world and flip this whole comparison paradigm upside down: Mudita.

Mudita is the practice of rejoicing in the good fortune of others, it’s the pleasure that comes from delighting in someone else’s well-being.

One of the things I most appreciate about my best friends is the way in which they are always always more excited about the good things happening to me than I am. They glow with pride in what I’ve done. They believe in me. And they absolutely rejoice in my success, often before I even realize it’s something worth being excited over.

You likely have that person in your life too. That’s the Mudita. But ask yourself this…are you in the practice of that with others? Do you get deeply, genuinely excited for people when they reach joy, accomplishment, or love in some area of their life?

Let me tell you, when you do you’ll notice how much better it feels than that twinge. Than jealousy. Or Envy. And when you try on Mudita, when you begin to see the universe as wide enough, deep enough, and connected enough for unlimited capacity for the joy of every single one of us…when you stop viewing the events of others from a place of lack. I promise, you’ll feel better. You feel their joy. When you can feel joy for other’s success, your heart will experience a new level of contentment.

This article was originally published on ilo inspired.

Photo: Kelley Bozarth / Unsplash

How to Get Paid Your Value

How to Get Paid Your Value

In the words of the infamous Will Ferrell, “Aren’t we all striving to be overpaid?”

To some this might seem arrogant or selfish, but in reality, Will Ferrell has a good point. Don’t we all deserve to be paid what we’re worth?

As Millennials, we get a bad rep for being “self-entitled.” Just because we want to find a career we love, previous generations scoff at us for following our passions. Unfortunately, this has caused Millennials to question their value and begin to wonder what we’re really worth in the workplace.

Let’s take a look at the entire internship debate, for example. Over recent years, paying interns has become a hot topic with which much of society has gotten on board. Unpaid interns have been compared to “slave labor” and some don’t even see the value in doing an internship at all. This is unfortunate because hands-on experience has been the best type of training for any individual over the last century or two.

Unpaid internships and internship-like entry-level jobs have caused Millennials to question their worth. They don’t know whether they should accept “bottom of the totem pole” work or chase their dreams and hope for a paycheck to follow.

When it comes to getting paid your value, you have to know what you want. You also have to work hard to get what you want. If you feel your employer is overlooking your value despite your effort to bring in results to the company, then maybe it’s time for you to take action.

Getting paid for your value can be an intimidating goal to go after. In fact, 41 percent of workers say they haven’t negotiated the salary they currently hold. Whether you’ve been at your job for six months or two years, you need to think about the value you bring to the workplace and whether your employer recognizes it.

If you’re wondering if you’re getting paid for your value (or simply receiving the recognition you deserve), here are some things to consider and how you can get more of what you want out of your job:

Find a job with meaning.

Although Generation Y reports the lowest levels of job stress, they also have reported the lowest levels in job satisfaction or finding meaning in their careers.

The first step to getting paid your value is to find a more meaningful career. Now, this isn’t the easiest thing to do, but if you ask yourself the right questions and create manageable goals, you’ll be one step closer to finding a job that brings more meaning to your life.

Ask yourself what purpose you want to have in your job and how it relates to the rest of your life. Do you simply want to collect a paycheck, or do you want to create value within your job? Hopefully, you’ll want a job where you can make a difference, whether within your organization or for the common good. Whatever purpose it is you want to serve, once you figure it out, you need to fulfill that goal.

You need to be Generation “Why?”

Gen Y’ers need to ask more questions in order to get more out of their careers. Instead of being a passive employee, set goals for yourself and work hard to reach the next level of your career.

If there’s something you’re not satisfied with in your job, change it. There are so many opportunities available in your job, you just can’t be afraid to ask the right questions.

For example, if you’re curious about why you haven’t received a raise since you’ve been with the company (and you’ve been there more than a year), don’t hesitate to bring up the question in your next performance review. The worst thing your boss could say is “no,” so don’t hold back any questions about your salary or benefits.

If you are going after a promotion, ask your manager about the qualities they look for when they go to promote an employee. You should also ask your boss about your strengths and weaknesses, and find out where they think you can improve. Being proactive in your job is a huge part of getting what you want. If you don’t ask about your salary or opportunities for promotion, you may let these opportunities pass you by.

Do your homework.

As you continue to search for meaning in your career and ask questions along the way, you need to do some research. One of the key factors of landing a promotion or receiving a raise is knowing your worth. This means you need to research what other organizations pay their employees who are in a similar position as you.

To pinpoint your value, use websites such as Glassdoor.com to find competitive wages and research what you should be paid. If you discover other employers are paying their employees higher wages, this could be something you could present to your boss during a salary negotiation.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to receive a promotion, you need to take a look at everything you’ve accomplished while working for your employer. Take inventory of your contributions and figure out how much value you brought to the organization. Looking at what you’ve done in your position will give you a better idea of whether or not you’re ready to ask for a promotion. If you find you’ve been exceeding your goals and aren’t challenged enough in your current position, it could be time to ask for a promotion.

Stick to your guns.

Getting paid your value is all about being confident in your self-worth. Now, it’s important not to come off as arrogant or cocky, but you should be confident enough in your skills and accomplishments where you can determine if you’re worth the raise or promotion.

When it’s time for you to ask for a raise or promotion, be sure to present to your employer your research and the value you’ve brought to the company. In your presentation, be confident in your accomplishments and explain how you want to bring even more success to the organization. If you’re employer fails to see your value, you may need to reconsider whether your position is a good fit for you or not. Remember, there is an employer out there who would be thankful to have a talented and driven employee like you on their team.

Knowing your worth and getting paid for your value is a journey every young professional will take. Although it might require you to negotiate with employers and a little research on your part, every effort you put into getting what you honestly deserve will bring you much more reward in your career.

Do you believe you are getting rewarded for the value you bring to your employer?

This article was originally published on Come Recommended.

Photo: Thinkstock

The Best Thing I Did After Being Passed Over for My Dream Job

The Best Thing I Did After Being Passed Over for My Dream Job

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading  “I Got A Job Offer! Now What?,” feeling confident I would need its advice in a few days. I had just completed two interviews for what I still believe would have been my dream job. The first went phenomenally, and the second wasn’t spectacular, but it was solid. I knew the company inside out, I felt qualified, my answers were prepped, my references were impeccable, I thought the women I would be working for were fantastic, I asked the right questions, sent thank you cards (Paperless Post for personalization and efficiency)…the whole nine.

Then I had a third interview. For whatever reason, I was nervous, the questions were tough, and I stumbled. It wasn’t a complete disaster certainly, but I hung up the phone feeling much less confident than I had previously. It was Friday, and as they were hoping to find someone to start immediately, I was told I would hear early the next week.

Monday, I was hopeful. Tuesday, I was a nervous wreck. Wednesday, I was convinced they would give it to someone else. Thursday, the job posting was taken down from the website. Friday, I got the dreaded email, which still felt like a punch in the stomach.

I was absolutely devastated. It certainly wasn’t the first rejection in my life or even the first for a job, but it definitely hurt the most. Never before had I felt so confident or been so thrilled about an opportunity and fallen short by such a small margin. I spent all day Thursday beating myself up for less than stellar responses, for forgetting to mention specifics, for not doing enough. Even still, I felt like I was missing something.

I just want to ask what I could have done better, I thought. But I can’t do that.

And then it dawned on me: Why can’t I?

So when I got the email Friday morning saying they had gone in a different direction, I went for it. What did I have to lose? After all, it was the first interviewer and I felt we had a great connection. I emailed her back, thanked her again for their time and consideration, and then wrote:

“I know this is somewhat unconventional, but I’m wondering if you would mind telling me where I could have done better in the interview process. I know I stumbled on a couple of questions for one, but really anything you could tell me would be incredibly helpful in my job search going forward. I would so appreciate it.”

Now to preface this, we’re talking about the publishing industry here. I’m not going to go making generalizations and say this is a good idea in the world of investment banking or finance. I’m not sure—I’ve never done it. Second, this is obviously an exceptionally kind and generous individual we’re talking about.

That being said, it was the absolute best thing I could have done.

I got a response a few hours later asking if I had time for a phone call. She said she would love to offer some feedback, and good for me for being proactive. When we talked on the phone I did feel a bit embarrassed and hurt, but she was not only incredibly kind, but completely honest and unbelievably helpful. She pointed out some of the specific reasons they chose someone else for the position, things I wouldn’t have realized if I had continued to beat myself up for weeks (I may have). Additionally, she said she’d like to meet for lunch and that she would be sending a recommendation to HR immediately.

I hung up still disappointed, but encouraged and with a sense of closure. Not only was she encouraging about seeing me in a different role, but I had come away with priceless insight. She helped me see clearly the specifics I had faltered on or failed to convey, things I am already working to improve for next time.

That’s not to say there won’t be more rejections ahead, but with the insight I gained from simply asking, I feel prepared to move on and land my new dream job.  Stay tuned…

Photo: Thinkstock

Just Stop: Being Modest About Your Greatness

Just Stop: Being Modest About Your Greatness

I love movies about war. I love documentaries about war. I love sweeping narratives that take place during wartime. And one of my favorite war movies of all time is Zero Dark Thirty.

Jessica Chastain plays Maya, a steely, single-minded agent on a relentless decade-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden. My favorite scene is when the Maya and higher-level agents present a model of Bin Laden’s compound to the CIA Director. Maya chimes in during their presentation, and the Director asks who she is. She responds, “I’m the mother****** who found this place.”

Now that’s an introduction.

We, the audience, love Maya because she’s fearless, focused, and completely unabashed about her mission. She isn’t braggy when she’s right, but she isn’t afraid to be recognized for it. So why aren’t more women like Maya when it comes to their careers and their personal success story?

Look, humility is good, and it’s a likable human quality. Everyone likes the “It was team effort” response. But it’s okay to take credit when you accomplish something. It’s okay to own your successes, raise your hand, and say YepThat was all me. You’re doing yourself an injustice if you don’t.

This isn’t about Girl Power, either. It’s about Personal Power. I work on the Creative Team at an advertising agency, and a lot of my success comes from the help of my team. But I’m not afraid to own up to the work when it’s mine. That’s because I value my career and I’m proud of the work that propels it forward. Plus, I feel like it commands a little more respect for my time and talent.

So go out there and be confident in the good you’re doing. We’ve got your back.

This article was originally published on ProfessionGal.

Photo: Zero Dark Thirty / Facebook