7 Steps to the Perfect Commute

7 Steps to the Perfect Commute

 

Ahhh…the commute. At times painful (but mostly just a pain,) commuting to and from work can sometimes take hours depending on traffic. Taking a bus, train, or carpool (yay environment!) may help you on the stress level, but still eats up precious minutes.

We normally view our commute negatively: it’s something that keeps us from doing other, more productive things. However, it’s a shift in perspective that can make your commute awesome. Instead of viewing your commute as a necessary evil, try viewing it as “me time.” This is a set amount of uninterrupted time to do with as you wish (safely, of course.) As soon as you view it as a little chunk of paradise before and after a crazy day, your world gets a little brighter.

1. Use Pocket to curate some off-line news

Pocket is this awesome little app (and plug-in) that lets you save and curate articles to read later without wifi or data. For example, have them automatically dump the New York Times’ top articles without any fuss. Or see an interesting story but no time to read it? Pocket it for later.

2. Bring a book

How many of us complain about not having enough time to read a book? There is no better time to get some quality reading done than your bus or train ride. I’m pages away from finishing “All the Light We Cannot See” (could not recommend it more) and read it almost entirely on my commute to work over a month or so. Fiction not your thing? Try some reading about being more creative (“Big Magic” is a great one), or furthering your career (“Own It: The Power of Women at Work”, “Start With Why”,) or finding happiness (“The Geography of Bliss.”) There are more books than we can count, and so much reading to be done.

3. Check your email (but don’t respond)

Those emails can wait for replies (unless they can’t…you know those emails.) But simply looking through your inbox gives you automatic goals to start the day. By sorting through your emails (but not drafting a response), you’re giving yourself a leg-up on work without actually engaging. See what’s going to be your first priority when you get in the office — that way, you’re prepared for what’s to come and can mull it over on your way in.

4. Download some podcasts

This one you can do in your car (the first three definitely should not be!) From food to career to lifestyle to comedy to travel, there is a podcast for everything. On Sunday while you’re doing your laundry, set your iTunes to automatically download a week’s worth of content that you can soak up. Some of our favorites:Adulthood Made Easy, Planet Money, Crimetown, and Magic Lessons.

5. Make a call

You remember your grandma? Yeah, that grandma…the one you haven’t called in weeks. When things get busy, it’s easy to forget to take 5 minutes and check in with your loved ones on the walk to work. Just asking how they’ve been and letting them know you’re thinking of them will undoubtedly brighten their day, and yours.

6. Meditate

Remember that whole “use your commute as me time” thing? Now’s the perfect time for a bit of self-care.Calm is my favorite app/website for meditation: you can choose exactly the length of time you want to meditate (from 3 minutes to an hour,) and can pick whether you want a lovely phantom voice guiding you through it or not. Complete with a beautiful scenery picture and nature sounds (that you again get to pick), you’re on your way to bliss. And even better, Calm has a guided meditation for every situation, even one called Commute!

7. Learn a language

I don’t know about you, but I literally feel this daily intense need to be chic enough to speak fluent French. Luckily, apps like Duolingo are free and can assist you in learning that new language! And a little-known tip: Spotify also has playlists full of language lessons, in addition to international music!

 


Tori Dunlap

Tori Dunlap is an award-winning social media marketer and entrepreneur. Founder of victori media, helping 20-somethings live life victoriously. Obsessed with finding cheap flights, reading a good book in the bathtub, and you. Follow her on Instagram here.

5 To-Dos After a Job Interview

5 To-Dos After a Job Interview

 

You did it — you survived the interview. We all know the interview process can be tough, which is why for anyone who is going through this right now, you may want to look into a site like https://www.berkeassessment.com/solutions to help you get familiar with the potential layout of questions or even just to work on how you’re going to answer basic questions regarding your skills and experiences. No matter what, you’ll get through it. Now for the people that have got this out of the way. Whether it was a set of Skype calls, or those grueling, day-long sessions with literally EVERYONE in your potential department, you deserve a glass of wine (or tea, if it’s morning…or wine. Yeah, let’s stick with wine.) But you’re not done yet! Here’s 5 must-dos to nail down that dream job.

1. Send a thank-you note.

There’s no excuses for missing this one. A prompt thank you note (preferably hand-written, but an email will do) is the perfect time to highlight what went well, correct what may have been missed, and keep you on their minds. There’s a ton of articles about how to write the perfect note (here and here and here), but make sure it’s memorable. Hit upon something that you uniquely bring to the table.

And bonus: here’s the thank-you I sent to my current company post-interview! Eeeeeeek! I read it now, and there’s 10 million things I would change about it, but it obviously helped get it done!

“Hello SIS ninjas,

I wanted to sincerely thank you for your time and insight yesterday. Interviews can often be a stressful process, but I felt right at home and comfortable at SIS. With my diverse experience — as an entrepreneur and innovative thinker, social media marketer, awesome time manager, and writer/editor — I am excited to build SIS’s online reputation from scratch and implement my ideas. After seeing multiple social campaigns and brands from conception to analysis, I would be a fantastic fit for this role — I understand and love the company culture, have the intense need to be the best, and am equipped with the passion and drive it get it done.

I look forward to hearing from you, and cannot wait to start work.”

boom.

2. Create a plan of attack

If the opportunity didn’t present itself in the interview (or if you just didn’t go for it,) now’s the time to seal the deal with “the Briefcase Technique.” Taking time to understand the organization’s biggest issues (and how to solve them), and then giving a 90-day action plan of what you’d contribute will make you practically irresistible. It shows initiative and drive (not to mention, going the extra mile of solving problems and demonstrating value before you’ve even been given an ID number.) It also gives you yet another chance to touch on your skills.

Here’s how I worded the post-interview email with my 90-day action plan attached.

“Thank you for your email. I look forward to discussing your decision with you later this week.

In the meantime, I have compiled a document that highlights some additions I can implement to current tasks and strategies, in addition to the other tasks and projects I would be working on in this position. I also wanted to highlight some of my own ideas and how they will add value.

I hope this proposal –as well as my application materials, my persistence, and my energy and passion in our meeting — demonstrate my work ethic and excitement. This would be an incredible opportunity for me.

I look forward to hearing from you, and to implementing my ideas and experience to wow you.”

By giving them a bit of what they don’t even know they need, you immediately become invaluable. And bonus: when you get the job, you’ve already got your first 90 days planned out.

3. Read Glassdoor Reviews

Glassdoor has become the go-to website for job seekers. As the assigned Glassdoor representative at my company, I cannot stress the importance of the site for our brand, reputation, and transparency. Glassdoor does double duty: informing you about your potential employer, and giving you a better sense of what you’re worth. Remember, job interviews are important for you too, as you discover if this position will be a good fit. Discovering the positives and negatives of a company, straight from employees, will help inform your decision; and with posted salaries, you can estimate what your potential offer will be. If you potential salary isn’t posted, Glassdoor’s more general salary calculator takes your location, experience, and job title, and gives you a good starting point for possible negotiation later.

4. Hit up your network

If you haven’t done it yet, now’s the perfect time to scout your LinkedIn. Know someone with a connection at the company you applied for? Ping them and ask to put in a good word. Email people at the potential organization, and ask what their experience has been — that way, you’re getting an insider look AND you’re making a good impression on someone internally.

5. Leave it be.

Done all the above steps? Now it’s time to relax. You’re going to feel the overwhelming urge to check your email/phone every second, to call up the hiring manager and be like, “So…?” But resist the urge. Take a deep breath. Reassure yourself. It’s all going to be just fine. But don’t forget — you haven’t got the job yet. It’s always wise to use this time to continue applying (and interviewing) for other positions.

 


Tori Dunlap

Tori Dunlap is an award-winning social media marketer and entrepreneur. Founder of victori media, helping 20-somethings live life victoriously. Obsessed with finding cheap flights, reading a good book in the bathtub, and you. Follow her on Instagram here.

5 Ways to Escape the Work Grind

 5 Ways to Escape the Work Grind

 

No matter how much you love your job, sometimes you just don’t feel like going to work.

Crawling back into bed sounds much better than dealing with your co-workers, working on projects that don’t interest you, or staring at a computer screen all day. You’ve gotten caught up in the work grind.

When these sorts of days start happening more often, it’s hard to feel excited about work anymore. When I don’t want to go in (and I love my work, so it doesn’t happen often,) I realize that my sudden-felt animosity towards my job is largely because I’m in a creative rut — my regular routine is bogging me down. I’m searching for the spark again; the one we all feel when starting something new.

Remember when you walked into the office on the day you were hired? It was a beautiful day full of possibilities and over-the-moon excitement to start innovating. Being able to feel that glorious sense of optimism about your goals is more important to your work life than I could ever express. Being inspired and challenged will make you a better employee, and a happier person. Getting you back to that feeling can be one of the most important things you do for your career (and your mental health.) Whether it’s through learning, engaging with peers or just making your space cleaner, here’s how you can feel all the work fuzzies again.

1. Spruce up

 

Spring cleaning is just around the corner, and couldn’t come at a better time. A clean space equals a clean mind, and my very being feels lighter and more organized when I declutter.  Better yet, a cleaner desk has also proven to make you more approachable and promotable.  Get some folders for all those random notes on your desk, and buy a no-maintenance plant (because your first one died…just me?) Throw away those Post-Its glued to your monitor and get ready to love coming into work again. And go beyond your desk: clean up all those files on your laptop and delete the ones you no longer need. Your brain will thank you.

2. Adopt the 5-Hour Rule

 

The learning doesn’t have to stop when we leave school. Join the ranks of Oprah and Bill Gates and use the 5-Hour Rule to your advantage. Dedicate one hour a weekday to learning something new. Whether it’s taking leadership courses on Lynda, teaching yourself Photoshop using YouTube tutorials, or finally learning to code (me), make learning and growing a priority. If your job is stricter with hours and schedule, read articles on your commute home, or grab a book before bed. Not only will it amp up your skills for your current job, you’re armed and ready for that next promotion or opportunity elsewhere.

3. Brainstorm with a buddy

 

I love brainstorming with smart people. The problem-solver in me comes alive when working collaboratively with someone I gel with. You can almost feel your brain muscles doing reps. Whether it’s a work project, goal-setting, or something you’re stuck on, getting someone else’s perspective and encouragement can fuel your creative fire, and help you perform better. Using this person as an accountability ally is also a great way to persevere, even when you’re feeling worn out. Not only will they keep you in check, they always have your best interests at heart.

4. Ask for an informational interview

 

Gaining some valuable information from a co-worker, a local thought leader, or someone you look up to can be so important for your continued career success. Speaking with someone in your industry can give you the alternate view you need to make work rock again. Better yet, scheduling a meeting gives you a valued connection and possible mentor.

5. Attend a local meet-up

 

Nothing pumps me up like a good creative talk and discussion. Creative Mornings (with local chapters in a city near you) is a go-to for Friday AMs (check out my feature with them here!) Lean IN chapters focus on women in the workplace, and kick my butt into advocating for myself and others. If you can’t make it in person, here are some great TED talks on creativity. And if you’re feeling really inspired, start your own meet-up with friends over happy hour to talk about issues important to you, or to get your creative juices flowing.

 


Tori Dunlap

Tori Dunlap is an award-winning social media marketer and entrepreneur. Founder of victori media, helping 20-somethings live life victoriously. Obsessed with finding cheap flights, reading a good book in the bathtub, and you. Follow her on Instagram here.

5 Things I Learned From Starting My First Business at Age Nine

5 Things I Learned From Starting My First Business at Age Nine

 

When I was nine years old, I never dreamed that the small, quarter vending machine I owned would turn me into a small business owner and a college graduate.

Wanting to inspire a sense of entrepreneurship and business in his daughter, my dad brought home a vending machine he had purchased from a friend. Setting it down in front of me in our living room, he asked—in all seriousness—“Do you want to start a business?”

I owned 15 quarter vending machines by the time I left high school, with all of the profits going toward my college fund. In addition to being a great bonding experience for my family, I cannot tell you how many skills I learned from starting and growing my very own venture that helped me gain responsibility (and looked darn good on every application I’ve ever submitted).

After graduating from the University of Portland with focuses in marketing, social media, theater, and entrepreneurship, I am thrilled to pass on my story to fledgling entrepreneurs. Since selling the last of my business at age 21 to a 10-year-old (also named Tori, because that’s just how this crazy world works), I now get to mentor her through the process.

Here are five things I learned as a kid entrepreneur that set me up for success in a workplace (and beyond).

1. Money management

 

You think an allowance will help kids learn about how to manage their money? Try being a business owner.

Nine-year-old me would literally roll her profits (I cannot tell you how many quarters my hands have touched over the past decade) and take them to the bank, where I had a checking and savings account in my name.

I had to research the best value product to put in my machine—and the cheapest place to buy it. I had to discover how much or how little product to give per quarter, and how this affected my profit margins. Heck, I had to know what a profit margin was! I had to understand when the correct time to expand (buy another machine) was, and when it was better to hold off.

Understanding both personal and professional finances is one of the most important life lessons to learn—the earlier the better. By having a good grasp on spending, saving, budgets, and margins, you show you’re knowledgeable and responsible with money.

2. Pitching to clients and how to cold call

 

Nothing’s cuter than a tween (with the assistance of her father) handing you a contract and telling you that she will clean and service a machine every month if you give her rent-free space to place it.

I had to highlight why I was valuable to the business and negotiate (mostly what candy was going to go into each slot!). I had to be fearless and confident—learning these skills at a young age saved me from stuttering through presentations later in life. For most people, cold calling is absolutely terrifying, but learning to get over this fear at a young age has grown my confidence. In fact, I recently took second place at an elevator pitch competition in Denver using my past experiences to inform my confidence.

3. The value of knowing everything about what you’re selling

 

Ask me anything about three-head, metal Routemaster vending machines and the candy that goes in them. I can tell you what products sell at certain locations, and which ones don’t (Hot Tamales stick together, so place them in air conditioned locations). I can tell you which way the gears turn, and how many M&Ms go in an average handful. I can tell you the best place to put a machine to get the most foot traffic.

I can also tell you the not-so-fun stuff, like which products melt easily, and which ones are especially attractive to rats (the Disgusting Rat Incident of 2011 is a story for another time). I learned all of this and more from experience—and I was able to turn that experience into profit.

Truly understanding what you’re selling displays confidence and credibility, as does truly believing in it. Comprehending the ins and outs of your product and business shines through when speaking with customers and clients.

4. The importance of excellent customer service

 

Your business (especially your first, and most especially if you’re a kid) doesn’t have to be anything flashy. In fact, I recommend that it shouldn’t be. Owning a dozen or so vending machines was in no way novel or innovative.

What set me apart was my level of customer service. I understood that the way to profit and be a successful business was through serving others, and keeping them satisfied. I set a standard for incredibly personal customer service, and it showed. As a salesman, my father encouraged me to give free samples and constantly check in with my customers at the front desk to see how the machine was working. This personal connection, as well as my incredible story, encouraged my customers to keep coming back.

5. How to deal with rejection

 

Sometimes, even my cuteness and naiveté couldn’t win them over. For whatever reason, there were times when business owners didn’t have space, already had too many vending machines in their break room, or simply didn’t take me seriously enough.

That’s going to happen. Learning that not every experience in life leads to a “Well, You Tried” trophy taught me that rejection is hard, and it’s going to happen. It’s what you chose to learn from that experience that’s more important.

Throughout the incredible experience of running my own business at a young age (more stories to come!), I learned valuable skills that have helped me in my job, school, and personal life. I know what it means to be a saver, not a spender. I believe in the value of incredible customer service. I chase after clients and opportunities and understand that sometimes things don’t go my way.

With the help of my incredible parents and customers who supported me, I grew up an entrepreneur with skills to keep for the rest of my life.

 


Tori Dunlap

Tori Dunlap is an award-winning social media marketer and entrepreneur. Founder of victori media, helping 20-somethings live life victoriously. Obsessed with finding cheap flights, reading a good book in the bathtub, and you. Follow her on Instagram here.

5 Must-Ask End-of-Interview Questions

5 Must-Ask End-of-Interview Questions

 

Job interviews are daunting. There is no way around that. But God help you if you’ve ever answered, “No, I don’t have any questions” at the end of a job interview.

In their nervousness, applicants almost always forget that job interviews are just as much for them, as for the company they’ve applied to. You’re here to see if the job will be a good fit for you. It’s like shopping for anything: the salesperson is going to ask questions about you and your needs to see if the product makes sense for you. You should be doing the exact same thing (you’re not going to buy a car without asking about the MPG, Bluetooth connectability, and the airbags, amirite?!)

In addition to giving you some needed details, asking questions also shows that you sincerely care about the position. It demonstrates you’ve prepared and prepped, in addition to highlighting that you’re grilling them too (you’re looking for the perfect company to bring your awesome skills to, and it makes you look more valuable.)

This list of questions is by no means complete or exhaustive, but will provide a great jumping-off point, no matter what position or company you’re looking at.

1. How would you describe the company culture? What do you all do for fun together?

 

An oldie, but a goodie. Company culture has become increasingly important in choosing a job. You may not be absolutely in love with the industry or the scope of your work (and that’s a huge bummer), but if you love the people and the perks, it’s reason to stay. This two-part question shows you what to expect from office life, and if that attitude and camaraderie will exist in your personal life as well.

2. What is the performance and salary review process procedure?

 

This is a future-thinking question, and something you’re going to be so glad you asked. If your interviewer doesn’t seem to have an answer for this or looks nervous, that is a huge red flag; demonstrating that there is not a ton of upward mobility or raise potential. If they have an awesome answer for you (i.e. “Every six months”, or “After you’ve been here a year”), write it down. When (yep, I said WHEN) you get the job, you know what to expect and demand as you gain tenure.

3. How do you measure success, particularly for this position?

 

Another future-thinking question that is super important. Discovering what “success” is to a company (is it making a lot of money? Producing good employees? Throwing a killer anniversary party?) will showcase their mission and values for the organization. It also helps you determine the milestones to hit as you progress in your position, giving you immediate goals and metrics for the year ahead. It provides depth of the position, to see what the day-to-day would truly be like in order to be “successful” at this particular organization.

4. How do you help your team grow professionally? What benefits do you offer for professional growth?

 

Every job (usually that first one especially) is going to challenge you. This is something you must demand and expect. In addition to the everyday challenges (the ones you see on your job description,) you should look for other growth and development opportunities. Will your employer pay for a LinkedIn premium account or for a professional society? Do they Lunch and Learn, have a library of helpful books, or encourage mentoring? All things to research and look out for.

5. Is there anything about myself or my qualifications that gives you pause? If so, I would love to address those concerns.

 

Yep, my heart leap in my chest as I was typing it. This question is not for the faint of heart, but is truly the ultimate end-of-interview question. It requires immediate vulnerability with a practical stranger, but this will show grace and confidence (I can’t tell you how often people are taken aback (in a good way) when I ask this question.) If your interviewer answers nope, their brain immediately goes, “I have no qualms? I guess I don’t! S/he’d be the perfect fit!” If they do, it’s a perfect opportunity to address those and explain, before they become dark marks on an otherwise great interview. Maybe they misunderstood your answer to a question, or maybe they’re reading WAY too much into that employment gap. Now’s the time to set the record straight.

 


Tori Dunlap

A 20-something #girlboss, Tori Dunlap is an award-winning digital marketer and entrepreneur. Founder of victori media, helping 20-somethings live life victoriously. Obsessed with travel, a good glass of Cab Sav, and you. Follow her on Instagram here.