Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How to Impress at a Job Interview

This past week was a big week in the life of Nicole Gartside: I attended my first real-life job interviews. I know, scary. But having interviewed for several intern positions throughout my short lifetime (and receiving the highest score for interview during my pageant days. Not that I’m bragging…), I felt totally prepared. It turns out that I wasn’t. It took me a few interviews and a lot of advice to get myself in the swing of things, but I now come to you with my advice for big kid job interviews.

Have good questions ready
I was always the kind of person who researched a company or publication before I interviewed there. However, because of my extensive research, I’d usually answered my own questions before even arriving. I was always proud to say no when companies asked if I had any questions for them. Turns out that’s a BAD IDEA. Companies want you to ask good questions, to be curious about the direction they’re going and to interview them as thoroughly as they’re interviewing you. Obviously you shouldn’t be asking a question you could find the answer to on their website, but think of some things you’re actually curious to know about their company.

Don’t get companies confused
If you’re like me, scrambling to find a job post-graduation and spending hours a day either applying or interviewing for jobs, it’s easy to get small details scrambled. For instance, while in Austin this past week, I interviewed with three companies that represented themselves as “tech marketing.” After hours researching the companies, the finer details started to blend together. Which one had a strong social media approach? Which one focused on “clean tech?” I had no idea. That’s why  made flash cards. The cards had the interviewer’s name, important details about the company, and the questions I wanted to ask. That way, I could do a quick review to make sure I had my head on straight before I walked into each interview.

Research the dress code
I’m very fond of my traditional interview outfit; fancy blouse, pencil skirt, high heels, and some fabulous accessories. But when I sent a picture to my mother, her response was, isn’t that too dressy? Too dressy?? How dare you! I’ve worn a variation of that same outfit to nearly every interview since high school and it has worked well so far. However, I grudgingly took the advice of my mom’s friends working in Austin and dressed down my outfit to a casual blouse, pants, and low heels (I couldn’t go all the way to the floor. I just couldn’t). And thank God I did. When I arrived to my interviews, nearly every interviewer was in jeans and some were in T-shirts. Had I gone with my original outfit, I would have looked absolutely out of place in the dressed-down atmosphere of Austin. When prepping for an interview, figure out what the office environment is like then take it up a notch. That’s how I like to show I’d fit in, but that I’m professional enough to take the “office look” to the next level, at least for the interview.

Tell a story
When meeting with a PR agent in Austin, he asked me what my story was. So I told him about my background, my jobs, etc. No, he said, what’s your story? Your story, he explained to me, is why you majored in what you did, how your experiences shaped you into a great employee, and why you are a better fit for a job than every other person they’re interviewing. Whatever your story is, be passionate and confident about it. Figure out why the path you’ve taken makes you unique and how companies can use that to their advantage. I’m still perfecting mine every day.

I hope my little words of wisdom from experience have helped. But most importantly, be confident in yourself! You deserve a job that makes you happy and you’ll get it with a little hard work and a great attitude.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Make a Mini-Vacation

I don’t know about you, but I’m over this cold weather. I’m ready to break out my sandals, a colorful maxi dress, and read a book out in the sun rather than sitting at my desk. But unfortunately, I cannot simply will the weather warmer. And, with my Spring Break turning into “Job Interview Season,” there’s not much free time to look forward to there either. That’s why I wanted to find a way to give myself a mini-vacation right at home. Try these tricks to get the stress-relief of time off during your hectic week:

Stop and smell the flowers 
Fresh flowers not only brighten up a room, but they have been scientifically proven to brighten your mood as well. Recent research shows that individuals who kept flowers in their rooms woke up feeling a little more perky and positive. So if you can’t actually stop and smell the flowers in a tropical location, get some of your own

Go out on a weeknight
Now I’m not saying to get wild on a Wednesday and miss work or class the next day, but don’t be afraid to go out to dinner with a friend or see a movie with a date sometime during the week. Having something to look forward to at the end of your workday rather than your workweek will make the prize more immediate and decrease the mid-week doldrums. You don’t have to confine the fun to the weekend.

Make your background blue 
I’m not ashamed to admit that currently, my background is a French bulldog lounging in a ring floatie in the pool. I chose it because it always makes me smile. But what I didn’t know was that the blue pool water in the picture could actually help me de-stress. Blue has been proven to be the most calming color and looking at blue images can have an immediately calming effect. Choose your ocean scene or a pretty blue flower for your background to let that imaginary vacation destination perk you up.

Treat yo’self

You would never diet or resist temptation on vacation, so cut yourself a break every once in a while. If you’re totally craving a Frappuccino, just get it. If carrying your briefcase every day is killing your back, get a massage. Obviously treating yourself every day makes the act no longer a treat, but every once in a while, let yourself indulge in something you really want.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Making Feminism Sexy with Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

          Women’s issues are hotly debated, often controversial, and…sexy? “Feminism is sexy in a really general way,” says Jennifer Keishin Armstrong. “It can make your life fun, it can make your life better. The ultimate goal is to be free to be yourself.” As the co-founder of, co-author of Sexy Feminism, and free-lance journalist, Armstrong has immersed herself in the political and cultural world of feminism. She tackles everything from women’s reproductive rights to Tina Fey. “It’s nice to be able to go between Beyonce and lip gloss and Hillary Clinton,” Armstrong says. If there’s anything you ever wanted to know about the political sphere of feminism, Armstrong’s probably written about it, telling the straightforward facts with a “sexy” twist.
          But Armstrong didn’t always consider herself a feminist. While attending Northwestern University, Armstrong says she took women’s literature courses and dabbled in feminist tendencies just like most female college students. But upon graduation, though still taken with feminist topics, she soon found she had to write about whatever topics would pay the bills. “You get excited about it and then life happens,” Armstrong says. After school, Armstrong became a reporter in Southern California for a few years before returning back to Chicago. But after some time there, she knew she wanted to move onto bigger and better things. “I had always wanted to come to New York to pursue a bigger magazine-type career,” she says. And that’s exactly what she got.