My #1 Piece of Advice For Recent College Graduates

Why You Should Take the Summer off After College Graduation // Pearl Girl

Last week, Timehop reminded me that it’s been three whole years since I graduated college. It’s a weird milestone — the class graduating this year is the last one I went to school with, so it almost feels like the end of an era. I’m really no longer a “recent” graduate, one that can crash on a friend’s couch on a visit to campus, or can pin early-to-adulthood mistakes on my newbie status.

Katie’s post summed up so many things I feel about post-grad life really well. College is amazing, and there’s certain things about it that can never be replicated. Like, never in my life again will I be able to take quite that many naps. Or live in the same house as the vast majority of my friends. And have a chef. (Sometimes, I do really miss living in a sorority house. Although how I survived with that little space, I’ll never know.)

But there’s so much good to come after graduation. Building a career is incredibly fulfilling. So is living truly on your own, and all that comes with it — paying bills, rent, grocery shopping. But beyond the boring stuff, there’s the fun stuff, too. Like having an income, being able to make big purchases you’ve saved for on your own, or plan your own getaways to locales you’ve always wanted to visit. Also, not having to do homework is straight-up amazing.

Adulthood has its ups and downs, but I can say that for the most part, I truly do enjoy it. But it is the rest of your life. No breaks, no checking out. So for those of you who are about to graduate college — or are looking forward to a graduation in the near future — I have a piece of advice: Take the summer.

I want to preface this with the fact that I know that this isn’t an option for everyone. Some people’s parents won’t let them move back home. Financial constraints, are, of course, different for everybody. And if your dream job comes knocking, obviously, you have to leap at that opportunity. But if it is a feasible option for you, do it.

Job applications will wait. Live at home for a few months. See your friends. Spend time with your family. Save money. Sleep. Watch Netflix. If you can, travel.

So often, college graduates can fall into the I-must-have-a-job panic after graduation. But the truth is that you will get a job. It’s not like internships where there’s a deadline of sorts, where if you don’t have one by a certain point in the summer, then it’s likely too late. Whether it takes you three weeks or three months, a job will come. (And many graduates negotiate their start dates so they can have the summer to themselves.) And

But time at home won’t come around again.

This is especially relevant to anyone reading who isn’t planning on living a short drive from their parents’ place after they graduate. You don’t know how life will work out, and you may never live near your family again. (Obviously, only time will tell, but I’m fairly certain I never will.) This is your last chance! Once you hop on the employment train, you may never come off again.

As you probably know, I’m originally from Chicago, and now I live in New York. I have a fair amount of close friends who still live in Chicago, and I can’t express how lovely it was to have three months after graduation to spend time with them, not to mention hang out with my family. I go home a few times a year now, and even when I can stretch the visits to a week, it’s still always bittersweet to say goodbye. I’m so, so happy now that I took that extra time to spend with some of the most important people in my life. Plus, it’s only the summer. It may feel like a long time at first, but it really will fly by.

But perhaps my biggest reason for taking the summer? Travel. If you can travel during this time, please oh please, DO IT. Even if you can only take a week. Once you’re employed, vacation days dictate how much you can travel, and often, when you can do it. (For example, I rarely travel from January to mid-March now because it’s a busy time at my job.) I was lucky enough to go on two big trips after graduation — to Hong Kong, and to Berlin, Prague, Salzburg and Vienna. You don’t need to go far, but I highly recommend taking advantage of the ability to go on vacation before you’re counting your days.

Real life is not as scary as you might think. But after graduating, I truly believe the best gift you can give yourself is a little extra time before diving in.

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What I Learned at Create + Cultivate

Create + Cultivate NYC Conference Recap, What I Learned // Pearl Girl

Delaying this week’s outfit post for a special reason: A recap of the incredible Create + Cultivate conference! I was lucky enough to be able to attend Create + Cultivate’s first-ever NYC together this past weekend, and it was a really amazing experience. If you ever have the chance to attend a C+C event, do it! They put together an incredible line-up of speakers, plus the space (the Knockdown Center in Queens) was completely transformed into an Instagram-worthy paradise.

During the 12-hour long day, there were two “tracks” featuring different sets of panels. I was on track one, which was more geared towards content creators and bloggers. (Track two was more focused on fashion and entrepreneurship.) Honestly, I would have been fine with either — both lineups of speakers looked incredible! — and track one was a great experience. I also met some awesome ladies during the day: Monica (in real life, after being internet friends for months!), Katie, and Val, to name a few!

Outside of the panels and talks themselves, the space was absolutely gorgeous. Flowers everywhere, cute pop-up shop after cute pop-up shop, and lots of fun bites, too.

Throughout the day, there were five panels, two mentor sessions and three keynote talks. I learned a lot (and took a ton of notes!) but here are some of the highlights.

Create + Cultivate NYC Conference Recap, What I Learned // Pearl Girl

What I Wore: Dress // Shoes // Earrings

The proper tools are essential.

This one was from Helena Glazer, or on the internet, you may know her as Brooklyn Blonde. If you were starting a blog back in 2008 (or 2011, when I started my first blog!) you didn’t need a fancy camera or a sleek site design to be successful. But nowadays, the market is very saturated with people who do have all those tools — it will be hard to stand out without them. This also reminded me of what Jess and Blair always say on their site, Blogging For Keeps: If you don’t invest in yourself, why would anyone invest in you? I don’t have the $2500 camera a lot of bloggers do, but even just a starter SLR is a great step.

It’s not just about starting your own project.

Overwhelmed with the thought of starting out yourself? The ladies from United State of Women talked about political organizing (a bit different than blogging!) and how valuable your skills can be to any sort of project. If you’re not sure how to make a difference, ask someone who already is doing so how you can contribute.

Create + Cultivate NYC Conference Recap, What I Learned // Pearl Girl

Engagement is key.

This was consistent throughout the day. It’s not the number of followers you have, it’s whether or not they’re engaging with your content. An Instagram account with 1000 followers with 30% of them engaging in your content is better than an account with 10,000 followers and 5% of them are engaging. Engagement is what drives clicks, views and of course, sales. So if you have high engagement, don’t underestimate yourself — this is what a lot of brands care about!

Find your niche.

As you’ve probably heard, the blogging market is “oversaturated,” basically a fancy word for crowded. And while it definitely is crowded, the easiest way to make yourself stand out is by finding your niche. We’ve all heard the “be authentic” mantra 1000 times, but the easiest way to do that is by establishing your own corner of the blogging world. Like if you’re an expert on ballet flats, write about ballet flats. Eventually, you can work your way beyond your niche into other topics. (This is something I need to work on. What’s my niche? Being a royalty-obsessed shopaholic? Haha!)

Create + Cultivate NYC Conference Recap, What I Learned // Pearl Girl

Don’t worry about the market being too crowded.

To that point, During the Content Meets Commerce panel, one of the speakers (I believe it was Mary Orton!) made the great point there’s no such thing as too many blogs or influencers. Think about how many restaurants there are in the world. And when a new one opens, that doesn’t mean it’s destined for failure, or that consumers aren’t excited. I thought this was such a great analogy: As long as you’re providing interesting, unique content, you can succeed.

People want to know about your life.

I knew this already, just from being a blog reader for years. I always enjoy personal posts the most. And from looking at my own analytics, the posts where I’m open and honest about my own life tend to do the best. Eva Amurri Martino of Happily Eva After said at first she didn’t think people were interestedThey may just be the hardest to write, but that’s what will really grow your following.

Create + Cultivate NYC Conference Recap, What I Learned // Pearl Girl

Become a pro negotiator.

One of my favorite bloggers, Carly Heitlinger of the College Prepster, made a great point that I’ve seen before: Never be the first one to name a price. You could end up low-balling yourself, or pricing yourself out of a campaign you want to work on. Instead, ask the brand what their budget is, and put it in their court. If they can’t pay you, you can negotiate other forms of “payment” — a press trip, social promotion, et cetera.

Connections matter more than competition.

Right when you walked into the Knockdown Center, that big neon sign reading “collaboration over competition” greeted you. It’s a mantra that was felt throughout the day. Meeting people and making real friendships is so much more important and productive than questioning every little thing — ‘does she have more followers?’ or ‘does she get more likes?’ It does nothing except make you feel bad and insecure. And you could be missing out on a real friendship!

Create + Cultivate NYC Conference Recap, What I Learned // Pearl Girl

Overall, it was an incredible day full of listening inspiring women (Gloria Steinem, the ultimate inspiring woman, was the keynote!) + meeting them, too! If you ever have the opportunity to attend a Create + Cultivate conference, I highly recommend it. And stay tuned to their website: The C+C team is announcing their next city soon!

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5 Tips for Landing an Internship in NYC

How to Get an Internship in New York City // Pearl Girl

Over the weekend, I was thinking about the fact that it’s been nearly five (!) years since I first moved to the city for a the summer to intern in college. Back then, I had no idea what to expect. I was going into my junior year, so I didn’t have a ton of other friends in the city, the way I did the next summer — it’s practically a rite of passage to intern in NYC before your senior year at Syracuse. I had applied to dozens of internships (over 40, for sure) in both Chicago and New York, hoping I’d get just one offer. I remember on my way home from spring break, I looked at the magazine stand at the airport, and told my friend I’d applied to the vast majority of the titles up there! And then the very next day, I got an email about an interview for the internship I ended up taking that summer.

Long story short, it ended up being one of the best summers of my life. I had an amazing internship, with bosses who were super supportive, kind and eager to let me get my feet wet in the magazine world. I lived in an NYU dorm with four random roommates, and we all ended up getting along really well. Plus, the dorm was in amazing location (right on Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village.) I’ll literally never have such a prestigious address again in NYC, unless I marry an actual billionaire. (With a B!) It was an incredible 10 weeks.

Interning is such a part of the college culture nowadays, and thankfully, more and more companies are abandoning the unpaid model in favor of paying their interns, which make them more obtainable to a greater number of people. As that season is in full swing, I thought I’d do a post on what I learned from my experiences, and how you can try to ensure you get the perfect internship for you this summer.

Also, I realize that for business internships, a lot of the process is done back in the fall, not to mention, on campus. So for the purpose of this post, I’m going to focus a more on creative fields, which is more up my alley anyways!

1. There’s no such thing as too many applications.

Until you get an internship, you don’t have an internship. So as tedious as it can get, you’ve got to just keep on applying. Casting a wide net when it comes to the number of applications you submit will only up your chances of getting more interviews, and therefore, more offers (or an offer!). Especially for your first internship, when you’re really going in blind, it’s important to have a large and wide variety in the mix. Internships can be hard and this is an easy way to up the likelihood of you getting one.

2. Reach out to your alumni network.

We all know that knowing people in your chosen industry undeniably gives you a leg up in the internship process. But not knowing anyone doesn’t mean you’re destined for failure! Instead, try to make your own connections by reaching out to people who went to your school who work in your industry. You already have common ground, and more often than not, people want to help. Especially for those who aren’t too far out of school, they remember what it was like to be in college and searching for a summer internship. And once you have that face to face meeting (or over the phone, if that’s all location allows) you’ll have another friendly face in your field. Also, if they’re hiring an intern, having someone land in their inbox who they know is getting a good education is an easy-to-choose applicant — and that’s what they’re looking for. People don’t want to spend a ton of time searching for an intern. This makes it easier on them.

One thing to note: Don’t be annoying when it comes to this. Respect people’s time — to follow up, send an email updating on what you’re doing once or twice during the school year. I also think it’s best to do this when you’re a little older — think junior or senior year. That’s when internships are most important, and when “real” jobs will start to be on the horizon and having someone on your side is even more important.

3. Proofread!

A really easy way to get yourself moved from the maybe pile to the no pile is a typo or glaring mistake on your resume or cover letter. For many internships, there are hundreds of applicants with similar experience levels and education. That means a hiring manager is looking for anything to set a strong (or weak!) applicant apart. Have someone you trust — your mom, your best friend, a classmate with impeccable work — read over your resume and cover letter before you turn it in. And of course, you should do it yourself, too. Don’t let a silly mistake keep you from an incredible opportunity.

4. Be open to all sorts of opportunities.

This goes beyond just being open — but also seeking other opportunities out. Though prestigious companies sound nice, and yes, prestigious, sometimes smaller companies allow you to get more hands-on experience. Of course, they likely get less applicants as well. That raises your chances of getting an interview and later on, getting hired. While you shouldn’t apply for something that holds absolutely no interest for you, at the same time, you can’t be picky. And who knows? Something that might not have originally been your top choice could be the perfect fit, or could expose you to something new that you may end up loving.

5. Expect lots of rejection — but don’t let it kill your morale.

Internships are tough. Especially if you’ve never had one, you’re just inevitably going to end up with more emails telling you no in your inbox than yes. It’s so important to remember that this isn’t about you. Companies get hundreds of applicants (maybe even thousands, in some cases!) and not every opportunity is going to work out. It doesn’t mean they hate you. It doesn’t mean you weren’t qualified. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to get another great internship. You never know why these things happen. Maybe the CEO’s niece ended up with the job. Maybe it went to a former intern who came back for another summer. Don’t stress, don’t take it personally, move on, and look towards the future. The right opportunity is out there — do everything you can to take advantage when it comes around.

 

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