My 2019 Happiness Project

Can you believe 2019 is only a few hours away? This year really flew by, but I’m excited to let go of 2018 and bring on the adventures of the new year.
2018 came with its share of challenges, and as the year comes to a close, I’ll admit that I’m ready for an attitude adjustment. Throughout the year, my health and happiness took a backseat to graduate school, a busier-than-ever workload, and other areas of overwhelm. Because of that, I decided to tackle things head-on by embarking on a 2019 Happiness Project, inspired by one of my favorite books by Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project. In her book, Gretchen incorporates various happiness principles and research into her life over the course of a year, experimenting with a different happiness theme each month.
For 2019, I’ve created my own happiness project, focusing on improving various areas of my health and overall wellness in the new year. Each month, I’ll share what I’m working on and how things went down in the previous month!
My 2019 Happiness Project | Wellness & Wanderlust
Below are my areas of focus for 2019. Some of these are inspired by Gretchen’s book, while others come from different books, podcasts, and goals I’d like to pursue.
  • January: Boost Physical Wellness (More on that in a minute!)
  • February: Create Outer Order / Organize
  • March: Practice Mindfulness
  • April: Slow Down & Lighten Up
  • May: Make Time For Friends
  • June: Learn Constantly
  • July: Incorporate Ayurvedic Practices
  • August: Digital Detox
  • September: Work Smarter
  • October: Contemplate the Heavens / Spirituality
  • November: Explore
  • December: Give Back

The reason I’m focusing on boosting physical wellness in January is because I am truly ready for a detox. Between autoimmune issues and a hectic schedule, I need an increase in energy and overall health before I can take on any new challenges. To do so, I’ll be incorporating the following practices into the month of January:

  • Embark on a Whole30 to create more intentionality in my food choices and identify any new food sensitivities.
  • Go to sleep earlier.
  • Take a 10-minute walk each day.
  • Act more energetic.
  • Tackle the “nagging tasks” on my list.

If you’re looking to make a change, I highly encourage you to pursue your own happiness project! Check out Gretchen’s site here for some helpful resources, including a “resolution chart” that can be useful for tracking your progress along the way. I can’t wait to share more with you all through the year! 🙂

Are you tackling a happiness project or any resolutions this year? Share yours in the comments below!

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small compensation.

Advocate Fiercely: 4 Ways to Take Inventory and Showcase Yourself

Last week, I hosted a luncheon at the office on the topic of advocating fiercely for oneself. The presentation was inspired by the ATHENA Next Gen program, an eight-month series for emerging women leaders, which I was honored to join last year. Based around the principles in Martha Mayhood Mertz’s book Becoming Athena, the program not only introduced me to a lot of new friends, but it also really drove my personal development in 2017.

A lot of the program’s leadership principles, like building relationships and giving back, come naturally to me. However, when it comes to advocating for myself, I (and many others out there!) really struggle. I knew this was a common problem in the workplace, so I brought in one of the co-founders of our local ATHENA program to present to our staff over lunch.

After the presentation, I began to think more generally about the ways we can advocate for ourselves, and I realized how important it is for us to take inventory of our own achievements. If we don’t actively keep track of our successes, how can we effectively ask for that raise or promotion? It’s easy to forget just how much we’ve accomplished, and without clear examples in mind, it’s no wonder that many of us clam up when it’s time to negotiate.

So how are you taking inventory of what you’re contributing to the workplace? Check out my list below for four easy ways to track your achievements in time for your next review.

Ways To Advocate For Yourself in the Workplace1. Make a list of your accomplishments each year.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how much of a difference one little list can make. A friend suggested this to me at a time when I was truly struggling to balance grad school and full-time work, when I felt I wasn’t really excelling in either area. As I began to list my work accomplishments from the year, I was able to view myself from an outsider’s perspective, and the process actually gave me an attitude adjustment. Seeing everything I had done on paper took away a lot of the self-doubt I’d been experiencing, and whenever that doubt creeps back in (as it inevitably does), I can look back at that list and remind myself how much of a badass I can be. Having this list in mind can help you craft specific examples in a job interview or when advocating for a raise at work. It can also be a valuable tool when revising your resumé!

2. Create a portfolio of your work.
If you’re in a creative field, having a portfolio can be especially impactful on the job hunt and beyond. Because of my love for writing, I always keep copies of any published articles, press releases, and other written work. This was important for me to share when I was interviewing for my job, as I was coming in right out of college with limited entry-level work experience. Once you’ve landed the position, it’s still important to keep a portfolio of projects you’ve done in order to effectively showcase your work.

3. Keep a project spreadsheet.
Am I the only nerd out there who will make a spreadsheet for just about anything? In this case, I like to keep a spreadsheet to track the projects I’m currently working on, along with deadlines and progress. At the bottom, I have my list of completed projects and what went into each. This helps me stay on track at work, but that “completed” list is always an ego boost and an easy way to see what you’ve accomplished most recently.

4. Start a success journal.
This was a suggestion we received in our luncheon last week, and I absolutely loved it! Our speaker suggested we keep a journal that not only highlights our successes, but also reflects on what worked, what didn’t work, and what we did to create positive outcomes. This can be an especially important tool for evaluating one’s own efforts and finding ways to improve in the future. It also allows us to advocate for ourselves by providing detailed examples of our accomplishments, along with insights into how we created that success.

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What do you do to advocate for yourself? Share in the comments section below!

The Weekend Five: Networking Tips for Introverts

246Six years ago, if you came up to me and said that networking would be one of the keys to my success after college, I would have slapped you across the face.

Okay, I definitely wouldn’t have slapped you across the face (that would be pretty awful, wouldn’t it?), but the idea of networking was terrifying to a shy college freshman like me. The word “networking” evoked images of ill-fitting professional attire and awkward encounters with high-level executives who would never give a college student the time of day. To me, “networking” required an overly assertive, almost aggressive demeanor. How could an introvert like me ever compete with those big personalities?

What I didn’t know at eighteen years old, however, was that networking was not limited to professional development events and a formal exchange of business cards. By joining clubs on campus, making friends in my classes, participating in internships and getting to know my professors and advisors, I was actually building my network without even realizing it.

Networking ultimately led to my first job out of college and continues to play a huge role in my career today. I may be an introvert, but I have found ways to network that have worked well for me. To all of my shy or otherwise introverted readers out there, this article is for you!

The Weekend Five: Networking Tips for Introverts

awkward-small-talk1. Don’t think of it as “networking.”
Think of it as relationship building. By genuinely getting to know people, you not only create a stronger network, but you also improve your own quality of life! Your conversations don’t have to revolve entirely around a business pitch. As I mentioned before, networking doesn’t always take place at a formal networking event — a lot of times, it can happen in a classroom, an elevator, a club meeting or your dorm building. Talk to people and get to know them one-on-one. Start with people you may already cross paths with or with whom you may share a few mutual contacts. A lot of times, this is far less intimidating than walking right up to a complete stranger from the get-go.

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2. Get involved in an organization.
Whether you enjoy professional student organizations or community service projects, join a group (or two) that introduces you to new people. By working toward a common goal or sharing a similar interest, you have an easy way to break the ice while doing something you enjoy. I still keep in touch with many of my fellow officers from the organizations I was involved with in college, and today I am getting to know new people in my college’s alumni association by attending their events and meetings as well!

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49d6977a63d509aaed85f0147d44ba793. Find commonalities.
Networking doesn’t have to mean diving headfirst into a conversation about your company’s products and services. Sometimes, a great way to build your network is to start by finding things you have in common. At one networking event, I found myself talking with a guy about our recent travels, and by the end of our conversation, I was invited to be a guest speaker in one of the classes he taught. At another event, I bonded with the lady behind me at the buffet over our shared interest in some of the food. It turned out she was a very important person on the board of an organization that I worked with, and now she knew who I was! Pro tip: If you’re feeling really lost at a formal networking event, head over to the food table and strike up a conversation with one of the people nearby. People love talking about food (and trying to guess what some of the interesting looking appetizers are!).

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4. Attend events.
Leave the house. It’s not easy to meet people and form lasting connections from the comfort of your couch. (If it were, Tinder would have a much higher success rate!) Attend events that interest you – not just networking events, but professional development workshops, guest speakers, social events, etc. Find a friend to attend with you if it will bring you out of your shell a bit more, but if your friends aren’t interested in the types of events you like, go by yourself. Because most of my friends did not have my major in college, I attended a lot of club meetings and agency tours on my own, and I don’t regret it for a minute. I made new friends that way, and learned a lot about my major and the industry that I wanted to go into!

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Comfort Zone5. Get out of your comfort zone.
Sometimes you will need to do the things that scare you, and that’s okay. I say “yes” to opportunities constantly, even when they seem intimidating, because I know they will help me to grow. That’s why I take on so many public speaking engagements and try to break out of my shell at events — I never want my nerves to keep me from meeting people or from growing personally and professionally. I draw my energy from within and require that time to myself to recharge and refocus, but that shouldn’t limit me from getting to know others and setting goals for myself outside of my comfort zone. You don’t need to do anything that conflicts with your personal values, but I challenge you to get out of your comfort zone the next time you attend an event and get to know someone new.

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What are your networking tips for introverts? Share yours in the comments section below!

A Perfect Match: Four Steps to Discovering Your Dream Career

logotransparentEver get stuck when people ask you what you plan to do after college? Hint: Even many adults don’t know what they want to do when they “grow up.” It’s a tough question – especially in your late teens and early twenties!

Luckily, I’ve put together a little guide for Career Camel highlighting a few ways to narrow down your career search and figure out what you want to do with your life. If you’ve read my previous Career Camel guest articles, then you’ll love this one!

So pop on over to Career Camel now to discover my four steps for discovering your dream career. Be sure to drop a comment to let me know what you think!

Guest Post: Four Vital Skills for Landing Your Dream Internship

logotransparentHi there, readers!

My latest guest article for Career Camel is now up! This post is all about the skills you’ll need to land your dream internship. Be sure to check it out and let me know what you think!

Oh, and in case you didn’t know: I was named Writer of the Month last month by Career Camel! I love writing for this awesome online publication, and am so happy to share my latest article here.

Happy reading!

Guest Post: Using the Summer to Prepare for University

logotransparentHappy Monday! I hope all of my American readers had a very happy Fourth of July. 🙂

In the middle of all the excitement of packing and moving to a new apartment, I forgot to share the latest in my guest blogging adventures. For those of you in college who are looking for ways to get ahead this summer, check out my Career Camel article all about using the summer to prepare for your next year in school! Many of these tips include awesome ways to get out of your comfort zone, meet new people and make yourself more marketable when you start looking for jobs.

Click here to read the article. Be sure to comment with your own summer advice! 🙂

Career Camel: Recent Guest Posts

I was so excited about my guest blogs that I went to Canada to tell everyone! (JK - This was Epcot!)

I was so excited about my guest blogs that I went to Canada to tell everyone! (JK – This was Epcot!)

Good evening! 🙂

As some of you may know, I have been a regular contributor to Career Camel, a London-based career advice website geared toward college students. I love being able to share my tips and experience with readers all over the world!

If you haven’t already, please be sure to check out my latest two guest articles that have been published this month:

Feel free to comment, share and pass along to your friends who are applying for jobs and internships. 🙂

Happy reading, and thank you for your continuous support!

xoxo Valerie

Make the Most Out of Your University’s Career Centre

logotransparentHappy Tuesday, all! Hope you are having a great start to your week.

For many of you, the first week of spring semester is here! As you master your new schedule and figure out which new clubs to join, don’t forget one other important university department: the career center. This office can help you choose a major, create a resume/cover letter/CV, apply for jobs and even make connections with important folks in your industry of choice!

Want to know more about how to make the most of your university’s career center? Check out my latest guest blog for the London-based Career Camel and drop a comment to say hello! Even alumni can benefit from this awesome resource, and my article will give you a few pointers for getting started.

What are you waiting for? 🙂

Nailing the Interview: What Every Job Candidate Should Know

logotransparentOver the last few months, I’ve had the pleasure of contributing to the London-based career advice blog, Career Camel. These guest articles have given me the awesome opportunity to share career- and college-related advice with a brand new audience! I’m excited to show you my most recently published article, Nailing the Interview: What Every Job Candidate Should Know, where I provide some tried-and-true techniques for landing the job of your dreams.

Please check it out and comment to let me know what you think! 🙂 Feel free to add your own tips in the comments section as well.

Enjoy!