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Lately I've spent a lot of time thinking about how to connect better with my readers. I love blogging because it can build relationships: I've made close friends through blogging, and met people I care about and respect. I also love getting to know someone through their blog posts or videos. “Get to know me” posts are almost always more fun for me than more helpful articles.
I want to foster that same kind of connection here at Sara Laughed. So, I'm starting up a running Q&A series where you can ask me questions on Twitter @SaraLaughed and I answer them here! I got a few great questions this week (and several joke ones from a friend), so let's get into it!
What advice do you have for soon-to-be college grads? Mostly finances/getting a job. I have an idea of what I want to do, I just need to put it into action!
– From @HannahHaefele on Twitter
It feels a little strange to answer this question just a few months after my own graduation, but I'll do my best! You might know that I took a semester off last fall, so I graduated in December. As a result, I saw all my senior friends graduate halfway through my own senior year, and I dealt with a lot of post-grad angst before it was my own time. Those fears, for me, mostly circulated around moving abroad and being very afraid of my self-reported taxes. Since I knew that I would live with Ken and work for myself, I worried less about finding a home and a traditional job.
That said, I've received a handful of job offers in the last year and ended up taking up one of them, despite the fact that I was never searching for a job. Here's what I would advise for getting a job (and be aware that my situation might be very different from yours!):
1. Find what differentiates you from the competition, and market that. I'm a 23-year-old with a Bachelor's in Religion; I may not seem like someone you just need to hire. But what makes me different from a lot of my competition is my professional life online. I focused on that competitive advantage when talking to potential employers (even when I wasn't actively job-hunting) and ended up being offered a social media/communications position at a non-profit I really respect. By focusing on what made me different and being as good as I could at that thing, I became a lot more employable.
Try writing down all the things you do, as both a hobby and for work, and see if there is anything that's especially unique. You might be able to make it your “edge” in the professional world!
2. Attend conferences and get to know people. I attended 3 conferences in 3 different cities in my last semester of college. One was a conference for young women in media and publishing, and the other two were focused on interfaith work and ministry; all three related directly to my interests and hopes for my professional future. At those conferences, I was able to get advice from industry experts, meet people I really respected and admired, and even meet my future boss for my non-profit job.
Not every college student goes to conferences, so those who do, stand out. See if you can find conferences in your field that you could feasibly go to, and bring business cards and even a few copies of your resume, if you're daring. Introduce yourself, ask questions, and be willing to learn. You never know who you could meet!
3. Develop, constantly. I'm always moving and doing, whether that means taking classes online, picking up a new hobby, or learning a new language. I don't know what field you work in, but do your best to stay informed in that field. Read journals, take extra courses, learn things that are relevant to your field. Your Bachelor's doesn't have to be the thing that “sells” you to a company or employer. What really marks you as someone they want, is your ability to work hard and adapt.
And lastly, for finances: have a budget, keep records, and be on time with your paperwork and tax filing. It doesn't have to be scary. I'm still learning this.
How has blogging affected you, mentally and emotionally?
– From @Leaflet_Online on Twitter
I wrote a little about this in my Five Years of Sara Laughed post, but didn't talk as much about emotional changes. If I compare myself now to myself before I started blogging, I can see a few major emotional changes: I'm much more stable and happy than I was then (that's mostly due to counseling early on, and getting older, and less to do with blogging). I'm also much more confident than I was then; I think that's thanks in large part to the blog. Seeing what I've been able to do has really shown me that I can do achieve than I think. It's also forged some great friendships that have given me so much joy.
At the same time, it's not all roses petals and bath bombs. I think blogging makes it easier for me to compare myself to others in a way that's not always healthy. In a traditional job, the people you work with don't have their performance reviews tacked to their cubicle wall. In blogging, my blog friends are also my “coworkers,” and from social media stats to blog design to income reports, it's easy to see how someone's doing, and it's inevitable to stack yourself up. Some of that is healthy, and often I'm cheering my fellow bloggers on rather than comparing myself. But sometimes, the comparison gets to the point where I notice I feel insecure or negative about because I don't stack up to someone else. That's not healthy and I don't want to encourage it.
I'm ultimately so happy with what I do and with this blog. Blogging has taught me so many skills and made me so much more consistent in my creativity, and it's opened so many doors for me. It's not perfect, but it's completely worth it.
How did you decide what to take and what to leave behind when you moved abroad?
– From @CourtneyLThings on Twitter
When I started planning my move, I intended to bring almost everything from my U.S. life to the Netherlands, either by shipping boxes or by having friends bring things when they traveled back and forth. In the end, I brought two suitcases and a backpack, and it's been more than enough for me.
The main way that I decided what to bring was by seeing what was really essential to me. I'm certainly no minimalist, but I'm interested in downsizing my life and living only with what I need and what brings me joy. After reading a few books on minimalism (7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, especially), I began looking at the things I owned and asking myself these questions:
- Do I need this?
- How often do I use this?
- Does this bring me joy or satisfaction?
Some things checked the right boxes, some didn't. The things that did sat on my desk for a while, until I could tell which were the most important to me. The things that didn't were donated, thrown away, or put in the attic.
I ultimately brought almost all my clothes (I own few clothes, so I like to have all of them at my disposal), 4 pairs of shoes (two walking shoes, one pair of nice flats, and one pair of boots), my everyday makeup, my laptop and charger, a few of my best-loved books, and my most-used craft supplies. I knew that anything I'd left behind that I truly needed, I could always buy again.
Have a question for me? Tweet me @SaraLaughed!
That's all I've got for now, but I'd love to hear from you. If you have questions about anything — life, relationships, blogging, moving abroad — please leave them in the comments or tweet me @SaraLaughed and I'll answer then next time!