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  • Lizzie 5:30 am on December 12, 2012 Permalink  

    Success! 

    Well I made it. I’m on this side of finals week and feeling good. As a graduate student and intern you get pretty good at juggling everything. But every once in a while I throw up all the balls and wonder if I’m going to miss them all on the way down. I have that moment of sheer panic in the middle of class – or the middle of the night – or in the middle of anything where I think that there is no way in heaven that I could possibly accomplish everything I need to do even I start immediately.

    This usually leads into a serious phase of denial or a prolonged to do list making session where I spend more time making a list than doing homework. But somehow it always gets done. And by somehow, I mean long days huddled over the dining room table at home blasting Pandora or hiding out in the GRC in the school library blasting Pandora through my headphones.

    And, for the third semester in a row (fourth if you count summer), I did it. It feels good to have juggled a great internship and classes.

    I’m especially proud of having managed the end of year appeal for my non-profit. There were several times when I thought to myself, why are they trusting me to do this? Isn’t this a job for a staff person? But trust me they did, and with a lot of hard work and teamwork, we got it done. I just dropped off the last batch of letters in the mail. Now I’m on my way home to pack and fly out West for Christmas break.

    Happy Holidays to all and to all a good night.

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  • Lizzie 9:30 am on December 11, 2012 Permalink  

    Meeting “Famous” People 

    One of my bosses often asks me to do small tasks for him, the usual intern tasks – printing or copying etc. One day a few weeks ago, I got an e-mail asking to prepare a packet of materials he sent over because someone was stopping by to pick it up that afternoon. I printed the materials (made extra hard by the fact that we ran out of paper! an unexpected hurdle to be sure) and was ready.

    He didn’t show that day, but he appeared the next morning. A former Senator. No one really famous, unless you’re a DC wonk or have memorized the names of all the Senators (believe me, I know more than one person who can claim this in DC). But still, I felt in awe a bit. The former Senator entered and picked up the packet. Both my bosses were out – in fact, the office was remarkably empty that day with only three people in – but he asked for a tour. So we showed him around and told him about what we were doing.

    There was something about talking to this man – who had accomplished so much during his Senatorial career that was thrilling. First, it made me excited to start my career. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to go into politics. But I do hope that I make an impact in whatever I decide to work in. And I hope that when I get to be his age (late 70s-ish), I hope that I can talk about the things I accomplished. Not in a way that is bragging, but a testament to the people I have worked with and the legacy.

    Second, DC is such a unique place. There are so many power players here that sometimes it’s hard to keep them straight. What passes for celebrity in Hollywood isn’t the same as out here.

    All in all, it was a pretty great way to spend a morning talking to a former Senator.

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  • Lizzie 2:30 am on December 7, 2012 Permalink  

    Part II: Was that the line? 

    There I was, standing in the middle of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum checking my e-mail, frantically trying to find the best reception (hint: not in the dinosaurs exhibit). My friends who were visiting for the weekend were oohing and aahing over the exhibits and I was trying to stay engaged, but it was hard.

    Work life balance is always difficult. As a graduate student, I’m used to the lines blurring. I’m okay with doing work at 10 pm at night if it means I get to sleep in. Or doing homework first then work work later. But sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in work and invested in it. Though I’m not a full-time worker, I really care about the organization where I intern. It’s one of the reasons I like working for non-profits, that sense of purpose and mission you feel.

    That particular day in the Smithsonian, we were in the middle of the appeal letter process. I had been working with the vendor and we were trying to get the letter out as fast as possible. So when I checked the e-mail and saw that they were missing some things they needed from me, I felt compelled to talk to them. So I gave them my cell number.

    As soon as I did it, I felt like I had crossed some sort of line. I felt okay about giving out my cell number to this particular vendor. It wasn’t just anyone I was giving it out to; it wasn’t on my signature line or in the staff directory or online. But still I felt like I had crossed some sort of work life balance line and the balance police were going to pop out at me any minute!

    I sent my number. The vendor called me. I answered the questions that I could, sent some “URGENT” e-mails to my graphic designer as always and then went back to enjoying the Smithsonian. All in all, I felt it was a good use of my cell phone and smartphone.

    Part of this I guess is the shift in phones. Cell phone numbers used to be sacred. You gave them out to your friends and family only. If anyone else asked, you just gave them your landline. But I haven’t had a land line since I moved out of my parent’s house when I was 18. Though I guess I briefly had a line during my freshman year of college, though no one ever used it. What I mean to say is that, though I feel society has pointed out the lines for work-life balance, I feel like I need to make my own line. And if giving out my cell number to a vendor didn’t feel terrible to me, then maybe my line is somewhere different – like giving out my address….

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  • Lizzie 9:00 am on December 5, 2012 Permalink  

    It’s Like I Work Here….Part I 

    For anyone who has worked with a non-profit organization, you know that end of year appeals are an important and hectic time. The organization where I intern is no different. And as we hurtled through November trying to figure out the process, it was an incredible experience to watch – and learn from.

    First, I was so grateful once again to intern at a place that treats me like a staff person, rather than just a lowly intern here for a few months. As we began the process of doing our appeal letter, I ended up taking on a lot of the work. It was so great to be responsible for such a big project, but also a little terrifying. At one point I realized that since I was the only person who had communicated with the vendor, if something happened to me they wouldn’t be able to finish the project! Of course then I realized that if something that dire happened to me, I probably wouldn’t be thinking about my internship….

    For anyone who has ever signed, stuffed, licked, and sealed a thousand letters – you know that it’s no fun. Which is why I was pretty excited when we realized our list was in the tens of thousands so we would be using a vendor. During one of our first meetings, my boss actually said, “Do you think we can do this in-house?” I had visions of me spending nights in the office licking until my tongue was full of papercuts and I died (like in that Seinfield episode….), so I was very pleased when my boss agreed to outsource.

    Second, completing everything “as fast as possible” is a stressful endeavor. I sent so many e-mails to the graphic designer (also a part-time intern) to his personal e-mail address with the subject line “URGENT!” that I think it has lost all meaning. In fact just last week I promised to stop emailing him at home…which is probably for the best. In reality, we should have started working on this appeal in October. We had to assemble a brochure and a donation card, the letter itself, and the envelopes. Not to mention all the e-mail/internet side of things at the same time that our communications director was on vacation.

    Needless to say it was a stressful time. And I clocked about 50% more hours during those weeks. But that’s a story for Part II….

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  • Lizzie 1:45 am on November 20, 2012 Permalink  

    Ready for the real world 

    Sad College Graduate

    This obviously isn’t a picture of me. But it pretty much sums up how I felt on the day of my college graduation. At least on the inside. On the outside I was smiling and laughing and taking tons of photos. I lucked out in sitting in the front row so I distracted myself by taking photos of everyone I knew as they crossed the stage. Inside though, I wasn’t ready to leave my college. It took me years to feel at home where I went to college. I suffered through massive homesickness, not making good friends, and feeling like I didn’t fit in. And then, suddenly, I did. I came back my junior year and discovered I had friends! Classes were much more interesting! Extracurriculars were fun!

    So even though I got a job on the day I graduated (literally two hours after I crossed the stage), I stayed in my college town for two more years. I was often seen on campus going to free events and pretending I still lived there. Then I moved across the entire country to start graduate school at AU. And now, I’m one semester away from graduating with a Masters degree. I’m in a great internship. I like the my life, even when it’s so crazy I wake up in the middle of the night panicked about how I’m going to get everything done.

    But mostly, this graduation is different in that I’m ready for the real world. Sure, I’m terrified that I won’t get a job. With all the horror stories about graduates looking for a job for years and never finding anything beyond Wal-Mart or McDonalds, it is sure to be a difficult search. But beyond that, I’m excited.

    I was sitting in an all-staff meeting last week when I realized this. We were chatting about upc0ming events and a few of my co-workers talked about some things that were coming to bear fruit after a long time working on them. In particular, a very  large grant was about to be closed from a corporation they  had been working with for a while. It has the potential to fund two years of this program! And I realized that I was ready to have a real job where I could work on something long-term and be patient in waiting for things to take place.

    As an intern, everything is short-term. My time there has a deadline. Even if my internship continues to the spring, it still has the deadline of when I graduate and likely move away. I am always constrained by my title and status as an intern. Don’t get me wrong, everyone treats me wonderfully and I function as a junior staff member. But the end date of my internship seems to hang over my head. Don’t take on this project because you wont’ be able to finish it. Don’t suggest too many improvements because you can’t shepherd it through the process. Don’t get too invested in this project in case you don’t see it come to fruition.

    Don’t, don’t, don’t. I can’t wait for the day when I start a job where I know I will be there for more than a year. It will be scary to be responsible and in charge of an entire set of tasks, not as an intern but as an employee. But it will also be motivating and exciting. Come this May when I graduate, this is what I will look like:

    Happy Graduate

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  • Lizzie 8:30 am on November 14, 2012 Permalink  

    Let’s party! 

    When you work for non-profits, you are used to special events. Whether’s it’s a lunch or a gala or another special event, I have plenty of experience helping out with them. But it was still exciting when my nonprofit decided to launch a series of house parties.

    I was initially hired to help with them. During my interview we discussed the concept of house parties and the plan to launch two that summer and three more in the fall in 5 cities across the country. It was all very alluring and was a main reason I decided to take the internship (that and I got turned down by all the other jobs I applied for….).

    So it was tough to see all the house parties get postponed and pushed back. But lo and behold one was eventually scheduled. It was in the Bay Area in California a few weeks ago. It was tons of work to get ready for, but since I didn’t have to/get to go, that made it easier. It was a small event hosted by another organization’s board chair with only about 25-30 people.

    Since I didn’t go, I spent the entire time the party was going on, listening to a class lecture on fundraising (seemed ironic to me, too). Had to wait until the staff returned to fill me in on the details. I’m still waiting to see the banners we spent weeks designing to get shipped back to the office so I can see our handiwork.

    Ultimately though, that’s what being an intern is all about. I get to see firsthand as this nonprofit plans and runs an event. I’m there every step of the way – helping design banners, handle RSVPs, coordinate with co-hosts, and the thousand of other items that need to get done for an event. Though sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when you are mired in the little details, I remember that one day when I get a job and I’m the person in charge, I’ll have done all these little steps before. I’ll know what it takes to plan an event.

    And now I’m off to get ready for our next house party in Boston! Much easier the second time around. So glad I decided to stay on through the fall to experience this.

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  • Lizzie 8:30 am on November 7, 2012 Permalink  

    Isn’t that a job for an intern? 

    A coworker sent me an e-mail the other day asking if I could do a data project. I needed to gather some data, sort through it, and then work with the graphic designer to create some cool infographics we could post to Facebook.

    I was initially excited! I like working with data and its fun to sort through spreadsheets and find out cool facts (like that $2 billion in education awards have been earned by AmeriCorps members to help pay for college since 1994!). But as I began to sort through it I realized that it was very raw data. As in, if I really wanted to get the facts that we needed, I would have to read through every single line for all 50 states. All 50 states.

    So I thought to myself – seems to me that’s a job for an intern! Don’t we have an intern around here to do this grunt work?

    Then I realized (as of course you already have), I am an intern!

    And though my nonprofit is small enough that I feel like a staff member and wonderful enough that I am always treated like a staff member and proactive enough so my  projects are generally very enriching – I am still an intern. And its my job to go through the data line by line.

    And I will do a darn good job of it. Watch for the infographic coming soon!

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  • Lizzie 8:30 am on November 1, 2012 Permalink  

    When you say no…. 

    And it doesn’t work: a modern day fable.

    There once was an intern who always said yes. At her very first job out of college, her boss called her the “yes girl” because she never said no. Why would she say no? She was always excited to take on new projects!

    But then she began to realize that she was very busy. She couldn’t sleep at night because her brain was making long to do lists. So she vowed to say no more often. Not to everything, just to things that she wasn’t qualified for or were too much for her to take on and not very important.

    So one Monday, she went to work and her boss sent her an email: New grant opportunity! Well it just so happened that this intern loved to write grants. What a great opportunity! So she said yes (forgetting that she had vowed to say no more often). And she started to work on the grant. But it was a very strange grant with character-limits and twitter-friendly project descriptions and a voting component!

    She began to panic. And her nonprofit was getting ready for its first in a series of small fundraisers. So she geared up her courage and decided to say no. She went in to the meeting armed with facts! and stories! There wasn’t enough time! We don’t want to turn in a bad grant!

    In short, she said no.

    Just say no

    And for a moment she was proud of herself. Then she heard her boss say, “I think we should still go for it.”

    What else is there to do at that point other than grit your teeth, squint really hard, and pretend like the week is flying by. So she gritted her teeth, squinted really hard, and slogged through the busy week. She won’t pretend to say that the grant was the best ever. Or that we have a chance of getting it. But it did get done, 57 minutes ahead of the deadline on Friday night.

    Finished

    And two weeks later when she asked to lead a project to make a PSA for the nonprofit (of which she has zero experience), she gummed up her courage and said NO! (actually, something more like, perhaps I’m not the best person for this project given my experience and maybe someone else should be assigned to it).  And they agreed with her. Phew.

    The moral of the story is: when you first say no, it may not work. Keep practicing.

    Keep practicing

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  • Lizzie 9:00 am on October 29, 2012 Permalink  

    URGENT: How to get your e-mails answered 

    See what I did there?

    All caps in the subject line? The word urgent! A colon! Short words!

    My boss at my internship is a busy man. As he should be. He founded the nonprofit five years ago and he’s always on the go. He fills up notebooks full of to do items every few months, which always amazes me. Anyway, the point is: he’s a busy man.

    And as I’ve worked for him these past few months, I’ve come to realize that subject lines matter. As a student, I never thought subject lines mattered. When I’m writing to a professor, so long as the subject says the actual subject and is moderately polite, it’s fine. Professors are going to read e-mails from their students (at least in my experience). My friends open my e-mails. My family opens my e-mails.

    But I quickly realized – after getting several emails asking me questions that I had already answered via email – that my boss wasn’t reading my emails. He read some of them. I started to wonder why – and I came to the conclusion it was the subject line’s fault!

    My subject lines were usually wordy and long. I felt the best way was to summarize the email in one sentence. “First draft of new grant report that is due Friday” or “New infographic for designer to do – ideas”. And I wondered why they weren’t getting read!

    So, here’s my new strategy for subject lines.

    1. ALL CAPS! I know this is considered rude in the emails, but its very effective in small doses in the subject line. URGENT! ASAP! TODAY! READ THIS!

    2. Small words are key. I don’t use multi-syllabic words in the subject line anymore.

    3. Short. My boss often reads emails on his phone. I try to keep them short enough to show in the first line of his phone.

    4. Exciting! Never hurts to add a dash of excitement to the email. Snazzy!

    Go forth and write exciting subject lines! EXCITING!

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    • Julia Beyer 10:49 pm on October 31, 2012 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Great tips, I am including these in the SOC Spot Newsletter.

  • Lizzie 12:50 am on October 26, 2012 Permalink  

    Same amount of work in half the time 

    I don't have time to be this busy

    This cartoon pretty sums up the first months of this semester. Last semester I had an on-campus job (20 hours a week), off-campus internship (20 hours a week), and 4 full-time classes. It was crazy. So this semester, I cut back to only 3 classes. I had visions of having free time on weekends, spending weeknights watching tv, and actually enjoying fall in Washington, DC.

    Boy was I wrong. And yet, though I complain about how busy I am, I am enjoying the business right now. My classes are all incredibly interesting, my internship is fantastic (more about that in a minute), and sometimes I can spare a few moments to soak up DC life.

    First – my internship! I am an intern at a nonprofit called ServiceNation in downtown DC. I work for the part of ServiceNation called ServeNext, which focuses on grassroots advocacy to support national service and AmeriCorps. I spent the summer at the same nonprofit and it was a really good experience. So when they asked me to stay on, I said – yes!!!

    I went down to part-time since I was resuming my on-campus jobs and taking more than one class like in the summer. What I didn’t anticipate was that my work load would remain the same. I’m still responsible for the exact same amount of work each work – but I only have half the time to do it!

    Now, I don’t keep time cards and I’m pretty independent in terms of deciding to come into work or work from home or take half a day off to finish a paper. The culture at my office is very independent. But there is the firm expectation that you will get your work done. If you have to work on Saturday because you took the week off, then that’s what you have to do.

    This week was the first week that I actually got most of my work done during my work week (Tuesday – Thursday in the office).  Which leads me to think that either I was wasting 20 hours a week this summer or deadlines really improve my productivity.

    And now I am off to study for my last midterm, briefly rest this weekend, and gear up to get even more done next week.

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    • Julia Beyer 10:52 pm on October 31, 2012 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Thanks for sharing, I am including this in the SOC Spot Newsletter.

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