Hiatus

Dear Friends, Family, and Followers,

Thank you so much for reading my blog and supporting my post-graduation journey thus far. I have decided to take a break from blogging for a while for a few reasons: I am now going to be working forty plus hour per week; now that I have reached my big goal of finding a job I feel less like I am sharing my journey than bragging, which is definitely not what I want; I am working on other art and writing projects that I would like to be able to devote more time to; and, now that it has been a year since graduation, this blog needs a new direction. I have not decided what that direction should be yet.

Until next time! Please feel free to keep in touch through other venues.

Best,
Laura

Mari w mortar board

Thoughts for Recent and Soon-to-be College Grads

Holy mortar boards, Batman! I cannot believe that it has been a year since graduation. In light of that mystifying fact, I thought that it might be fun to share a few of the things that the class of 2014 can expect of life after graduation.

 

1) Free Time

You don’t have hours of homework anymore. You don’t have to go to varsity sport practice every day. You don’t have student senate meetings or newspaper layout or what have you. Even if you start a full-time job right out of school and volunteer or join a club sports team, you are still most likely going to have way more free time than you did in college. It will feel strange at first. You might experience phantom homework syndrome–that indefinable task that must be completed, but doesn’t actually exist, nagging at the back of your mind. However, after a while, you will embrace the freedom to read books for fun and hang out at bars for long lengths of time. No guilt necessary.

2) It Takes More Effort to Get Involved

Student activities, impromptu frisbee games, free concerts no longer wait just outside your door. You have to go out and find them. Friends and classmates scatter to the wind. Some might stick around, but work schedules will differ. It takes more logistical effort to round people up for a game of Cards Against Humanity or find like-minded people to advocate for coal divestment with. Plenty of opportunities for community involvement exist, but they aren’t going to float your way on the breeze.

3) Money

Oh, that. Yeah. Unfortunately, rent and water and Wi Fi and student loan payments and hard cider all require funding. So maybe try to make some money, preferably in some legal manner. And be careful about going crazy with spending after college. Traveling took a good chunk out of my savings, and if I had not been lucky enough to find a job soon after I started looking, I would have been living with my mom for a lot longer.

4) People Want to Help You

This isn’t something that changes after graduation. In college, you have professors encouraging your studies and extracurricular pursuits. After college, you can still get in touch with your old professors. You can also look to your employers as mentors, to fellow alumni, to other professionals in your field, and your peers. If you have the courage to ask for help and advice, it will usually be willingly and happily provided. Don’t worry. You don’t have to strike out on adulthood alone.

(Side note: Every job that I have been offered since graduating has resulted from asking alumni and previous employers for help.)

5) New Endeavors Pay Off

When I graduated, I had no clue what I was going to do with my double-major in East Asian Studies and Studio Art. At some point I decided it might be fun to try graphic design, so I taught myself how to use vector graphic software. Then, I posted on LinkedIn that I was looking for freelance work. Three Lewis & Clark alumni responded, and I wound up doing graphic design work for all of them. In some roundabout way, that led to me pursuing freelance social media consulting as well, which led to the job that I am starting next week: Communications Coordinator at Northwest Health Foundation. I’m certain that this job will lead to even bigger and better opportunities.

(Shameless plug: If you like the Facebook page I am working on for one LC alum, you will have access to all of the cute videos, interesting facts, and pictures of artwork that I post on the page. And, I will say thank you.)

 

p.s. If you have any questions about info interviews or job searching or are looking for someone to connect with in your field, I would be happy to share my resources and year of insight in the process, for what it is worth.

Print

My Love/Hate Relationship with Social Media

People like to argue that social media gets in the way of real, face-to-face human interaction. I don’t place much store in this argument. As a bonafide introvert, if it were possible to use social media to avoid human interaction, I would. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked so far. (I’m joking. Mostly.)

My greatest objection to social media is the never ending glut of information that spills out of it. Social media does not stick to business hours. There is no down time. I looked away from my computer screen the other day, and when I looked back a couple of minutes later, 65 new tweets had been tweeted. It is impossible to catch up, because users post content faster than anyone could ever hope to consume it all. Then, of course, there is the pressure to add to that content. And, furthermore, the pressure to add content that will stand out from the rest of the content.

I have found that the best thing to do is step back and limit my exposure. Were fewer things happening before social media? No. Celebrities still died. Protests still happened. Oil still spilled. Cats still looked grumpy. However, our exposure was limited to print, radio, and television. Fewer people could share their opinions and pets with a large-scale audience. The best thing to do is admit that it can’t all be consumed, and it doesn’t need to be. Before social media, we wouldn’t have had access to it all in the first place.

What I love about social media is also the never ending spout of information. I like reading tweets about people, organizations, and activities that I otherwise would have never known existed. I have found volunteer opportunities this way and discovered new favorite artists. I have often heard about news items through social media before articles have been published about them in The New York Times.

Furthermore, I love the collaboration and connection that social media fosters. Through social media, I chatted with an Acquisitions Editor for a publishing company based on the East Coast. I “attended” a bus tour of historical Portland by following the tweets of those who were actually on the tour. I’ve consumed more art, lectures, and music, than I ever could have accessed before social media.

As with all technological advancements, there are reasons to fight against and avoid social media. However, like many technological advancements, there are also ways that social media can improve communication and quality of life.

Print

The News

So, here’s the news:

I got a job!!! My informational interviewing and freelancing and soul searching have paid off! I will be Northwest Health Foundation‘s part-time Communications Coordinator, starting May 5th, 2014. My responsibilities will mainly include managing NWHF’s social media outreach: Twitter, Facebook, etc. The goal is to use NWHF’s communications to help the nonprofits it partners with reach a larger audience. NWHF gives grants to and partners with nonprofits that further their mission of making health accessible to everyone, regardless of background. So excited to start!!!

I’ve also been working to make my job at Pension Consulting Alliance into a job that I want. Several people have told me that I should do that, and I am finally seeing things their way. I have identified areas that PCA needs help with–their website, their presentations–and I have offered to work on those areas with them. I’m hoping to eventually turn my position into something along the lines of Marketing Manager. But we will see. I will keep you updated. Meanwhile, I continue to do the best work that I can on the assignments that I am given and maintain a positive attitude.

And, just to add another thing on top of it all, I am expanding my freelance work. I’m doing not only graphic design, but social media as well.

 

Next goal: Save up enough money to buy a new computer so Adobe Creative Cloud will stop overloading my sad, old computer.

 

Moral: What they say is true. Talk to people. Make connections. Volunteer to gain experience. And insist on doing what you love. For a while there, I was seriously scared that I would not find a job in a field that I am passionate about, but it is all starting to come together.

Guest Blog by Katherine Nash

Surprise! I’m not Laura! Who do you think I am? Here are a few hints:

1)   I am younger.

2)   My writing isn’t as wonderful as her writing.

3)   Some people say we look similar.

 

If you guessed Katherine, her sister, then you are correct! For those of you who don’t know me, I will introduce myself. I’ve known Laura for nearly 20 years. We met in North Carolina when our mom brought me home from the hospital. She has been stuck with this bundle of joy ever since. Recently, Laura has been handling this very well. Maybe that is because we no longer share a bathroom. Most of my time is spent in classes because I am double majoring in biochemistry and music. In my spare time I enjoy hiking, napping, reading, playing French horn, and spending time with friends.

About a week ago, Laura and I were Skyping. She asked what her blog should be about. I jokingly told her to write about her wonderful little sister. Surprisingly, she obliged! However, that was after she had the idea of having me become a guest writer. I will be responding to one of Laura’s previous blogs.

 

never-eat-alone-keith-ferrazzi-tahl-raz_mediumI had the opportunity to visit my sister, Laura, in Portland during spring break a couple weeks ago. We ate delicious food, relaxed in her apartment, and most importantly, we exchanged books. I traded The Fault in Our Stars by John Green for Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. I haven’t finished the book yet, but I have read through a large chunk. I blame my slow progress on the thought-provoking content.
After each chapter, I end up spending up to an hour contemplating what I read about. Never Eat Alone is about networking. I have been interested in networking for a long while. In high school, whenever I visited Laura at college, I would try my best to meet students and professors around her campus. I learned the power of networking when I applied to colleges and interviewed for scholarships. Building trust and mutual respect got me where I am now, and I believe it will help me get to where I want to be in the future, along with hard work and dedication, of course.

Keith Ferrazzi’s networking examples mainly come from business, but they apply to all areas of life. The idea of weaving a web of contacts in social situations gives people a fallback when they need help. Nobody can get through obstacles alone. Sometimes friends, business contacts, and even acquaintances are needed to give people a boost up the ladder. Ferrazzi points out that successful relationships take effort and time even when help isn’t needed. Help cannot be expected without giving something of value in return. I’m not saying material possessions must be given. Things like knowledge and time are commonly valued more. Networking is something that should be given a high priority constantly.

 

I have already been putting some of Ferrazzi’s principles to the test. Spring quarter started at the beginning of this month, so I have been introducing myself to as many people as possible. Not only am I finding study buddies for multiple classes, but also I am making friends that could potentially last through college. I am meeting students in many departments. This has given me the chance to connect students who can benefit each other. For example, one of my friends is writing an article about the effect of campus construction on students with disabilities. I was able to connect her with another friend who makes the maps of construction route changes around campus.

I introduced myself to an USAF Colonel who was able to connect me with a flight surgeon. Now I am setting up a job shadow to learn about the job I hope to have in the future. So far, I have had nothing but good experiences from my networking efforts. Never Eat Alone gave me the motivation I need to go out of my way to build stronger, more meaningful relationships. I recommend this book to anybody who wants to learn methods for connecting with unfamiliar people.

300304_4819775606128_414096273_n

Everything I Admire About My Little Sister

My little sister keeps joking that I should write a blog about how wonderful she is. Well, in honor of National Siblings Day, here you go, Katherine. (Shout out to my older brother, Daniel, as well! I love you both!)

 

Everything I Admire About My Little Sister:

 

She is Persistent 

As a child, this was the trait that drove me insane. If I had friends over to play, Katherine would insist on being wherever we were. She didn’t necessarily want to play with us. She just wanted to be in the same location. No amount of screaming, pleading, or threats had any effect. Now, Katherine’s persistence works in bigger and better ways. She loves to prove people wrong. When her first-year advisor refused to sign off on her overloaded schedule at the beginning of freshman year, Katherine found someone else who would. She proceeded to earn a G.P.A. close to 4.0 during her first quarter. She continues to double-major in Biochemistry and Music, while participating in the Air Force ROTC program, despite the logistical difficulty of managing her schedule.

 

She Says What She Thinks

Katherine believes that people should speak their minds. In short, she is blunt. This is something that I particularly admire, as I generally am the exact opposite. I convey my opinions very diplomatically, in a more roundabout fashion. Katherine says what she thinks. It does not matter whom she is talking to, or whether the subject of the conversation is politics, health, education, or cheese. Or whether our mom would prefer that she closed her mouth.

 

She is Paying Her Own Way Through College

My brother and I were lucky enough to attend college while my family could still afford to help us pay for our education. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Katherine has not been so lucky. This means that Katherine has had to cover rent, tuition, groceries, utilities, etc. since she started at Central Washington. I am forever impressed by her ability to do this. She has even managed to purchase a car and travel.

 

She is Courageous

“Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear.” – Meg Cabot

Every time I try to compliment Katherine for being brave enough to introduce herself to new people on a regular basis, she argues that she is not brave. She says that she almost always feels anxious in unfamiliar situations. However, that does not stop her from walking up to strangers and introducing herself. On multiple occasions, she visited me at college and wandered off on her own to introduce herself to professors and students in the Music department. She recognizes that the potential benefits of knowing people outweigh the fear of rejection.

 

She Dreams Big

Despite the fact that it is one of the most competitive jobs in the Air Force, Katherine has set the goal of becoming a flight surgeon. This job would require her to complete intensive medical training, as well as pilot training. She has already begun looking for flight surgeons to talk to, and perhaps job shadow, in order to set herself up for taking on this role.

Maslowsche

Making Money versus Doing What You Love (or hopefully both)

Yesterday my boss asked me if I care about making money. The answer to that question is complicated—more than I can explain in five minutes on my way out of the office. Financial stability should be a huge consideration in choosing what career path to take. However, different people define financial stability in different ways.

Because I am a nerd, I will start by considering Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The base of Maslow’s pyramid, physiological needs, includes breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis, and excretion. Once these basic needs have been met, the next category is safety, which deals with the security of physiological needs: health, employment, shelter, etc. Third is love/belonging. Fourth is “esteem,” which is defined by self-esteem, confidence, achievement, and respect by and for others. The tip-top of the pyramid is self-actualization: morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, and acceptance of facts.

One’s definition of financial stability depends on how much money one feels is necessary for meeting each level of needs. Most people can agree that money is necessary for meeting the needs described by the first two levels of the pyramid. People need money to buy food, rent or buy shelter, and go to the doctor and purchase medicine. Then, if one is planning on supporting a family and/or paying for social activities, money becomes important to meeting the third level of needs. Some people also believe that money is necessary to command respect. That covers the fourth level. Finally, money might become imperative to meeting self-actualization needs if giving money to charity seems beneficial, or one’s creative outlets include expensive hobbies such as travel, working on cars, participating in triathlons, etc.

From my point of view, money is extremely relevant to meeting the first two levels of needs; helpful, but not necessary, for fostering relationships through social activities (I’m not planning on starting a family in the near future); and not at all necessary for the fourth level of the pyramid. When we get to self-actualization, things get a little bit tricky.

In order to feel self-actualized, I feel that I need a job that will support my morals and fuel my creativity. If you read my blog from last week, you know that I don’t believe that seeking the kind of job I want bars me from making money. However, it will be a greater struggle to make a disposable income than it would be if I pursued something like medicine or finance.

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, making six figures is not important to me. At this point, the prospect of a $30,000 salary seems exorbitant for supporting one twenty-something-year-old. As long as I can pay my rent and utilities, buy groceries, and go to a bar with friends every once in a while, then a job in the nonprofit sector seems more viable to me than a job in finance—even if I would be denying myself the ability to travel or buy expensive art supplies. In exchange, I would be supporting my mental and emotional health. Of course, if I could do what I love and make a lot of money, that wouldn’t be too bad either.

62d1fb7733b2f409753d9aaed192786e

Justifying a Humanities Major

When I tell people my undergraduate majors, I usually get one of two reactions. Sometimes the person replies, sarcastically, “Yeah. My major was just as useful.” Then they will tell me that they studied English or French or Sociology/Anthropology. The rest of the time, they reply with a question: “If you don’t mind me asking, what do you plan to do with that?” At this point I am supposed to demur and agree that there is nothing I can do with a Studio Art and East Asian Studies degree. Ha!

I have to laugh when scientists and mathematicians claim that the humanities are easy or “soft.” This is particularly amusing to me when those same scientists and mathematicians must compose research papers a cover letter. Then they start using words like “writing” and “hard” in the same sentence.

The humanities teach communication skills. They teach people how to relate with others and share ideas effectively. An analyst might gather financial data and use formulas to calculate time-weighted returns. An artist could then design graphs to interpret and display that information visually. A writer could come up with words to explain the data to a broader audience and place it in a larger context. A scientist might research a medical ailment and develop a preventative treatment for that ailment. Someone who majored in the humanities could spread the word about that treatment, using video, magazine articles, images, social media, etc. to convey important health information to the public.

In general, I am against the notion that there is a dichotomous distinction between arts and sciences. One person can excel at both. I’ll use Barbara Kingsolver, my favorite author, as an example. Barbara Kingsolver studied biology in college. She then held a number of jobs, some relevant to her degree, while pursuing freelance writing. Eventually, her books became prolific enough to allow her to make writing a full-time job. Now, Kingsolver combines her writing skills with her knowledge of biology to create engaging narratives laced with powerful descriptions of ecosystems and animals.  She uses her massive readership to raise awareness of environmental issues.

It is useless for scientists and artists to scoff at one another’s expertise. We need each other. Humans need translators just as much as we need doctors. We need physicists as much as we need creative directors. Some might argue that the humanities are necessary for the purpose of rounding out our lives–making them richer. I would agree. The humanities do make our lives richer, but not only in the way that attending plays, visiting galleries, and reading novels make our lives richer. They allow us to share theories; to form links across families, communities, countries; to call people to action and initiate change. Without the humanities, we would be incoherent to one another. The human body, by which I mean humanity as a collective, would lack tendons.

P1040605

Maybe Teleportation Does Exist

I scooched my butt to the left, straddling two seats in order to maintain the appropriate number of inches between me and my fellow commuter. She tucked her elbows in, her gaze locked on her iPhone, playing a game of Candy Crush with blank enthusiasm. My eyes swept the bus, at loss for a settling point. I would have liked to look out the window at the passing urban landscape. However, if I did that, I could not avoid appearing to stare at the businessman seated directly across from me. So I feigned interest in the ads pasted on the ceiling.

“Seriously?!” someone groaned as the bus slowed to a stop. I looked up. The bus door opened with a sigh. My ears perked at the sound of someone speaking a foreign language. I love attempting to identify foreign languages.

Quite suddenly, a group of seven or eight men and women—all Asian and all toting the kind of personal grocery cart that old women who ear plastic bags over their permed hair are associated with—loaded onto the bus. It took less than a moment for me to recognize the foreign language: Mandarin Chinese. I studied Mandarin in college and spent a semester in Sichuan province, so it wasn’t a matter of guesswork. I knew with certainty that the group was jabbering to one another in Putonghua, the common language of mainland China.

They all found places to stow their exotic vegetables, clearly purchased at a specialty market. As the group found seats, the commuters on the 14, including myself, all inhaled. I scooched back over to the right as one of the men made for the empty seat beside me. I wrapped my arms around the backpack in my lap, trying and failing to lean away from both the commuter on my right, still intently playing Candy Crush, and the Chinese man on my left.

He turned to sit down, and his backpack scraped my face, then rammed into my shoulder. He did not apologize. I was not surprised. Once settled, he loudly asked if everyone in his group had found a seat.

My first instinct was to shrink away and avert my attention. But my second instinct, curiosity, speedily took over. I leaned in to eavesdrop. I glanced at my fellow commuters faces to witness their reactions to the unapologetically Chinese group.

In China, it is perfectly normal to shove and push strangers to make room for yourself. It is appropriate to conduct booming conversations in public. No one thinks twice about staring openly at anything that might be considered a spectacle.

As a tall, blonde American in Chengdu, I became used to the feeling of having eyes trained on me every time I left my dormitory. A few times, small children pointed at me and announced, “laowai,” which means “foreigner.” Once, when I was riding my bike around the university, a man driving a motor scooter was so fixed on staring at me that he ran into a curb.

So, I relaxed, allowing my arm to brush the arm of the man on my left. I watched professionals and students wipe expressions of astonishment off of their faces and return to their smartphones and mp3 players. I listened to the husband and wife on my left discuss what stop they should disembark at.

Sadly, people who speak foreign languages generally converse about the same commonplace subjects that English speakers do. Happily, the challenge of translating a foreign language makes commonplace subjects seem infinitely more exciting.

Only two stops after boarding the bus, most of the early morning shoppers got off the bus with their heavily laden carts. In a few minutes, my bite of China had vanished. However, the aftertaste was strong.

That day, I noticed all of the red in Portland. Each time I caught a flash of the color, I turned, expecting to see a red banner emblazoned with foot-high white characters. I smelled China in the car exhaust as I walked from my bus stop to work. I craved pork dumplings dipped in chili oil and hand-pulled noodles fried with egg and tomato. For a little while, Chengdu and Portland overlaid one another, like parallel universes.

images

Interviews with Interviewers… About Interviewing

This week I attended a screening of Interviews with Interviewers… About Interviewing (1985) at the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, presented by Cinema Project. Skip Blumberg, who has been an influencer in video and television since the 1970s, produced, filmed, and edited this program. He also acted as the interviewer, asking questions while handling his Sony Portapack-1/2 video camcorder. His interviewees included a much younger Barbara Walters than the Barbara Walters we are familiar with today, 60 Minutes‘s Mike Wallace, writer and radio host Studs Terkel, Susan Stamberg of NPR, a New York City detective, and a psychoanalyst. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the former four had the most charisma on camera. The detective’s answers were blunt, and the psychoanalyst often seemed to be grasping for words.

Blumberg asked his interviewees a myriad of questions. Why did they become interviewers? How many interviews had they conducted in their professional lives? Why did they think television viewers liked interviews so much? How did they know if an interview had been successful? Did they ever feel like a question was too personal? How did they prepare for their interviews? What did they believe was the ideal personality for an interviewer? Did they ever feel as if they were victimizing their interviewees? What were their personal goals? How did they choreograph their questions?

Most of Blumberg’s interviewees estimated that they had each conducted around ten thousand interviews. How, wondered Blumberg, did they sustain their interest? Curiosity. Curiosity was mutually agreed upon to be the most important trait for an interviewer. Susan Stamberg shared her assumption that if she found someone interesting, other people would as well. She said that she loved asking questions she would have loved to ask as a child. For instance, once she asked a conductor, “Don’t your arms get tired?” The conductor replied that his arms only got tired when a piece of music was going poorly.

After the screening, Paige Sarlin, assistant professor in the Department of Media Study at the University of Buffalo, SUNY, who is writing a book on the history of the interview, moderated a discussion. She also shared some interesting facts about interviewing.

Although she is having difficulty settling on the first example of an interview ever conducted, she did tell us how job interviews began. Thomas Edison, purportedly, invented the job interview. He frequently hired college graduates to work for him, but quickly became annoyed when they did not possess the knowledge he required. So, he developed over one hundred questions to ask his prospective employees.

As someone who has recently initiated several informational interviews, and been invited to a few job interviews, I am particularly interested in the mechanics of the interview and what makes an interview successful. I agreed with the interviewees in Interviews with Interviewers… About Interviewing, that you know an interview is going well when it stops feeling like an interview and starts feeling like a conversation. For the television interviewers, it is when the camera men and lights seem to disappear. For me, it is when the interview progresses organically… when we lose track of time and the specific questions that had been prepared fall by the wayside. The roles of interviewer and interviewee dissolve, and simple and sincere curiosity emerges.