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The LitMag Dialogues 2: Why Presentation is Key

You’ve heard it before.  Prior to even making a first impression, the other party involved is already taking a visual account of you.  From there they have formed a conception of what they think you’re all about.

What if your visual presentation was the only thing you could use to make a good impression?  What if you weren’t allowed to say anything, and the employer interviewing you, or the attractive group by the bar had complete jurisdiction over whether they liked you or not?

This is what happens at the literary magazine where I intern.  It is clearly obvious when submitters have not read our directions, or have just consciously chosen not to follow them.  It’s not so much the folded corners on papers, or using a stapler versus a paperclip.  It’s the coffee stains, the line spacing (single-spaced submissions are quite a sight for an already-overwhelmed editor or intern), the lack of a clearly articulated cover letter, or the lack of a cover letter altogether.  Resulting from these follies and more, we have already formed an opinion of the writer.  I am less eager to read a thirty-page, single-spaced story simply because it looks too dense to get through.  It could be very well written and engaging, but I might not make it far enough to find out.

Cover letters that don’t say too much about you in general, much less as a writer, are also a turn-off.  I mean to address the letters that basically say, “Here is my submission, I don’t really care what you do with it.”  Instead of just having your contact information and the title of your piece as your cover letter, try making the reader interested in what else you have to say.  Even if you have no prior publications, give us a sense of your personality.  I like to have at least somewhat of an idea of the person whose work I’m about to read.  That being said, don’t be too presumptuous!

Like any other company or group of people, at the magazine we’re human, too.  We like to laugh, we like to poke fun, and sometimes it happens at other people’s expenses.  Don’t give us the opportunity to do that.  Make yourself as professional as you can be and that’s what will put you ahead.  Of course, even professionals can have their share of bad writing, but if their cover letter and physical submissions are done well, they’re one step closer to polishing off the rest of it.

I wouldn’t want to walk into a bar and be judged just on how I was dressed.  It happens to people every day, of course, but just take note of the fact that it’s an important factor.  Presentation is key, whether we like it or not.  Being aware of that guides us further along the professional and social lines of where we live.

So next time you submit your poetry to a literary magazine, a resume to an employer, or even a friendly text to the cutie from last night, be sure to realize that everything you’re presenting is an extension of yourself.  Turn those extensions into the beginnings of showing everyone else exactly what great qualities you have to offer.

 

 

 

Commute with Kelly: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

I’ve got a one-hour commute to New York City.  Don’t worry; there’s no “poor me” necessary. Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transit (back in 2008), and so far, I have only taken 20.  To be honest, I don’t have it half bad.

I’m living at my grandmother’s who treats me as if I were the Queen of England, something I can’t appreciate enough especially after living on my own for months traveling.  Not many people can say their ride home from the train station arrives in perfect time each day to bring them to a home, not just a house, surrounded in sweet smelling grass and clean crisp air.  Not many can say they come home to their bed made; their clothes cleaned; and fall asleep to the light hum of Teen Mom on the television from the room down the hall.

Even with all of these luxuries at home, the commute to New York City could be hell.  I could focus on the dog poop that I stepped in on my first day as I got off the train.  I could let the creepy guy in the corner staring at me give me a scare that lingers the entire day.  I could listen to the arguments of the couples on the street, the baby crying, the lady’s voice screaming on the phone so loud I’m scared her lungs will end up on the floor.  I could let myself be paranoid as there are so many noises pouring out from the ground (subway), creeping up behind me (people just walking to close), or voices from the sky (people in their apartments five floors above).  I’ve learned a whole new meaning of the line Alicia Keys sings: “even if it ain’t all it seems I’ve got a pocket full of dreams…” My pocket too is full of dreams; unfortunately, it is empty of cash, a common result of commuting.

If you head into your commute thinking to yourself that your pockets will forever be empty, the train will always be late, the person sitting next to you will reek of body odor and you will show up to work in pit stains because it is 5,000 degrees (blame global warming), then you’ll never get to see the good things that come with commuting.  Although they can see few and far between, there are some positives that come out of commuting.

On the days those problems don’t happen, you will feel like a million bucks.  The bad just helps you appreciate that nice conversation you had with a stranger on the train, that boy’s smile as you make funny faces at a him while you’re waiting for your train home to get a track number, and the witness of a moment of raw and sweet human nature like a mother kissing the top of her daughter’s head or a boyfriend holding his girl for just one second longer.  When you’re finished with a long day, you’ll appreciate that the train that will bring you home has air-conditioning and leather (looking) seats instead of the old clunker that brought you to the city in the morning.

Lesson learned: “Don’t take the bad annoyances to heart, just hold the sweet little things close.”

Okay, so if you’re a guy, you might think you just got advice from My Little Pony herself.  What I mean to say is that you can let yourself get pissed and curse and complain on the phone like I hear that thin, blond woman doing everyday I get out of Penn Station (I feel so bad for the person on the other end of that).  Instead, let it go.

Like Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, “it’s not your fault. Look at me son; it’s not your fault.”

Like The Lion King, “When the world turns your back on you, you turn your back on the world, right? WRONG.” When it comes to stupid problems in your day, Hakuna matata.

Like Liz’s come-what-may philosophy in Gilmore Girls:

LUKE: How can you be so calm about this? You’re so calm.
LIZ: Because I got my new come-what-may philosophy.
LUKE: Your what?
LIZ: My philosophy. It’s about accepting what comes your way, whatever it is. If a bus is heading right at you, let it come. If a piece of space junk comes hurtling down at you, let it come.
LUKE: Or you step out of the way.
LIZ: You know, that’s probably better, and when I said what I said now, it felt wrong.

Don’t let yourself get hit with space junk, but relax and let the little stuff go.

 

 

Commute with Kelly: Introduction

Hello, my name is Kelly Craig, and I tripped and fell on my face today.  Yes, people saw me.  I heard one laugh, and hey, I don’t blame them.

After my embarrassment wore off and I continued with my day interning in New York City, I found myself on the train home next to a 40-something year old Pakistani man, who was sweet as can be.  Everyone stared as we talked.  He said he was an engineer and a part-time teacher at the school where his commuting bag was clearly from.  He was heading home to his family after a long day as we swapped stressful stories of our days.

He left me with one line of wisdom, something his father had always told him: “Wise people learn from others’ mistakes,” he said, “Fools learn from their own.”

I’ve been feeling like a fool myself, since I have always thought that as long as I learned something from a mistake, it was worth it.  This man made me realize that this idea can be taken a step further.

Instead of quickly acting like no embarrassing mistake has just happened, I’m going to pin-point each spastic moment so you can ensure you don’t run into the same commuting blunders, or at least you can know you are not alone when you literally fall on your face, because yes, I’ve been there.

Everyone has had a day when they’ve walked into work with a coffee stain on their shirt or their hair frizzy or their tie all the way to the left.  If you haven’t had one of these moments yet, don’t worry; your time is coming.

We all know the old adage “don’t sweat the small stuff.”  What they don’t tell you is to also appreciate the little things too.  Chances are if you stay observant, especially while commuting, you will find little gems that make your day.  These gems will offset those pestering little obstacles.  Some days, you will feel like your running the 400 hurdles, as it seems like every 20 meters there is something in your way.  Other days, it’ll feel like a high jump with one main problem.  Even if you feel as though your facing a pole vault, I promise you will get through whatever commuting problem you have.  It may take hours upon hours, days upon days of practice and training, but in the end, you will get over it.  Eventually, you will end up with a steady stride as if you are running through the woods, marveling at the trees, animals and hey, look! A waterfall!  You’ll be breathing in the fresh air and feeling great.

Or maybe not, since I have been tripping over rocks and falling on my face myself…  At least you’ll have something to laugh at. (And if not, there’s always Aziz to pick up the slack!)

Summer Jobs

If you are looking for a summer job idea, here is the place. Only certain jobs will hire college students, and most of them are part time. I have experience at many different types of summer jobs. In this blog, I’ll include my insight and hopefully help spark your interest. Let’s get started.

RETAIL

Retail stores will almost always need seasonal help. The summer season is perfect because while some of their school year employees will be leaving, they will have openings for the summertime. I work at Victoria’s Secret currently and I love it. If you enjoy talking to people and helping them out in whatever way you can, retail is for you. You need to be a generally happy person and personable towards strangers. At my job I enjoy assisting customers and watching them leave knowing that I helped to make their day. If this sounds like something you’d like to do, try applying to various stores in the mall as soon as possible!

RESTAURANTS

I have previously worked in two restaurants. During this time in my life I was too young to serve so I found myself as a hostess. This is another job where you need to be personable. As a host you’ll enjoy discounts on the food! If you like to eat, help people out, and can easily entertain yourself during the slow time, this is the job for you. As a college student you will be old enough to serve food. This is even better. Servers at good restaurants can make a lot of money really fast. Alongside your pay check you’ll walk out with cash every night you work due to your tips. A lot of people that serve really enjoy it, and the money. If this sounds like something you’d like to do, try applying at restaurants in your home town.

WAREHOUSE

A warehouse is where you’ll likely make the most money during the summer. Also it’s probably where you’ll have the least amount of fun. I spent all of last summer in a hot warehouse tagging clothes. Although I didn’t enjoy my job, I made enough to buy my first car all by myself. Warehouses are great for big money fast. Every day I had to be at work by 7am and didn’t leave until 3pm. It’s a very long day. I made 9 bucks an hour though! It’s tedious and long but the money was worth it. If you are a scheduled person and are excited for a lot of hours and money, try applying at a local warehouse, they always need all the help they can get.

To wrap it up, these are the three different jobs I have firsthand experience with. If you’re looking for a summer job but don’t know where to go, try one of these options. The options I listed are usually looking for people this time of year especially. Good luck on your search!

Make Your Resume The Best-ume

Creating a resume is the biggest wake up call of your life. Not only do you have to think of all the responsibilities you had—or didn’t have—at your last internship, but you need to find a way to stand out. Especially when writing a resume for the very first internship you’re applying for and the only work you’ve ever known is a good old fast food restaurant, it might be tempting to embellish or even lie. While you certainly have to sell yourself and prove to the potential employer that you can get the job done and done well, there are lots of tips and tricks to keep in mind when crafting your resume.

Most importantly, you have to tell the truth. Think of yourself as Pinocchio. Sure, embellishing your duties here and there might seem like no biggie. This particular interviewer might not call up your references and ask. That added skill that you don’t really have might not be needed for this job…but what if they do call? What if that skill’s needed? Adding to your resume might help get you an interview—or even the gig—but at the end of the day, it isn’t worth it. Knowing you lied might trip you up during the interview, especially if they call into question what you wrote (not that they’ll think you’re lying necessarily, they just need to know more sometimes). Honesty is really the best policy for jobs.

If you don’t have a lot of experience or feel like a particular internship didn’t give you a lot of responsibilities, don’t sweat it. Resumes should be limited to one page. Honestly, we’re in college—if you have that much more than a page worth of stuff to tell in a resume, I applaud you. Stick to the most relevant experiences you’ve had. Even if it was an award you won in high school or a major accomplishment, it can stay on—though eventually you’ll cut those things off as you grow in experience and more related qualifications. Instead of lying to fill out your one page, you can also discuss classes you’ve taken that are pertinent to the position. If you want to be a web design intern, add on your web design class. But also be weary of tacking on your whole schedule. Be choosy about what you list on your resume, and keep the unrelated or unhelpful off the page if possible.

In addition to being choosy about the positions you include, you have to be choosy about how you sell yourself. Your interviewer wants to get to know you—but in a work-based sense. Meaning keep your life story out of your resume! If you had a life changing trip to another country, great for you. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be on the page (unless you can add “speaks Italian” to your skill set or gained some kind of related experience while abroad). You don’t need to include a head shot, your random hobbies or even your likes about a particular internship. These things can come up in the interview—if they’re worthwhile—and that kind of talk can be saved for in-person.

The resume is all about the basics: who’d you work with, where did you work , when were you working there, what did you do there with a touch of why you’re qualified for the new position you’re interviewing for. For every internship or job you list, make sure to include all those details. Have at least three bullets for each describing—with action verbs, like “Researched this” and “Wrote that”–some, if not all, of your responsibilities. Include a skills section for specialties, like Adobe InDesign or html or any languages you may know. Don’t forget to have a section for your education, not just the school but possibly your GPA, if you’re on the dean’s list or anything that helps you stand out. You can also have an honors and awards section, which may include scholarships, any awards you’ve won, or any mentions of excellence. Every accomplishment, no matter how seemingly trivial, counts and can make the difference between you and another applicant.

At the end of the day, a resume is a sheet of paper. Yes, it is important and yes, you should spend the time and energy to make it look and sound nice and professional. But you in person is worth more than you on paper. So don’t sweat it if you don’t have any awards to your name or your skill set appears limited. Put yourself out there, let your personality shine in your interviews and don’t just let your resume do the talking.

– ToonyToon