Thursday, January 22, 2009

Why You Should Be Going to a Korean Spa

Korean spa. Never been? Here's the gist: you hang out with other naked individuals of the same sex, you sit in various hot/cold/wet/herbal/clay pools and saunas, and then you go in a big room to get scrubbed raw by a women in her underwear. A little awkward? Definitely. Totally random? Yeah, if you're not Korean. Nothing more than a masochistic indulgence? Not exactly.

The truth is, going to Korean spas can do wonders for your career. Here's how:

  1. You're naked. Uncomfortable in your own skin? Meek and quiet at work? Not for long. Shower, lounge, explore, and get scrubbed and massaged naked around other people is a sure way to get pretty darn comfortable in your birthday suit. Translation: more confidence in the office.
  2. Everyone else is naked. A lot of people hate networking events because they're shy, nervous, or just not really used to starting conversations with people they don't know. At the Korean spa, you're sitting in a hot tub full of naked ladies (or guys, depending on your chromosomes). You have to make eye contact with those naked spa-ers to avoid looking elsewhere, and you'll end up making conversation just to feel more comfortable. You might even have fun... when you're already naked, there are really no limits to the conversation! At that next networking event, you'll be a pro... because everyone there will probably be wearing clothing.
  3. You have to acknowledge your limits. A huge part of the spa experience is all of the different pools and saunas available. However, to prolong the experience, you have to listen to your body and alternate between hot and cold, wet and dry, etc. Learn to listen to your natural limits here, and you can better analyze your work load and effort levels.
  4. You are not perfect and never will be. You are dirty like everyone else. A lot of us deal with a crippling case of perfectionism. I'm one of those people. So, naturally, going to the Korean spa I figured they wouldn't be able to 'scrub' much off of me because of course I am a clean individual. As it turns out, Sarah, the elderly woman in the black lace underwear set, scrubbed a disgusting amount of dead gray skin off of my pasty, naked body. I asked her if I'd ever get to the point where she couldn't scrub anything off; she said NO. I will never be perfect, but I can do the best I can. That's all you can expect yourself to do in the workplace and in your career.
  5. New experiences give valuable new perspective. I enjoyed this spa experience because novelty gets you thinking in a broader spectrum. Are you boxed in at work? You should be trying new tasks and projects, reading different topics, or maybe finding a new job. Perhaps as a scrubber/masseuse at a Korean spa?
  6. You never know where the next opportunity lies. Perhaps that naked chick across the clay sauna is actually looking to hire someone like you. Or perhaps you just really like being naked and need to find a job that lets you wallow in your nakedness all day. You never know until you try, so why not try everything?

Friday, January 2, 2009

2009: Healthy, happy, and in control... I hope

I've always hated New Years resolutions. For as long as I can remember, they were always along the lines of "get skinny, find a boyfriend, be nicer to people". I never got much thinner, being a people person is not second nature to me, but at least the boyfriend found me about five years ago.

When January 2007 rolled around, I didn't make any resolutions. I had everything I wanted... and then the shit hit the fan. My 2008 resolution was to forget 2007 ever happened. But then 2008 became a continuation of miserable 2007: aroller coaster year full of joblessness, unfulfilled interviews, and major anxiety about moving to San Francisco. I moved here in June, found a job in late July, and things were rolling along well. Then, I started having debilitating, chronic migraines that were making me impossible to be around and making it very hard to focus at my fast-paced, absolutely crazy job.

So, for 2009, I'm not making resolutions. I am starting initiatives that will help me to sustain a relatively sane, healthy, and enjoyable lifestyle.

  • Address health issues head-on. My doctor called me while I was on vacation to tell me that I have a cyst growing in my left sinus, pressing on nerves and causing my headaches. Normally I would avoid this and see if it got better on its own, but I will confront it. Also under this category: get over my fears and finally go to the dentist.
  • Give my body what it wants. Since I was very small, I have thrived on multiple hours of physical exercise every day... this peaked my senior year of college when I was in dance rehearsal 11 hours/day, 5 days/week. I love being active, but have been too tired or lazy to really get out much. I'm going to get back into yoga seriously, do more cardio, and go on more hikes.
  • Get back into dance. You know you need to do something if it is constantly in your brain, whether you are sleeping or awake. I dream about ballet every night and choreograph in my head to the music in television commercials. It's time to get back into it. What's the worst that can happen? I could blow out my knee. A third time. No sweat.
  • Indulge my creative side. I'm a creative person by nature, but in working for a startup my creative endeavors were among the first victims of my new schedule. While the old standbys of photography and knitting are still there, I'm hoping that our buying a condo will help jumpstart a new DIY furniture refurbishment hobby!
  • Spend more time and effort on my personal brand. I gave blogging, commenting on blogs, and being generally active in marketing myself a huge amount of time when I was unemployed. Since starting my job, I've only made 3 blog posts. This needs to change! I will commit to at least one blog post per week, actual participation on Digg, less random Tweeting, and I'll read/comment more as a whole.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Is true 'happiness' even attainable?

It's true. I suck at life... err, I suck at my online life. I've neglected Facebook, LinkedIn, my blog, Brazen Careerist. And I probably don't even have a good reason for it.

The truth is, I sort of assumed that once I started working I would morph into some sort of super happy, super productive superhuman that would go to the gym, work 10+ hours, write a blog post, and Facebook/Digg/Tweet to my heart's content. We all know the people who DO pull it off (my friend Jess, for instance, already has sent out her Christmas cards). As you can probably guess, I have definitely not morphed into a superhuman.

The only things I've managed to do in the last couple of months are work those 10+ hour days, piss off my mom by not having time to call her, and convince my boyfriend that I have a brain tumor. I've learned a lot about how the world works, and none of it makes me too darn happy. I've learned that...
  • I suck at pretending I don't miss dancing. This has manifested in getting dumped by my co-author, and me waking up in the middle of the night during nightmares that involve ballet class and horrific, gory injuries.
  • Startups are incredibly fun and horribly frustrating all at the same time. I feel like I'm constantly on the verge of both laughing and punching my computer.
  • There comes a time in one's life when your parents don't understand a single aspect of your life anymore. It's liberating, but extremely depressing.
  • I can have the greatest living situation, the best boyfriend, the sweetest dog, and the cushiest checking account I ever thought I'd have... but it's not going to be enough. I'll always have that 'what if' in the back of your head.
It's not that I'm unhappy, it's just that I don't quite have very much figured out yet.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Dancer to startup nerd in 18 months

As you may know, I've been working on a book that gives the practical education of how to really truly live as an artist with Milena Thomas over at Quiet the Thunder. The premise of the book is essentially two creative individuals who have mapped out the intellectual, psychological, social, and economical minefield that is an arts career letting other creative individuals in on this valuable information.

Things are going well, but I'm feeling like a bit of a poser. We're calling ourselves 'creative individuals' and, quite frankly, I'm a business manager for an online travel startup. I feel like it deserves a little explanation... maybe no to you, but to me and potential future readers. How did I decide to give up my life's dream? And how am I dealing with it?

When I initially hurt my knee, it was dramatic enough to be soap-opera-worthy. It was at the end of a class, in a big leap, on the day of dress rehearsal for THE big show at Northwestern. I had solos and featured roles in half of the show, with no understudy. Suddenly I was unable to even walk, and unable to perform in the crowning moment of my college career. Worse still, I was suddenly unable to fulfill my duties as an apprentice to the dance company I had been trying to get into for 5 years and had, just two months ago, signed a contract with.

First phase: denial. I was convinced I would perform. The cantaloupe where my tiny knee used to be stopped this.

Second phase: more denial. I didn't think about the issue at hand. I just sat on the couch, iced my knee, watched bad daytime TV and waited for Nick to get home so I could stuff my face and mix painkillers with wine.

Third phase: determination. I was going to have the fastest damn recovery EVER. I became fanatical about physical therapy and even performed exercises in the apartment complex pool. I lost weight, tried to eat right, and took my vitamins.

Fourth phase: indecision. Suddenly, I wondered if it was all worth it. To entertain me in between gym and PT sessions, I took an internship with a small PR firm in Chicago. Suddenly I was a real person again: getting dressed, having a schedule, making a little money. I was learning new things, working in a new office environment, and having the chance to go to some really neat events (there are many perks to PR). I came to a huge realization: My identity to other people was not 'dancer'. I was just a smart, silly, very motivated girl with a lot to offer. I liked this revelation a great deal, but it precipitated a series of little breakdowns where I would decide to not go back to dance, only to jump in the car and drive to a ballet class. I was still healing so there were setbacks, and ultimately I just decided that the grief was getting to me. I still planned on returning to rehearsals for the fall season with the 'dream' dance company.

Fifth phase: false euphoria. Back in the studio again, dance class felt blissful. I had never felt happier. But after class, when rehearsal began, I suddenly realized something: this didn't make me happy anymore. I loved dancing, but dancing was not making me happy. Day two in class I blew out my knee again, and it was a split second decision: it was time to move on.

Sixth phase: mourning. It was not until I was waist-deep in the job search that I really started mourning my dancing career. I assumed that I should stick in the industry, and become an arts administrator... and then quickly realized that I couldn't talk about dance or watch a performance without being brought to tears. I realized I wasn't ready to work with my art in this capacity.

The decision not to dance ended up being an easy one: it didn't make me quite happy enough to endure working 40 hour weeks for free and holding three part-time jobs in order to make my tiny rent payment. Could I have made it work? Probably. Could I have eventually found the jobs, either performing or choreographing (or both) that would have allowed me to be 'just' a dancer? It is likely. But could I do it at 22? No.

Now, I'm pretty much over it. I can bear watching dance, my knee is back to maybe 70%, I have a job I love that both pays the bills and lets me be creative a bit, and I'm getting the 'itch' to dance again. But why the hell am I not in class, now that I have the money and a working knee?

I AM TERRIFIED. I'm terrified of getting hurt again, I'm terrified of looking like a fat incompetent slob, I'm terrified of dealing with learning the dance scene of a new city. Most of all, I'm terrified that I'll fall back in love with it and try to go back. This, I know, would be disaster.

So what to do? I know what I need to do. I need to get back in the studio and make dance a constant, albeit small, part of my life. Take classes, maybe choreograph, at least doodle around in the studio to some music. I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Realization of Gen-Y Tendencies...

When I first started being alerted to the unique 'qualities' of Gen-Y I kind of thought the whole thing was bullshit. I mean, who are we to think that we are beautiful and unique snowflakes? Or, at least, a new breed of worker and society contributor? I thought that we really were just trying to emulate our superiors as best we could while figuring out how to navigate coming of age during a war and a pretty shitty economy. Only total numbskulls were going to work in irreverent tees and designer jeans, listening to iPods when we should they overhearing office conversations, and multitasking like crazy between business-related tasks.

Well, here is one of those rare times where Victoria Gutierrez is going to put her gnarly dancer's foot in her mouth. Here I am, sitting across my boyfriend at the kitchen table. Both of us are 23. Both of us are on our work computers, getting a huge amount of work done on a holiday... while blogging and catching up on personal emails, in between showing each other condo listings and getting a week's worth of laundry done. My chihuahua, Elvis, is sitting on my lap and trying to steal sips of organic green tea. Nick is in his pajamas, I am in an old Red Hot Chili Peppers tee. Pandora is blaring some sort of whiny-boy punk music, and this somehow feels like my ideal work environment.

Contrast this with Nick's dad, who is at this very minute (and most minutes while he is here) dressed in very polished business casual,with the door closed in his office, trying to get his next presentation put together on his huge desk full of laptops, monitors, and printers. Complete silence and a big cup of coffee generally gets the job done.

And here I see the fundamental differences between the generations. Nick's dad is a boomer, we are the definition of Gen Y. Gen X I feel, for the most part, is much better at the act that I thought I was playing: copying their boomer boss' moves, outfits, and mortgages to a tee until it comes naturally. My Gen X cousins and friends take a certain joy in getting to wear a tie to work, creeping into middle management, and planning for single family homes and babies. I want a timber loft and more chihuahuas (and a child only if it is a son who will play in the NFL and guarantee me a Campbells Chunky Soup commercial of my own), and to run my own start-up so that I can continue dressing like some sort of eccentric pseudo-hippie.

I'm sure I'll get accused of making assumptions based upon very generalized ideas. I don't really care. What I feel is most important about coming to this sort of realization is that it shows me that I am finally doing something right. My job search was a long and arduous one because I have two requirements for career paths in my life: one, it has to be one where you have something unique and valuable to contribute, and two, it has to be something that makes you excited to get out of bed 75% of the time. For me that means being creative, being extremely busy, and just getting to be myself while I'm at work.

I am there, but Nick is not. Neither are a lot of my friends...which makes me wonder, how many of you are unhappy? How many of you played the game to get the job, and are now struggling to just feel right in your own skin at work?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What You Need To Get Hired By A Startup

So you want to work at a startup.  Who doesn't these days? The hope of being 'the next Google', cashing in major stock options, wearing jeans to work, ping pong in the conference room, and young co-workers.  For some people, this is a pretty accurate description of their life at a startup, and for some people startups are disasters.  Yet, Gen Y'ers seem intent on working at these fledgling companies, especially out here in the Bay Area.

As it turns out, I am seven days into working at a San Francisco online startup, and therefore I am an expert on these matters (yeah right).  I have, however, become a bit of a job search expert by means of searching for a job for twelve months.  While I kept pushing myself toward the stability of larger corporations, it always ended up that I received the most interest from startups.  So, if you want to work at a startup and don't have any highly specialized skills that would make finding a job easier, here are some of the things that I think contributed to my getting the job.

Workaholic Tendencies
Most HR personnel will see this as a red flag that you will burn out, or that you're not a very well-rounded individual.  However, a true startup is going to be very excited by the prospect of someone who's really okay with showing up early, staying late, and probably taking lunch at their desk.  They're going to like someone who loses track of time while immersed in a project, and who is stressed by not having enough to do.  If you're sure that you have these qualities (or faults?), make sure you bring it up in the interview process.  But don't sound like a crazy person, because they're trying to pick someone they'll enjoy spending those long hours with.

Usually you can fake interest in a company's product if you want the paycheck badly enough.  Most people in the workplace are indifferent, at best, about the big picture surrounding what they do.  This will not fly in a startup.  You must possess true passion and a considerable amount of knowledge about the field, because you will be counted on to have a high base level of knowledge and be able to contribute specific experiences and opinions.  Funds are carefully appropriated in a startup, and the passion that management holds for their product is so strong that they won't trust a paycheck to someone who doesn't share that passion.

Equal Parts Trigger-Happy and Cautious
My CEO says 'think fast, work fast.'  You need to not be too scared to commit to an action without management signing off on every little thing.  You also can't be stupid with that trigger finger.  My parents inadvertantly taught me to live in a sort of "informed reckless" environment: if you stay aware, present, and informed of your environment then you can afford to be impulsive and a little bit crazy. They lived this way, taking huge chances but doing it in a way so that there were big returns (exactly the aim of startups). Big risk, big reward.  But don't take stupid risks.

Jack of all Trades, Master of None
The way to stand out in a large corporation is to specialize to the point of being indispensable (the other option is to be an amazing manager, but you're more likely to be good at specializing your skills).  The way to stand out in a startup as a young person is to be able to contribute from all angles, and at least get a handle on everything that is in motion.  You will work with all departments and everyone must understand what the others are doing in order for the product to be successful.  My arts, philosophy, nonprofit, public relations, and sales background was getting me nowhere at companies where the job titles are well defined... but in a startup I am valuable because I can grasp the overall process more quickly.  You also have to look at it from the standpoint of who is doing the hiring: a startup can't know what its personnel needs will be two years (or less) from now, so someone who can be shaped into many different needs is going to be cheaper in the long run.  If you crave structure in your position, rethink your desires to work in a startup, unless you have a Computer Engineering degree.

I had a ballet teacher who once said "Don't be a dancer if you can be anything else." This certainly applies to startups: they are a place for people who are not able to fit into the standard corporate mold, because they crave a bit more creativity and danger in their career.  If you think you're one of those people, then by all means make sure you demonstrate that you have all of the afore-mentioned things while you are interviewing.  And then, good luck. I hope those stock options get you somewhere!

Friday, July 25, 2008


I always feel as though I should explain myself when its been more than a week between posts (I swear I'll be posting regularly again soon!).  An update on why I'm M.I.A.:

1. I just accepted a job with  I am super excited about this and will start on Aug. 4
2. I'm currently in Chicago.  The beauty of living with Nick is that Abbott is paying to move our stuff. Fantastico.

A formal update will follow soon..