Feeling Uninspired? 10 Things You Should Try to Get Your Spark Back

Sometimes you’re feeling your creativity flow, and other times it seems like all you can do is lay in bed and avoid your emails. As a 20-something graduate student who works in the advertising/PR industry, I can relate. And believe it or not, “more coffee” isn’t always the answer…(just most of the time).

The Caffeinated Californian logo features a lightning bolt for two reasons: (1) It’s a nod to that jolt of energy you get from caffeine, and (2) It evokes the feeling of inspiration. I want to energize and inspire my readers, not just from coffee advice, but also from a serious place of knowledge and creativity.

Also (3) I love David Bowie.

All that said, I’m excited to finally write this post, because I’ve been in a bit of a rut for the past couple weeks. Grad school is no joke, and when I’m buried underneath a pile of papers to write, it’s hard to spend time on my creative outlets. I was spending way too much time watching Gossip Girl on repeat and playing Diner Dash on my phone at 1 a.m. Seriously.

Finally, after a spontaneous road trip to Colorado and some free time to sleep for once, I got my mojo back, and I’m here to help you find yours. Let’s get to it!

1. Give yourself a break.

This morning, I slept in until 11, which always makes me feel like a useless blob, but I’ve learned that you can’t beat yourself up too much for listening to your body and doing what you need to do. Cut yourself some slack and accept that it’s okay to feel less than okay. If you spend your relaxation time feeling guilty about relaxing, it doesn’t help anything. Take a break, maybe even a whole day off. Perfectly okay.

2. Do something for someone else.

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When your work is bogging you down, it’s time to stop and redirect your attention to someone or something else that deserves your focus. When was the last time you sent a thank you note (other than for a job interview or recommendation letter)? When was the last time you complimented a friend (other than on their Instagram post)? I’m guilty of focusing too much on my work and not enough on the people and causes I care about.

We all know the whole “What goes around, comes around” mantra, and we know that doing good things = feeling good about yourself. But I’m still amazed every time all over again how much of a difference it makes in my outlook on everything. When you know you’ve made a positive impact, it comes right back and makes a positive impact on your attitude.

3. Get your thoughts out of your head and into the physical world.

If you’re a writer, start drawing on a whiteboard or easel. If you’re a dancer, stop watching choreography videos on YouTube and start dancing in the studio. Whatever it takes to get ideas into the tangible, tactile world– even if you’re just doodling or striking a pose on the yoga mat. Studies have shown that getting off your computer and getting onto a notebook can make a huge difference. Sometimes, I even start my blog posts by jotting ideas in a notepad.

Side note: My favorite phrase in grad school is “studies have shown.” So vague, and so authoritative at the same time. Everyone just accepts it. It’s magical.

4. Give yourself a beauty treatment.

This one is a pretty typical piece of advice that I give out, and sounds like such a superficial, temporary solution. But this is not the time for making major lifestyle changes. This is a rut. And with ruts, the small steps are what matter. A manicure or facial, or even a ridiculously hot shower, are all things that seem doable when all you want to do is sit in bed.

5. Plan something fun.

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As important as it is to live in the now, getting excited about something in the future can be a powerful way to jump-start your positive energy. The holidays are coming up, and it’s an ideal time for fun get-togethers or getaways. Plan a friendsgiving, or a birthday, or even a weekend vacation. Bonus: You’ll still feel like you did something productive!

6. Connect with someone who inspires you.

For me, it can be one of my professors, a past career mentor, or a trusted older friend. It could be someone you know, or someone you found on LinkedIn. Reaching out can feel kinda scary, but it’s so incredibly worth it when you get crazy good advice. You’ll also be surprised how willing (and even excited) people are to offer their perspective.

I spent today sitting in my living room in my sweats and searching for potential people to reach out for career advice. But guess what? I was networking. Who else can say they were networking on a Friday afternoon with Gossip Girl on in the background?

7. Learn something new.

We live in the age of Google and YouTube, where you can develop basically any new skill you want from the comfort of your bed. This is particularly useful when you’re feeling like a slug and don’t have the motivation to get out of bed. Google Analytics, for example, offers free certifications. Obviously this is on the nerd side, which isn’t everyone’s style, so yoga classes and cooking recipes count too. It can be a beauty tutorial, for all I care. Life skills, people!

8. Create a “smile file” for a self-boost.

I picked up on this tip when I interned at a big PR agency and got overly stressed out every day. Sometimes you feel like you fail ten times a day, and during those times, it’s hard not to feel like you’re doing the wrong thing or you’re in the wrong city or have the wrong career. During these times, you need reminders that you’re killing it, and this is where a smile file is handy: Keep a file on your laptop or in your email (or even a physical folder) with things you’re proud of. Maybe it’s an email from your supervisor telling you that you did a good job on something. It can be a project you enjoyed, a huge challenge you overcame, positive feedback from a customer, or anything else that makes you feel great.

9. Make a vision board or gallery wall.

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I don’t mean on Pinterest. I mean go to Target, get a corkboard and some magazines, and go to town. You might be in a rut because you’re having trouble visualizing a lifestyle that inspires you. Or, if you have a creative project you’ve been struggling with (for me, it’s my master’s thesis), make a vision board specifically for that project. Putting together images that inspire you can help you see for yourself what direction to take.

10. Go outside.

The simple action of leaving your apartment can work wonders. A five-minute walk around your neighborhood, a park, the mall, or your college campus might make a world of difference in helping you feel refreshed and motivated. Even if it’s just a coffee run. One small step for Starbucks, one giant leap for your creative well-being.


What do you do when you’re feeling stuck? Let me know if you have any tricks or tips!

XO,

CC

Breaking into your dream industry

We’ve all got dreams about where we want to be. For some, it’s the beach. For others, it’s In-N-Out (me, 90% of the year when I’m away at school in Missouri). And for so many, it’s working in the fashion and beauty industry. Which happens to be one of the hardest, most competitive fields to be in.

Many people ask me how I ended up doing PR for fashion and beauty retailers. The simple answer to give is that if you’re passionate enough about something, the rest follows. I’ve always been inspired by fashion retailers, magazines and bloggers, and I was naturally doing my thing following online fashion retailers when I discovered NTYLS. They just happened to be hiring for a Marketing Communications Intern. I just happened to love their style and their story. And the founders just happened to love my style and story when we met over coffee.

But that’s not the whole way it happens. Yes, I got totally lucky, but if I hadn’t been actively searching for places to draw inspiration from, and if I hadn’t put myself out there, and if I hadn’t spent a thousand hours working hard on my writing and marketing skills, there’s no way I would’ve gotten my first fashion gig. And there’s no way that gig would have led to my next gig at Ulta Beauty, my big break in the beauty industry, or Ketchum, my big break in the agency side of PR.

Landing your dream job in the place you’re passionate about is completely possible, even probable. But the pieces of your puzzle won’t fall into place unless you get the pieces first. Here are my pointers for working hard and sending good vibes to the universe:

  • Be genuine. Before I was hired at Ulta Beauty, one of my interviewers asked me who my favorite beauty bloggers were, and what my favorite makeup brands were (of course I said the Urban Decay Naked Palette, like the majority of girls in the United States). If you really do care about the industry, you’ll have no problem being enthusiastic and knowledgeable. And your employers will see it.
  • Search for opportunities, and make doors open even if they look closed. An amazing job isn’t going to drop into your lap one day while you’re eating your In-N-Out burger, unless you look like a model and a scout discovers you, in which case, can I switch lives with you for a year before I go back to eating In-N-Out? If you’re a normal person, you’re going to need to dig, dig, dig for opportunities. Make a list of places you’d love to work for. Keep an eye out for openings, or even reach out and pitch your talent to them. You never know when someone might need you. When I got the Ulta internship, it’s because my eyes were open and I saw the LinkedIn job posting, not because a recruiter plucked me from obscurity.
  • Work, work, work, work, work. Says Rihanna. Listen to her. Yes, it should be fun pursuing your passion, but it also comes with developing serious skills. The most successful people spend a lot of their free time doing the hustle instead of watching Netflix, and the people who say you’re too obsessed with your career are the people who are in disbelief when you end up landing your dream. Practice, practice, practice, and you’ll find yourself rising above everyone else who just does their required work and calls it a day.
  • Find a support system. I would not be blogging about reaching my dream career if I wasn’t surrounded by friends and family who are 110% behind me and my craziness. My boyfriend, bless his heart, knows to expect my frantic phone calls about things he knows nothing about (such as the Urban Decay Naked Palette). And he knows how important it is that I do what it takes to make things happen. Nothing can replace that, and you need it.
  • Figure out what sets you apart. What are you good at, that other people aren’t? For me, it’s being able to learn a lot of info in a little bit of time. Or walking into a room and getting along with just about any stranger there. Or putting myself into anyone’s shoes so I can write from their perspective. These things are hard for many people, and I use it to my advantage when seeking out opportunities. Find your unique strengths, write them down somewhere, remember them when you write cover letters, go to interviews, or go to the office.
  • Always send positive energy. Attitude is everything, and when you’re going for a competitive field, so many people want your spot that nobody with a negative attitude ever makes it. When you love the universe, the universe loves you right back. It’s a simple concept that everyone knows, but not everyone can practice.

XO,

CC

Continue building your career at school

It can be frustrating spending the summer in the ~adult world~ at an internship, only to have to go back to school in the fall. I’ve spent the past three summers doing internships, and every time I went back to school, it felt like I was putting my life on hold instead of getting ahead. But this isn’t the right way to think (you are in school to get your degree and therefore get ahead, after all), and you can still take advantage of your time in school by developing new skills and gaining different experience.

Which sounds like bullshit, but I am not here to bullshit you. Some people spend college doing the minimum, which involves skipping lectures and selling your textbooks halfway through the semester to buy a burger (guilty as charged on the latter). You are going to spend it possibly doing those things, but also still growing on a personal and professional level. You can have it all. You can enjoy a burger bought using blood textbook money and simultaneously become extremely hireable.

Sound too hard? Here are a few different plans of action for continuing your career while still making it to class and slaying that degree:

Plan A: Continue your work for the company you interned at

If you have a strong desire to keep working your internship and think you can handle it (school is, like, hard sometimes), ask if there’s a way you can continue after class. If you’e in the area, you can offer to stay on part-time at the office, or you can help out remotely. I had one internship that let me extend my internship through fall and work virtually from school, since I didn’t have to physically be in the office to do my job effectively. It will depend on your industry, relationship with the company, and geographical/time constraints.

Pro tip: Give them a reason to let you stay on– pitch your contributions and show them that they still need you!

Plan B: Freelance for local businesses and nonprofits

If continuing the internship isn’t an option, you can also take on freelance work. Into music and event promotion? Offer to help out your local concert venue. Enjoy shopping and social media? Ask around at the fashion boutiques in your town to see what you can do for their Instagram. Do you already feel passionate about a nonprofit in your area, and think you can contribute your professional talents to their cause? Volunteer on a whole new level. My sorority works with the Alzheimer’s Association, for example, and I would love to do PR for them while I’m in grad school.

Plan C: Work on your resume and personal brand

This actually should’t be a Plan C; it should just always be an ongoing focus as you start out in your career. It takes serious time and energy to update your LinkedIn profile, re-design your resume, maintain a personal website and construct a portfolio. Or at least, if you’re doing all of these things right. In school, you’ll have more time on your hands than when you’re working a full time job, so take this as an opportunity to spend time on yourself.

Also, remember that you just finished your internship, so it’s important to update everything with that new position under your belt! Know it’s a pain. Just do it.

Plan D: Learn and develop new skills

At your internship, did you realize you could work on certain areas to make you stronger in that industry? Now is the time to work on those areas. I learned over one summer that Excel spreadsheets are a major part of entry-level work in PR (Surprise! Sometimes your dream job involves things you thought you were avoiding). So now I know to focus more on learning the ins and outs of Excel, and it’ll make me an even stronger candidate since many PR/journalism/communication majors don’t think to learn it. There are plenty of online resources for teaching yourself skills, and taking the time to develop those skills while everyone else was snoozing through class will set you apart.

2017-2018 is going to be an amazing school year, and you can make it an amazing professional year, too!

XO,

CC

 

 

How I Became a Morning Person

Most articles will tell you that one of the most common habits of CEOs and successful people is that they start their day early. What the article doesn’t tell you is that successful people pretty much have no choice.

Or rather, they did have a choice at some point– back when they were an intern, maybe, and they could either go the extra mile or not.

I have this theory that being good at your job is not as much about talent as it is about time management. And mornings are the ultimate time for time management. It sucks at first, but getting up just an hour earlier puts an extra hour of time back in your day. It’s like a freebie.

No one is bugging you.

The time from around 5-8a.m. is all yours. You can do whatever you need to do– work out, grab coffee, get a project done, or God forbid, eat a healthy breakfast for once. All without a single text or email.

Mornings don’t sound all that bad when I put it that way, do they?

But it’s not easy getting yourself in the habit, which is why not everyone does mornings. Everyone can do mornings, though. It just takes a few tricks.

Turn down the AC.

When you wake up and it’s freezing outside your bed, that does not make you want to get out of bed.

Turn up the coffee.

I mean, you probably knew this tip was coming. You can’t exactly wake up and smell the coffee unless there’s like, actually coffee. Coffee is a morning drink (for most people that aren’t me and only drink coffee once a day) for a reason- it motivates you to get your butt out of bed and at least a few steps into your kitchen. Or Starbucks. Whatever it takes.

Make it easier on yourself to get ready.

Figure out your outfit the night before. If you’re going to the gym, set out your clothes and shoes in advance. It sounds dumb, but

Eat a good breakfast (or at least a passable one).

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Were those stock photos enough for you?

No?

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Still not convinced?

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Aha. Thought so.

One of the perks of perking up in the early AM is having time to get yourself a decent breakfast. Food is an excellent motivator for just about anything.

Go to bed early.

I am a bit hypocritical in this advice. Sleep is not my strong suit. But it’s super important to get yourself in bed at least by 11 to be able to wake up early. Common sense, yeah, but suddenly it’s 2 a.m. and you have no idea why you’re still up writing a blog post. Whoops.

Lose the alarm.

Seriously, it sucks. Use a song instead. A song you like but are okay with not liking, since you’ll hear the sound of an alarm every time you hear it. I used to use “Amber” by 311, but it was so relaxing I sometimes slept through it. So. Don’t do that.

Make it a habit.

Once you’re consistent, your body will get adjusted to the rhythm and it’ll be second nature to be one step ahead of the world. Grab yourself a coffee for being so damn on top of it.

Does anyone else have pointers for becoming a morning person?

XO,

CC

 

 

Interning after graduating: Is it worth it?

So you just graduated. What now?

Well, some may argue that it’s time to find a job. I agree with that– eventually. Because to find a job, you might need to consider an internship first.

A few reasons NOT to intern after you graduate:

You already have a great job lined up.

The internships you’ve gotten are unpaid (I advise against unpaid internships; in my opinion you should be doing real work and therefore should be paid. If you aren’t getting paid, you don’t be doing real work, and then what’s the point?)

You’re not trying to work.

A few reasons to intern after you graduate:

Your dream company hires entry level employees from their interns (this is a commonality in the PR/marketing/advertising industry, and I’ve seen it in plenty of others like accounting). 

You want to try out a career path before committing to it.

You’re breaking into a competitive industry.

You want to learn more about a company to see if you fit in.

It’s paid.

You’re going to graduate school and want to get experience over the summer.

You’ll gain experience that you would also gain as an entry-level employee (very true of my internship experiences).

You’re trying a new city.

You’re trying to be employed.

Graduation is merely a ceremony and you aren’t quite ready to be a full time adult yet so an internship is a good trial run for the real world.

Yeah, that one.


The bottom line: An internship is often a stepping stone to a full-time job in the career you want, so don’t overlook it. A few months as an intern will be 100% worth it in the end, especially when you might otherwise be spending those few months looking for a job. 
Remember that even med school graduates start as interns in hospitals. If you’ve learned anything from Grey’s Anatomy, it’s that we all need to start somewhere. And one day you’ll blink and be the world’s best neurosurgeon or something.

See, internships aren’t all bad.

XO,

A

How NOT to get it done

You’ll find a ton of articles telling people how to be more productive and get things done. Well, here I am to tell you how I don’t get things done.

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If I don’t write it down, I don’t get it done.

Think you’ll remember that mental note? Think again. Everything will fly right out of your head the minute after you tell your boss, “Yeah, I can definitely do that!” And then you don’t.

Use a Post-It. Keep a notebook on you. Set reminders on your phone. Whatever you need to do to get it out of your head and into the physical realm ASAP.

If I don’t tell someone I’m doing it, I don’t get it done.

It’s not always enough to hold yourself accountable. If someone knows what you need to do, even if it’s just your roommate, you’ll still feel more responsible for doing it.

If I don’t block off time, I don’t get it done.

Literally schedule time on your calendar to do a task. Treat it like an important meeting.

If I don’t list my tasks in order of importance, I don’t get a single thing done, I just sit there and panic at all the things I need to do and then don’t do anything.

Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. I’ll say it one more time: Prioritize. Categorize emails based on level of importance– this is like dividing and conquering, because once you split up your tasks, you’re mentally putting things into more manageable chunks. It’s still the same amount of work, but because you’re separating your tasks into groups, you can tackle one group at a time without feeling overwhelmed.

Once the panic sets in, it’s hard to stay focused, and you’re so distracted worrying about the things you need to do that you don’t do any of it.

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If I don’t stay organized, I don’t get it done. 

Because if you lose the thing you were supposed to do, you can’t do it.

If I don’t get it started, I don’t get it done. 

The hardest part is when you actually start doing the thing. Until then you just procrastinate and do other things.

If I don’t have coffee in my system, I don’t get it done.

XO,

A

Motivation Monday: Showing Up

In honor of both Father’s Day and my dad’s birthday (they’re back to back, which means I get two excuses in a row to tell him how awesome he is), I’m going to start the week off with some of his advice: Most of success is just being there.

Whenever he says that, I think he’s referring to the famous Woody Allen quote– 80 percent of life is showing up. Or maybe the Thomas Edison quote about genius being 1 percent inspiration, and 99 percent perspiration. Well, whatever the percentage, one thing is obvious: To do well in something, half the battle is showing up (or more than half…60 percent? Oh, forget it).

To do well in something, half the battle is showing up.

Today was one of my roughest days as an intern so far this summer, which is saying a lot, because interning at a large PR agency is no joke. I had to hide in a bathroom stall for five minutes to do deep-breathing exercises and pretend for a second that email did not exist. When you watch the work pile up, and your day get longer and longer, and your chances of making it home in time for The Bachelorette get slimmer and slimmer than the Bachelorette herself, it’s easy to feel like giving up and calling it a day. And why not? Why not settle for leaving tasks for the next day?

Don’t let that screen stay blank.

You already know the answer, because you’re reading this blog. You don’t settle. You sure could. But deep down, you know that buckling down and tackling that to-do list for two more hours means the world to your team. You know that you are there to do your job, and do it well. And you know that as long as you are there– as long as you haven’t walked out of that office– you are already so much closer to your goals than everyone that marched out at 5 p.m. Yes, it’s demoralizing to be the last one sitting in a dark, quiet cube on a Monday night. But it can be empowering instead. Put on headphones and blast whatever EDM it takes to get in a zone. Grab a coffee (obvi). And chug away, both on the coffee and the work.

Mondays are the worst because they’re about showing up. It’s so hard to show up after a weekend of not showing up. But once you’re there, you’ve already made it halfway/80 percent/99 percent depending on who you ask. I firmly believe that the first person in the office and the last person out are both the people that will be taking the corner office one day, if they don’t already have it.

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They say work smarter, not harder. But sometimes, it doesn’t take smarts to get somewhere; it just takes tenacity. Thomas Edison would know. And if he can invent the lightbulb, well, you can probably fill out a spreadsheeet for another hour or two.

Xo,

A