Friday, June 28, 2013

How to win BIG scholarships in community college

Below is a video dedicated to El Centro College's Phi Theta Kappa chapter, Sigma Tau! They asked me some questions about winning BIG scholarships that they wanted answered in video form for their member and officer retreat tomorrow!

And here are some links for things I mention in the video:
Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship
Facebook Page

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

101 Secrets for Your Twenties

Disclosure: The author of the book I'm referencing in this post mailed me a free copy of his book and asked that I write about it if I liked it, with the full understanding that I was under no obligation to write about it, especially if I didn't like it. Turns out, I loved it and wanted to share it with you. I was in no way paid to do this and all opinions are my own. I only share resources on this blog that I personally think will be helpful to my readers. 

I got Paul Angone's new book 101 Secrets For Your Twenties in the mail yesterday. I opened it up and read it completely in one sitting, with laughter punctuating every few minutes. 

I'm currently twenty-six, so I loved the way this book outlines the twenty-something crisis with humor and a healthy dose of reality, plus heaping helpings of hope.  

My first few years out of college left me feeling frustrated and depressed; you could often find me gorging on Oreos and Full House re-runs, wondering if I'd ever feel like myself again. 

I read a lot of books about the twenty-something crisis during that time, but none made me feel like what I was going through was part of the process of getting to where I eventually wanted to go

A lot of them felt like they were saying "yes, there is a 20-something crisis, aren't you glad everyone is miserable and it's not just you?" I wanted more. I wanted hope. I wanted something to do. I also needed to laugh. 

Paul's book will definitely make you laugh, make you feel less alone, appreciate this time of live, and give you courage to take the risks necessary to take your life where you want it to go. 

Below are some of my favorite secrets and tips in the book:

#2 The possibility for greatness and embarrassment both exist in the same space. If you are not willing to be embarrassed, you're probably not willing to be great.

#3 Making and keeping friendships in your 20s is harder than G.I. Joe's abs.

Giving everything you have to find the right job is the most important job you'll ever have.

#22 The grass is always greener on the other side, until you get there and realize it's because of all the manure.

From the "22 Signs You're Having a Quarter-Life Crisis" list: You glare at your cat as you get ready for work and say "Gosh I wish I had your life.

#43 The most dangerous job you can have in your 20s is a comfortable one. 

#99 Success in your 20s is more about setting the table than enjoying the feast.

I watched a special on TV billionaire Simon Cowell once where he was being interviewed about the unprecedented success of American Idol. He sat back in his interview chair and, looking sincere and thoughtful, told the interviewer that the best part of the experience was really the beginning, when they were working long hours, taking risks, and had no idea if what they were doing would be successful. That part, he said, was the most fun. 

Growth is painful, but looking back, even billionaires find working to make the money was way more exciting than having it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What to expect when starting college

Starting college can feel scary, especially if you are the first in your family to go. I've had a few first gen students e-mail me over the past few weeks about how nervous they are about starting college this fall. This video was inspired by them. :) 

How to get a job where you meet people like Jay-Z & Lenny Kravitz

This summer I connected with some amazing professionals who were willing to share their wisdom. Each profile will feature how their first job out of college led to their amazing careers today (that they love, by the way), as well as their advice to help you do the same. 

First Job Profile: Chris McDonald, Senior Producer of The Tavis Smiley Show

 1) What was your first job out of college and how did you get it? 

My first job out of college was a production assistant for the CNN nightly news series "The World Today." I had interned with CNN and after I graduated I just went in and asked for a job. Luckily we had built such rapport during my internship they were gracious enough to employ me as a Production Assistant. 

2) What was the most important thing you learned from your first job? 

I took a lot away from my first job, but one bit of experience remains, and it's a doctrine I continue to live by.

CNN is a big company, so if you work there you deal with a great number of people. I worked out of the Los Angeles Bureau, so the big anchors were always coming through town. Since I was always eager to learn, I pretty much became the designated P.A. for all the big anchors, including Wolf Blitzer, Connie Chung, Lou Dobbs, Soledad O'Brien and more. 

Some anchors their producers have egos, and these people tend to make their power known by stepping on the people below them. In my case, it was me. 

Like many large organizations, the hierarchy was very evident and I found myself getting stepped on. I bottled up how awful it felt and vowed to never be that way to anyone working under me.

Yet for every egomaniac, there's a producer who remembers where they came from and is always open to offer help and advice. 

The funny thing is when I left CNN and got a job with some leverage and power, I was in a position to help an old producer at CNN with a huge favor. She was one of the 'good' producers, so I stuck my neck out for her and gave her her solid.  

I learned to be gracious to everyone you work with in business, and treat them equally no matter the position, because your paths will cross again someday and the tables will be turned. 

Chris with Lenny Kravitz
3) What did you do to leverage your first job to help you get where you are today?

When you come out of college, there is an edge you have above the older working crowd - you're used to burning the midnight oil with term papers and reading hordes of books.

Thus, you have bounds of energy that the average adult no longer possesses. If you're ambitious, take advantage of that! It is a skill that has legs for miles!

I realized that very early on in the beginnings of my work years, and I applied myself in any way I could. Fortunately for me, I worked for a company with my facets to it - CNN had an entertainment unit, a news unit, a sports unit, a business unit and CNN Espanol. 

I went out of my way to work overtime and offer my production assistance to all those departments, and they complied. In doing so, I learned a lot! 

More importantly, I developed trustworthy working relationships with the Los Angeles CNN bureau across the board. Moreover, they started noticing my tenacity and allowed me to work beyond my title. 

Although I eventually earned the title of researcher, my job tasks extended beyond that by writing news reels, associate producing, producing and even conducting interviews on the red carpet and backstage at movie premieres and award shows. 

This enabled me to color my resume so much more than I could have if I simply stuck to the parameters of my job title. 

4) What advice do you have for a recent graduate who is struggling to find their first job after college? 

I always give the same advice that was given to me: you're young and you have the whole world ahead of you! Life is indeed short, but it's the most abused statement about our mortality. You actually have time! You're new to the job force, so your canvas is very large and blank!

You may begin painting a pretty portrait over here, but if you splotch it up, scribble it away and move further down your large blank canvas and start fresh. A lot of people, including myself, expect to come out of college and get that dream job right away. There is a TINY percentage of people that happens to. The rest of us have to work extra hard for several years to get there. 

And that's a rough notion to stomach, because even the most humble of students come out of college with a sense of entitlement - why wouldn't you? You just paid so much for good schooling; your newly acquired knowledge is fresh; you're up-to-date with the latest technology and the person you'll be working for has never heard of it. Frustrating, right? 

But let me tell you... in any industry there is absolutely no knowledge like years of experience and hard work. Take your time, work hard, and your time will eventually come.

Don't get discouraged either when it doesn't happen in three years when you're 25. That's called a quarter-life crises. You still have lots of time ahead of you. You'll get there. I promise. 

Thank you Chris for some of the BEST advice in this series so far! You can check out the Tavis Smiley show on PBS! :)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Your morning routine in the summer still matters

Even if you work over the summer (as I do), there is something about these warm months and the anticipation of fireworks and cookouts that make us all want to slow down a little bit.

Slowing down is good, especially if you are a busy college student. You need that time to recuperate. 

However, most college students have to work and go to school year-round. It can be difficult to find that relaxation time.

And sometimes those who do have that free time in the summer tend to let go completely, causing boredom.

I've struggled with all of the above at some point in my life.

I realized today that I'd let my morning routine go a little bit this June. I had been jumping right into work, letting random things distract and guide my day, and - the cardinal morning sin - checking my e-mail from my phone right after turning off my alarm. 

So this morning I said "Isa, what the heck are you doing? Get back on the metaphorical horse, girl!" (See, not doing your morning routine can make you a little crazy).

My particular routine includes writing in a journal, reading my goals for the year, reading a few pages of the non-fiction book I'm working on while eating breakfast, and going through my to-do list to choose the top three things I need to accomplish that day.

Make your routine your own, and then do it. Every morning. Even in the summer. 

Centering yourself each morning will ensure that you can end the day feeling refreshed and accomplished

Don't let your summer slip away. It's still a great time to grow. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Summer Reading List That Will Change Your Life

Whether you're gearing up to attend college for the first time this Fall or just graduated, checking out any one of these books this summer will improve your college and career opportunities in amazing ways. 

If you're really brave and super-awesome, read them all (libraries are the best!). You won't regret it. 

(note: no one has paid me to write about these books - I've read them all and just truly love them and think you will too). 

How to Win at College
How to Become a Straight-A Student
Say This, Not THAT to Your Professor
Community College Success (c'mon, you knew that was coming.... ;))

Life After College
The Start-up of You
What Should I Do with My Life?
Making Good
Shake the World
So Good They Can't Ignore You

The Alchemist

What would you add to the list? Please share in the comments below or on the Facebook wall!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

AskIsa: My ultimate formula for getting the best internships (& figuring out what you want to do with your life)

From the Ask Isa inbox:

Dear Isa,

Do you have any sources for finding internships? I'm a math major and am interested in civil engineering, although I am not 100% on that. I feel that getting a little experience in any engineering/math field would help me figure out exactly what I want to do. 


Internship Seeker

Dear Internship Seeker,

You are right on about starting to get some experience to figure out what you want to do.

Some of the internship websites I know about are and; you can also search for "civil engineering internship." I also recommend searching the websites in some of the most well-known corporations in your field to research their internship programs. 

The best internships are highly competitive and doing research early can make all the difference. 

The best thing to do is to start connecting with professionals via informational interviews (something I talk about how to do extensively in the 3rd section of my book.)

Here are the basics of the formula: 

1) Start a LinkedIn Profile
2) Click "advanced search"
3) Put "Civil Engineer" in the job title section
4) Enter in your zip code and choose a 10 or 25 mile radius
5) Click "search"
6) Review the profiles of the civil engineers in your area. What companies are they working for? If you can see their resumes, find out where they got started.
7) Choose one or two people whose jobs and/or companies sound really cool to you and request to connect with them. You can choose "friend," and then in the request message section write something personal telling that person why you admire their job and that you'd like to connect with them to be able to learn from them.
8) If they accept your request, send them a direct message requesting to meet with them for 10-15 minutes in person to ask a few questions about how they got to where they are today, what they like about their job, and any advice they might have when it comes to trying to get an internship in their field.
9) If they say yes, email them back with a few days/times you are free, ask them to pick the 15 minute window that works best for them, and then ask for directions for the most convenient place for them to meet (usually their office).
10) Then show up on time, dress professionally, and don't go longer than 15 minutes unless the person insists they want to talk longer. Ask questions. And listen, listen listen. Take notes.
11) Follow up via e-mail and/or a handwritten card and say thank you.

Most professionals will be so impressed that you've done this that they will offer you an internship directly, though you should never ask. This is just about learning, and if that's all you get it's so worth it. They will also know the best ways to secure good internships in their industry. 

Even if their company doesn't have any internships available at the moment, in your follow up email, ask if you can job shadow them for a few hours one day to see what their work is really like.

You'll be amazed at how much people will be honored that someone admires them and wants to learn from their work, and how much they will do to help you. Try it and let me know what happens!



Internship Seeker's updated response is below - things took a cool turn: 

Isa thank you so much for your advice! 

Looking at civil engineers’ profiles on LinkedIn helped me realize what I want to major in: Nutrition! I know I probably sound crazy, switching from talking to you about engineering to wanting to be a nutrition major, but I truly believe it is what I want to do. 

The Civil Engineering jobs did not sound interesting to me at all. I realized that if I were to pursue engineering I would be stuck in something that doesn’t really interest me. 

 Additionally, I talked to my uncle who went to college for civil engineering, and what stuck out to me was that he said “math is fun.” Math isn’t fun for me, and it surely wouldn’t get better at a four year school. I think I was focusing on the money aspect of engineering. Sadly.

But these two things (LinkedIn and interviewing my uncle) made me stop and think of what really interests me, and it’s nutrition. 

Nutrition is fun to me. I always am reading a book about nutrition, or researching it, or focusing on cooking something healthy. I’m even registered to go to a convention about nutrition in Georgia this fall. And one of my friends noticed that I bring up the topic of nutrition quite often. Nutrition is what truly interests me. So I hope I don’t sound crazy to you.

As I replied to Internship Seeker, she doesn't sound crazy at all. I told her this is one of the best possible things that can happen when you being your job-research process. 

LinkedIn-research, internships, and informational interviews are just as much figuring out what you don't want to do as figuring out what you want to do. Most people don't figure this out until they're stuck doing what they don't want to do.

Happy internship and what-do-I-want-to-do-with-my-life searching to you all! :)

Monday, June 17, 2013

How to use what you learn in your first job to create your own

This summer I connected with some amazing professionals who were willing to share their wisdom. Each profile will feature how their first job out of college led to their amazing careers today (that they love, by the way), as well as their advice to help you do the same.

First Job Profile: Douglas Brown, Founder of CDB Productions

I met Douglas during my first job out of college. I was working for a community college and Douglas was shooting one of our TV commercials (that I happened to be in.) 

It was my first time on TV and I was pretty nervous - Douglas made me feel at ease and was truly the person who gave me confidence to do all the things I do on video now. He's an awesome guy who's created his own successful production company with a client list that includes organizations like 

ABC Television, Discover Channel, Disney Channel, ESPN, and MTV Network.

1) What was your first job out of college and how did you get it?

My first job out of college was as a television news Videographer/Editor at WOWK-TV News. During my college years, I worked part-time for WOWK as a way to pay for my college education. 

Like many college students, it was necessary for me to work during my college years. Unlike many students today, I was able to secure a job within my field as a Freshman in college. This experience proved invaluable to my future success in the television productions industry.

2) What was the most important thing you learned from your first job?

I learned so much from working for WOWK-TV, not just how to technically handle my job, but, more importantly, how to deal with responsibility. 

I would say the most important thing I learned was how to professionally deal with colleagues, co-workers and management to become a useful team member. Working within a team is a skill that is often overlooked and becoming a useful team member is an asset that will last throughout your professional career.

3) What did you to leverage your first job to help you get where you are today?

My first job taught me the "business" of television production. I was expected to technically execute my job, therefore I needed to work hard and stay current with all the ever changing industry trends, however I quickly learned the business side as well. Soon I was able to leverage my skill set to start a production company.

4) What advice do you have for a recent graduate who is struggling to find their first job after college?

My advice is to find something you love, first and foremost, and "do it"! In my case, I loved photography. Photography led to a job as a television news Videographer. Nobody taught me photography, I learned on my own because I loved taking photos and working in the darkroom. I was confident in my abilities as a photographer which allowed me the self-confidence to secure my first job.

Thanks Douglas!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Video: The 2 options you have after failure

Best Career Book for Class of 2013

What do the principles of entrepreneurship have to teach you about your career, even if you don't want to start your own business?


That is the message of the incredible book I just finished reading by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and entrepreneur Ben CasanochaThe Start-up of You.

For the past year I have been living a dream job filled with risk, adventure, and airplanes. If you had asked me when I graduated college if I would have been doing what I'm doing now, I would have just laughed and said that sounds like someone else. 

For the past year almost everyone I meet asks me some form of the question "where do you want to go with your career?"

I'm often caught off guard because, honestly, I don't know what the future holds. I love that, but it also scares me sometimes. 

My answer to that question usually goes something like this: "I don't know what will come next; I could have never known I'd be where I am now. My only plan is to keep doing what I did to get this far -  learn like crazy, meet lots of people who are way cooler than me, and work really hard."

The Start-up of You reinforced that this kind of present-focused, people-focused, and learning-focused "plan" is a good thing (whew - thanks Reid and Ben for making me feel better!).

The truth is, you do want to have some direction, but you must be open to change. If not, opportunities will pass you by. 

We don't know what the jobs of tomorrow will look like, so the best thing you can do for your career is to focus on learning today. 

Every time someone asks you "what's next" (which they will a lot - it's a human-nature kind of question) take that time to think about what you are doing today

Are you meeting with an interesting person? Are you reading a new book? Are you applying for a new and challenging learning experience? Are you volunteering for projects that interest you at your current job? 

The best way to guarantee a compelling and exciting career for your future is to learn like crazy and surround yourself with people you admire. 

Also, read The Start-up of You. It will pump you up for your next adventure, and give you the tools you need to get started. 

The adventure (and the learning) has just begun. :)

Disclosure: Unless stated otherwise at the beginning of a post, any book I recommend is because I've read it, loved it, and couldn't keep it to myself. I only share books I think will help you and that I love like crazy. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ask Isa: "Can I reach my dreams if I had a low HS GPA?"

From the Ask Isa inbox:

Dear Isa,

I want to go into investment banking and work on Wall Street some day, but here is thing: my high school GPA is low, I've never participated in any activities, and I don't have all the prerequisites for a 4-year school. 

I've decided to start out at a junior college for a year and hopefully transfer to the University of Pennsylvania (as you can see I have high standards).

Is there still a possibility that I can get into the school if I change things around when I get into junior college, or should I just forget about Penn and look for somewhere different?


Still a chance?

Dear Still a Chance,

I love that you have high standards and I say go for Penn. However, since I'm not an admissions officer I'm not an expert on how they evaluate transfer students' high school background and what is needed to get admitted (I suggest starting your research by reading everything on their transfer site). 

As soon as you can, visit the campus, go on a tour, and meet with an admissions officer so you can ask any questions you have. Ask for brutal honesty.

Especially be sure to ask them to describe their ideal community college transfer student (e.g. what GPA would you need to have, would it be better to transfer after one year or after getting your A.A. degree, what activities would they want to see, etc.)

And even if after all that research you find going to that school won't be a reality because of your high school past, I say keep on going and start looking into the next-best college you'd like to attend. The process of researching options in this way will serve you in every aspect of your life. 

It's never too late to reach your dreams. The key is to be open to how you get there. I believe 100% you can make it to Wall Street if you really want it and put in the work.

Community college is a great way to turn your academic past around. I've heard so many stories of students who didn't do well in high school who then  get a 4.0 in community college and transfer to a selective university. I believe in most cases low grades are simply a product the natural unmotivated state that results from not seeing how your current actions can help you get somewhere you want to go.  

Since you've figured out what you want to do and seem excited about it, you should have the motivation and focus you need to give your 100% to community college. 

I also recommend reading How to Become a Straight-A Student and my book Community College Success to ensure you're using the right strategies. Pay close attention to the third section of my book which teaches how to reach out to mentors who have your dream job (e.g. you should be connecting with people in finance as soon as possible, and start researching how to get those coveted internships). 

You can do this. Don't give up. Explore every option. And remember there are many avenues to get to where you want to go. People who set big goals, as long as they're not rigid about how they achieve them, succeed far more than they ever would have had they not set goals at all.

Go for it! :)



Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How to turn social media 'friends' into real friends

I'm a huge fan of social media. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Vine, LinkedIn - I love it all.  

Since I work from home, social media has become essential not only to building relationships with new clients, but also in helping me keep my sanity. During the slower travel times, working from home makes me miss people. I think of Twitter as my morning 'watercooler' time. :)

But what I love most about social media is when I meet a friend I converse with mostly online, in person. Social media connections become so much deeper when you make the effort to meet in person. Nothing compares. 

Try it out this week. Even if it's with a friend who lives just a few miles away but whom you rarely see. :)

Monday, June 3, 2013

First Job: From Barista to Executive

This summer I connected with some amazing professionals who were willing to share their wisdom. Each profile will feature how their first job out of college led to their amazing careers today (that they love, by the way), as well as their advice to help you do the same.

First Job Profile: Kaycee Kiesz, Diversity & Global Inclusion Manager

1) What was your first job out of college and how did you get it? 

I began working part-time as a Barista at Starbucks while attending College pursuing my CPA. My first role after college was as an Auditor. Auditing our daily Starbucks Store sales. 

2) What was the most important thing you learned from your first job? 

Network. Build mutually-beneficial authentic relationships throughout the organization and with your community. 

3) What did you to leverage your first job to help you get where you are today?

Volunteer. Volunteer to work on as many cross-functional teams and projects as possible. Volunteer with non-profits and give back to your community.

4) What advice do you have for recent graduates who are struggling to find their first job after college? 

Connect. Connect with as many people as possible, in person, in social media - create a LinkedIn profile and follow companies/brands you admire on Twitter. Many companies post positions on these sites and recruit from them. 


I want to say a huge thank you to Kaycee for doing this interview. I don't know Kaycee personally, but reached out to her on LinkedIn. Of all of the professionals I reached out to for this, she was the first to respond. It means a lot to us, Kaycee. Thanks!!!

More about Kaycee from her Starbucks Bio:

Kaycee joined Starbucks Retail Operations in 1992. Over her tenure she has been responsible for managing many core partner programs...Kaycee currently manages our Partner Network program which provides a platform for partners to make change, build community, increase engagement and develop professionally.

Kaycee holds two business degrees with emphasis in Business and Accounting, [and] a certificate in Intercultural Competence...Over her 20-year history with Starbucks, Kaycee has organized hundreds of community and partner engagement events; she recently completed a 3-year term on Seafair’s Board of Directors, and is a certified Coffee Master. She enjoys iced decaf americanos on week-days and on weekends indulges in decaf grande non-fat lattes.

Kaycee was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2001. She has embraced this challenge by becoming an advocate for research, friend to others newly diagnosed, a top-fundraiser and spokesperson for the National MS Society. In her spare time, Kaycee enjoys travel, yoga and humanitarian efforts. 

In the past 24 months, she has traveled with the YMCA to Thailand to build a school for children with intellectually disabilities, helped plan a wellness yoga retreat in Bali, and hiked Sugar Loaf Mountain in Brazil.