Alyssa J Freitas

March 28, 2017

How To Rock A Networking Event

Confession time: I am embarrassed by how long this draft has sat without me adding a single word aside from the title. Literally years. I thought to myself, "Oh, this is a valuable topic to discuss, I should totally do this" and then for some reason I always found myself with something else to write about.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Does the word "networking" make your skin crawl? Find out how to rock any networking event to build the most value for you and those you interact with
Here's the deal, "networking" can be uncomfortable, especially if you don't know your purpose. Often when you hear the word you may imagine a room full of people in stiff clothing, trying to balance drinks and appetizers, while shaking hands and handing out business cards and disingenuously interacting with one another. However, if you're doing it right, networking events can be great experiences where you meet and start to build relationships with others, and might even, dare I say it, have fun.

01. Know what you want to get out of it/give to others

This is the #1 most important step to make the most of a networking event: know why you're going. Seems obvious, right? But when you think about it, the answers will vary greatly depending on where you are in your career or job search and what sort of an event it is.

For example, suppose you are in a good place in your career and you want to learn about some new developments in your industry that you think may impact your clients. If this is the case, the reason you are going is to make connections with others who are trying to help clients like yours or even to meet people like your clients to see what sort of challenges they are facing and what they are most concerned about. Therefore, you are looking to both share and gather specific information, not to have general conversations and build relationships that may help down the road. This leads us into the second point of figuring out where to go to accomplish this goal.

02. Find the RIGHT event

Not all networking events are created equal. There are gatherings that are focused on a particular career, industry, geographic area, organization...the list goes on. Once you know what you are looking to give and gain from an event, you can narrow down the type.

When you're in school it is easy to find networking events related to your field of study and it's a good idea to do so sooner rather than later to build up your contacts and learn about your chosen career. By looking at flyers, visiting your school's website, and joining organizations you can be tuned into what is available.

Out in the real world, there can be events organized by your company, through a professional association, or through websites like Meetup (quick disclaimer: I haven't used Meetup myself, but I have heard great things about the site and fully intend on checking it out). Something my friend Calea does is combine her love of fitness with her networking. As a financial planner she helps people manage their investments and accounts, but she doesn't limit herself to meeting new clients in conventional business settings. Instead, she does what she is passionate about, meets like-minded individuals, and then works to see if there is a way that she can help them.

03. Be prepared


Sorry, but I couldn't resist a Disney reference haha. Once you know what type of event you're going to and your goals, it is a good idea to prepare and do your research. If you are going to a recruiting networking event you can research the companies ahead of time so you can ask thoughtful questions. You can make sure you have an easy way to exchange information, perhaps with business cards, and have a resume prepared. 

Getting yourself in the right mindset before is important too! Although you may feel nervous meeting new people, remember that everyone is in the same boat. Everyone wants to make great connections, learn, and have a valuable experience. To the extent that you can help others achieve this, make sure that you do (facilitating introductions, including others in conversations, etc) and it will be reciprocated.

If it helps you can ask a friend or colleague to go with you so you can work off of each other as you meet new people. However, I've found that going to events alone has been the most challenging and rewarding experiences, forcing me to venture outside of my comfort zone.

04. Challenge yourself

Speaking of being challenged, it can be helpful to make a goal for yourself. For instance, you can make it a goal to have three valuable conversations with people you do not know. Or perhaps make it your goal to learn about another upcoming event that will help in your development. Whatever your challenge may be, stick to it to push yourself to make the most of the event.

05. Reflect and followup 

This is an often overlooked step, but essential! Once you've had a networking experience take some time to reflect on what you learned, who you met, and what you can improve on/do differently moving forward. I love to journal (exhibit A and B) so I will write about what happened as I think through it. You may write like I do, make lists, or talk about it with someone else.

Once you've reflected you can think about those people who you should followup with. That could include sending them a LinkedIn request, a quick email, or something of the sort. When you followup make sure to reference the event where you met and something you spoke about. If there are any actionable items (for example, you told them you would forward an interesting article or put them in touch with someone else) make sure to do it as soon as possible. Being memorable includes being prompt so make sure you take advantage of the 24 hours following every event.

With these key steps you will be prepared to take on any event you find yourself at!

What is your best networking advice? How do you meet the right people and stand out?

-AJF   
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March 23, 2017

3 Ways To Prioritize Your Time

I'm working on a project for one of my classes where my group is conducting a survey. We asked our participants to estimate how much time they spend on social media. Since the project is not complete yet I won't be sharing any results, but it really got me thinking about how much time I dedicate to my phone.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Do you find social media takes over too much of your time? Or maybe you hop on here and there without realizing how much it ends up costing you. Here are three ways to reduce your social media usage and re-prioritize your time
From checking Instagram whenever my mind begins to wander, to my nightly viewing of YouTube subscriptions, I'm beginning to realize how much time social media collectively takes up in my day. As a lover of productivity and focusing on tasks that provide the highest value, I began to realize that social media was infringing much more than I would like. Unfortunately this isn't a new revelation; in fact, I've blogged about how to avoid time wasters before but it has crept its way back into my life. Whenever I am facing a challenge, blogging about it is my way of improving and I am guessing that some of you face this productivity trouble too! Here are some ways I've worked to address it that will help you out too :)

01. Designate Time

There is not a single part of me that wants to cut social media out completely. I still derive value from perusing Twitter and scrolling through Pinterest, but I can get the same enjoyment (and get a lot more work done) if it is designated to certain times of day.

Try to figure out when you experience a lull and use it as a break. Maybe right after lunch it's hard for you to get back into work, so set aside 15 minutes to take a look. I used to open up my social media right when I woke up, but now I am saving that for slow morning weekends and instead springing right out of bed during the week.

02. Minimize Who You Follow

I've posted about social media minimalism before and how to consume media consciously, but it's so important that it warrants repeating! I find that when I open Instagram I like to look at it until I get to the last post I saw. That means that the more people I follow the longer I will need to have the app open until I am "done." Does anyone else feel that way? Therefore, the less people you follow the less time you will spend looking through new content!

03. Know Your Purpose

There are a lot of great reasons to spend time on social media: gather inspiration, escape into a daydream, keep up with your favorite influencers and friends. But there are also some pretty bad reasons to be tied to your phone: comparing your life to others, using social media as a yard stick, constantly checking to see how many likes you get for validation. When you use social media for good purposes it will not become an imposition on your life and you will not be addicted to it. That's why it makes sense to continually evaluate and know your purpose so that you can make sure you are getting the most good out of your time!

There you have it, 3 ways to prioritize your time and fight against the pull of social media. Check out other productivity posts here, here, and here!

Do you have any advice on this topic? Anything that you find particularly tough?


-AJF
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March 21, 2017

Eat, Sleep, And Adventure In Cancun

I'm home! Somehow I managed to miss another snow storm and be in the heat instead (while that may sound great I actually love the cold and am so sad that I haven't been around. For the last storm I was in Florida, seen in this Life Lately post). Today I wanted to share with you my advice for where to eat, sleep, and explore in and around Cancun. I don't have a ton of photos because I am usually taking video now for my seasonal compilations (you can check out my YouTube channel here), but I'm including everything I have. The video including Cancun will come after graduation in May!
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Heading off to Cancun? Here's everything you need to know for a successful trip

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Eat

Ok, we're going to start off with the most important category first: food. Since this is a spring break college trip, budget was very important to me so I kept that in mind with all of my food choices. On the first day when we arrived we walked to a grocery store where I picked up big jugs of water (although the hotel water would most likely be safe, I didn't want to take any chances), bread, fruit, peanut butter, jelly, bread, pasta, sauce, and chips. This fed me for breakfast and lunch throughout the entire trip (and only cost $24) and then we went out for dinner each evening.

On the first night we went to what turned out to be our favorite place, Tacos y Tequila. The tacos were great, the servers were friendly, and the prices were just right. In fact, all of the meals we had were reasonably priced so that helped out my poor wallet.

On the second night we wanted to have a fancy meal so we went to an Argentinian steak house called Cambalache. This meal was expensive ($40+), but the atmosphere and service were to die for.

On the third night we went to Lighthouse and once again it was good food for a good price. It was only two doors down from Tacos y Tequila so we got a good sampling of what was in the area.

For the fourth night we went to El Fish Fritanga that was the cutest place by far, but my least favorite food.

On our final night we went back to Tacos y Tequila because we loved it so much!

I never get tired of Mexican food so this was a dream for me. Most dinners were around $10-$15 so you really can't go wrong.

Sleep (and get around)

I'm going to double up on this category because for sleep I can only account for the one place we stayed haha. My friend Tina's parents generously allowed us to use their Westin Lagunamar timeshare and it was a lovely place to stay. Once again, I took a ton of video but not a lot of pictures so you'll have to tune in later to check it out.

We spent a great deal of time on the resort property, so of course I had to find ways to occupy myself like with swimming and yoga!



In terms of getting around, when you first arrive at the Cancun airport and walk outside you will be met with tons of cab and shuttle companies trying to get your business. While I was able to negotiate with the cab driver to get a better rate, it would have been better to coordinate a cab through the hotel ahead of time. Also, make sure you bring a lot of cash with you that you can convert into pesos at the hotel. The rates were best there, but the ATM fees were astronomical so you'll want to avoid those.

When it came to getting around Cancun we either walked across the street where all of the restaurants were or took the city bus. Cancun is just one long strip so the bus is wicked easy. You can hop on at any stop, pay a dollar, and get off wherever you want.

Adventure

While drinking and lying on the beach is the main draw to Cancun, there are certainly other things to check out. I chose to go on an excursion to see Chichen Itza, one of the 7 wonders of the world! I booked the excursion through the hotel (I thought this was the safest option and was only $79) and left at 7am for one heck of a day. My guide Jesus was phenomenal and I was surprised to find that most of the people on the tour only spoke Spanish, there weren't too many Americans at all. This made it a bit tough to make friends, but I did find some later.


Our first stop was a Mayan village that had some authentic elements, but was more of a tourist trap than I would have liked. The second stop was swimming in the breathtaking Cenote Ik kil. The sinkhole was incredibly deep and beautiful and it was quite a magical experience and I felt like I was in a movie. I also got to partake in lovely meal (with flan dessert!) before getting back on the bus to head to the main attraction of Chichen Itza.

Oh. My. Goodness. This place was so amazing. It was built by the Mayans and is thousands and thousands of years old. We were separated into Spanish and English speakers so I finally got to make some friends :) After we saw the main sights, we were set loose on the property (fun fact: only 12% has been excavated so there is a lot to explore and so much more to be discovered) and I met two sweet girls from Missouri and their mother. We had a ton of fun walking around and I appreciated how inquisitive they were, just like me!  

After departing Chichen Itza we drove through the city of Valladolid and it was quite quintessential. I would love to go back and experience it on foot so that will be a stop for another time.

Another draw to Cancun is the nightlife. I only went out one evening (as you'll know if you're a long time reader, I don't drink) and it was amazing. We went to SeƱor Frog's and when we walked in we ran into my darling friend Nina and I was so very happy. I danced the night away, and even fulfilled one of my dreams of dancing on a bar! Taking the city bus back was a bit of an adventure, but in a group you're just fine.

So there you have it! Those are the highlights of my trip and some advice for your trip if you find yourself heading to Cancun.

Have you visited before? Any tips? Any plans to go to Cancun?


-AJF
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March 9, 2017

Off Again! This Time To Cancun

I'm off on a jet plane again! In January I took a week off of blogging while I was on my trip to California (take a look at all of the posts here) and I'll be taking another week off for a trip to Cancun. For spring break I am going with a group of girlfriends to Mexico for the first time!!! Since I'll be busy on the beach and going on excursions (and since I have no intention of bringing my laptop along) I'll be MIA on the blog for a week.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! I'm heading out again, this time to Cancun! Find out what I'll be up to and what to expect on the blog
However, I will still be active on Instagram, especially Instagram stories, so if you want to stay up to date you can follow along there. When I get back you can expect some posts about the trip and packing and itineraries. In the mean time, you can read through all of my travel posts here while you anxiously await my return, and take a look at my Spring Break Etiquette post as well ;)

Are you going away for spring break? What's your destination?


-AJF
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March 7, 2017

4 Must Read Blogs

If you use Google Chrome as your internet browser you may be familiar with the most visited sites that appear on your screen. Mine include my school homepage (productive), Google (duh), Google Drive (essential), Amazon (well, you know...), and Bloglovin'. I adore blogs, and blogging, and bloggers, and the entire online community dedicated to sharing information and inspiration. Today I wanted to tell you about my must read blogs. Even though my blogroll is very short (check out this post about how to clean yours out) I have a few favorites that you're going to want to take a look at.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! There are so many fantastic blogs out there, but here at 4 of my favorites that you should give a shot

The College Prepster

Carly's blog is where I first learned what in the world a blog was so many years ago. I must have been searching for something like "preppy outfits," back when I thought that being preppy was the ultimate look, and have been a loyal, daily reader ever since. She covers a range of topics and the word "college" in the title shouldn't deceive you, this blog is great for every age.

Hope Engaged

Katie is one of the most lovely bloggers I have ever interacted with. She and her husband are always traveling to new places and she documents it beautifully with her photography. Not to mention that she does good and spreads joy on every trip and on a daily basis. She is pregnant with her first child (due so soon!) so her posting has been a bit slower, but her archives can keep you entertained for hours. 

The Golden Girl Blog

Jess is such a trip! Her posts are chatty, upbeat, and a pleasure to read each day. Plus she has great outfits and beauty tips on the regular. You can also take a look at the blog she runs with another Chicago blogger all about how to maximize your blog, called Blogging For Keeps.

Keep Calm and Chiffon

Austen is cool. Austen is hip. Austen has style and is killing it working in editorial at the NYC based magazine NYLON. I met this girl when we were just kids and blogging has brought us together again (take a look at the story here). Her blog is filled with fashion and New York life, with beauty and travel making appearances as well. If you want quality writing and striking street style, check out her site. Also keep an eye out for a collaboration with yours truly coming soon... 

These are four of the blogs that I am currently (and let's be honest, eternally) loving. To see all of the blogs I follow you can go to my Bloglovin' profile

Do you have any blog recommendations? I'd love to hear what you read.

-AJF
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Count of how many times I used the word "blog" or a variant in this post: 19...a bit obscene but I love this topic so much!