Wanderlust and living a life you love with Morgan MacDermaid

 

Morgan MacDermaid used to spend hours in the travel section of the library, looking at all the places she could go. In college, she had her first chance to board a plane and her study abroad in Italy changed the course of her life. 

After graduation, she traded the possibility of a corporate cubicle for adventure. Morgan has traveled to over 40 countries around the world, slept in a tent across Alaska and moved to St. Thomas when she only knew a single person on the island.

Wanderlust
/ˈwändərˌləst/
a strong desire to travel

When the pandemic hit, her world was turned upside down. She came back to Michigan for a stint, bought a car and set off to drive across the United States before leveraging her global experiences to land a jobs as a logistics coordinator and recruiter in Tennessee. 

For the first time, she shares the full story of how she went from neuroscience major to fashionista and global nomad, and the rejections that led her to her new career as a recruiter. 

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Mastering Project Management

 

Thinking back as far as high school, I was never a fan of “group projects.” I’m a Type A perfectionist with what my friend Emily lovingly refers to as “control strengths.” 

In college I would volunteer to write an entire paper on my own rather than relying on a group to help get the job done right. Sometimes I would end up rewriting an entire section of a paper or adding quite a bit to ensure the paper hit all the marks.  

But, by the time I hit my senior year, I was incredibly frustrated by the missed deadlines and poorly written work that would occur when someone was coasting in a project or lacked attention to detail. The final straw was when a classmate added a single run-on paragraph to our group’s communications plan in a senior PR capstone class. I was done picking up the pieces. I sent the paper on to the professor with a note about who produced each section, not bothering to write the pages of research we needed for his section of the paper. 

Fortunately, I’ve found “group” projects to be a much smoother experience in the workplace, where team members collaborate, meet deadlines and assign parts of the project based on strengths and workloads. I can confidently say I’ve never experienced group project disasters like I did in high school or college. 

Over the past few years, I’ve mentored college students and am reminded of the groupwork struggle. It has made me realize we’re failing to teach most college students a critical career skill: Project management. 

The most important part of a successful project isn’t the creative strategy or the final product printed on slick paper. It’s project management. Without project management, entire campaigns can crumble. 

Even if you don’t have “project manager” in your official job title, you are very likely a project manager at some level. Whether you’re a student working on a group presentation or a young professional pulling together an event, you might:

  • Serve as the liaison between the client and the team
  • Set expectations and deadlines
  • Plan checkpoints to ensure project progresses
  • Hold team members accountable for their deliverables
  • Organize meetings, agendas, information and notes
  • Pull together various elements of the project into one file or document
  • Ensure the full project is delivered by the deadline
  • Oversee both the big picture and day-to-day tasks of the project

Whether you’re officially managing a project or simply helping implement a piece of a campaign, here are five tips to help ensure you master project management.

1. Start with a plan

Before you get started, you need a roadmap. To begin planning your project you must understand the scope including the goals, audience, product, budget, timeline, sequencing and approvals that will bring the project together. 

Sometimes, as you develop a plan, you hit roadblocks or uncover new questions. This helps you anticipate potential issues, investigate alternative options, and gets stakeholders to clarify what they really want. 

At this point in the project planning process, it is also important to set basic expectations for the team, such as expected response time to emails and text messages, who will take notes during meetings and who will send follow-ups to the entire group as needed. 

2. Develop a realistic timeline 

After working through your goals and the strategies and tactics you’ll need to meet them, it’s important to work backward from the final date the project needs completed. What actions need to be taken to get there? How long will approvals take? How much time do you need to set aside for elements that could cause you to miss a deadline, such as printing or mailing?

The most important thing to remember in this phase: Underpromise, over-deliver. 

There’s no excuse to miss deadlines and no reason to pull an all-nighter if you plan ahead. With your timeline laid out in front of you, you will know your deadlines well in advance and should be well equipped to prepare for them.

Your timeline can be created in a shared Google Doc calendar or you can use a more sophisticated tool, like Asana (my personal favorite). 

3. Expect the unexpected 

As you work through the project’s tactics and the approvals, it might feel like there is nothing left to do but sit back and wait for Murphy’s Law to take over. 

All projects experience bumps in the road. Throughout the planning process, you have already anticipated the potential problems that could arise and built in extra padding in your timeline. If a problem pops up, take a moment, breathe and work through solutions with your team.

4. Follow up and follow through 

First, know you will likely have to follow up with people — sometimes several times — to get things done. For example, you may need to follow up to: 

  1. Set up a meeting, phone call or Zoom
  2. Ask for a review or approval on a document
  3. Have a colleague complete a key part of the project
  4. Check in with a vendor
  5. Make sure a deadline isn’t missed

As a project manager, it can be frustrating because it feels as if the success of the project falls on your shoulders. However, this project may not be a top priority or top-of-mind for some others who are involved. In most cases, people will appreciate your persistence in making sure the project gets done.  

Second, always follow through. There have been many times a person has committed to sending an agenda, a document or other materials during a meeting, and days go by without the item hitting my inbox. Committing to an action without following through erodes trust and credibility. Keep track of what you commit to do before, during and after meetings, and always follow through. 

5. Execute a project post-mortem

So much learning occurs when you reflect on your successes and failures. After the project is complete, reflect on how you could have better planned ahead, solved problems, minimized miscommunications and managed a more successful project. 

Learn more about project management as a Patron

This month I’ll be uploading a video workshop about project management on Patreon. It will only be available to patrons at the Curious, Fearless and Fierce levels.

Check out our Patreon to get access to this workshop and other special resources

A special thank you to CMU student Rachel Bednarz for helping draft this post when she was volunteering with Venturesome through a class project. She definitely had to follow up with me several times to get projects done! 

Building trust in the remote workplace

 

Trust. Credibility. Respect. Transparency. Communication. 

Building strong relationships with your coworkers, managers and senior leaders will be critical to your success during your tenure with an organization. And, if you’re working remotely, it’s a little bit harder to build those relationships. 

Here are five tips from eight professionals who work in a variety of industries including health care, law, nonprofit, education and business on how you can be intentional in your actions to build relationships and develop trust with your new colleagues. 

1. Join the social events. 

You might not love Zoom happy hours, but it’s important to make an appearance and engage with your new colleagues — even if you only stick around for 20 minutes.  

Even as an introvert, I recognize the importance of being intentional with making connections,” said Jon Humiston, an instructional designer at ansrsource. 

Their company has a Yammer group for socializing and monthly virtual social hour. 

“Making personal connections is challenging when folx aren’t popping in and out of offices or bumping into each other in the hallway,” they said. “It’s important to take the time to participate, so my colleagues and I can get to know each other.”

Octavia Carson, Esq., judicial law clerk at the U.S. Department of Justice, said virtual events — including game nights, happy hours and Christmas parties — and social distanced outings helped facilitate connections among her team. 

“I believe you build relationships by taking time to get to know your colleagues outside of work,” she said.

2. Spark small talk. 

Share personal updates every so often to help people get to know you. 

They don’t need a rundown of everything you did over the weekend, but a small tidbit can humanize you and possibly even allow someone to connect with you one-on-one about a shared hobby or interest,” said Matt DeVries, marketing director at the Midland Business Alliance. “It helps create that sense of camaraderie in the workplace without sharing a workspace.”

Tanjae Chairse, media coordinator at Gage Cannabis, recommends asking your colleagues questions beyond the 9-to-5. 

“For instance, my counterpart lives in Canada. I ask her about Canadian culture all the time,” they said. “Another connection I made with a coworker was telling my team about my pronouns. Through that, a colleague reached out to me and we connected over being queer. Small tidbits like that can lead to camaraderie.”

When communicating through email or chat, be conscious of how your words may be perceived. 

“Be careful with your tone in your communications, especially if the team has not had a chance to get to know you yet” Humiston said. “Sarcasm can be funny, but it doesn’t always translate well in written communication.”

3. Be open.

One of the challenges of working remotely is that all interactions have to be intentional. 

“Solid relationships will be established through honesty and trust, but interaction will be limited,” said Myla Edmond, associate vice president for communications and marketing at California State University-Dominguez Hills. “This will require possibly being more open sooner than you may have been when you were engaging with people daily and in-person.”

Liz Rouech, communications specialist at Bastian Solutions, encourages new remote employees to ask questions. While you may feel awkward sometimes, the perfect time to ask questions is in your first few weeks and the team is expecting them. 

A new person with 100 questions makes a much larger impression than one who says nothing,” she said. 

Liz recommends doing introductions in new meetings and letting people know you’re available to chat all day, essentially creating a “virtual open door” policy.  

4. Do the work

If someone needs help, offer to assist, says Anna Kendall, social media specialist at Priority Health.

“Volunteering to quickly edit something or take on another small project can go a long way toward building goodwill with your coworkers,” she said. 

Erik Schreur, veteran engagement and compliance coordinator and Habitat for Humanity of Michigan said he quickly earned trust and respect with his colleagues by taking initiative. 

“The single greatest way I have found to build relationships in a virtual environment is having ‘working meetings’ — essentially a block of time to just have a video call open and chat with your colleagues while working independently or together. These working meetings in a way create the illusion of being in the office. Keep your camera on though. Nothing kills a virtual call’s energy faster than everyone turning off their cameras.”

5. Avoid assumptions. 

“Don’t assume everyone’s gender identity based on their name or the way they are dressed,” Humiston said. “If you’re not sure what pronouns a person uses, ask! I also put my pronouns in my email signature, so my colleagues knew what they were.” 

They also recommend checking to make sure you are pronouncing names correctly, especially if you work for a global company. 

What are your tips for building trust, developing relationships and strengthening credibility in the remote workplace?

RELATED:

Blog post: How to rock your remote job

Patreon download (all tiers): Building trust with your new coworkers
This download includes an outreach template and 10 questions you can ask to build relationships and trust with your new coworkers.

 

How to rock your new remote job

 

Many professionals — including myself — have recently faced the challenge of starting a new job remotely. I’ve never met my new team in person and I’ve never seen our office. 

The remote workplace comes with many benefits, and you need to be intentional about addressing each challenge — including building relationships and trust, finding the right routine, setting up your home office, being proactive and asking questions. 

Below, eight professionals — who work in a variety of industries including health care, law, nonprofit, education and business — share their tips for successfully starting a new remote job. 

 

Liz RouechLiz Rouech, communications specialist
Bastian Solutions
“When starting a new job remotely, be sure to schedule time with each person you’ll work directly with, one-on-one, over video. Take an hour to chat about work history, personal aspects of your life you’re comfortable sharing, etc. It might feel awkward at first, but you’re essentially forcing your first week’s worth of ‘water cooler talk’ that you won’t get from going to your kitchen sink.”  

 

Octavia Carson, Esq.Octavia Carson, Esq., judicial law clerk
U.S. Department of Justice 
“Put together your work area in the most organized and comfortable way at the outset. If you decorate the walls and add storage and work supplies, you will feel more excited about getting started. Ask your employer what type of things they can supply you for your work-from-home needs. Some jobs give you all of the office supplies you need and others may give you an allowance towards office supplies.”

 

Erik Schreur Erik Schreur, veteran engagement and compliance coordinator
Habitat for Humanity of Michigan
“In a remote environment, especially if organizations do not have a virtual training plan established, ask questions and ask to shadow others. In my first days, it was information overload, but in a good way. It has helped me gain a solid foundation of my role and others’ roles and it builds trust and respect within your new team.”

 

Anna Kendall Anna Kendall, social media specialist 
Priority Health
“You have to be really honest when you don’t understand something. There are a lot of workplace nuances that get lost in the virtual workspace, so people you work with might assume you get it right away because it’s pretty simple to learn in person. Speak up, even if you have to ask multiple times and schedule a working session with someone to really dive into it. Don’t be afraid to ask for hands-on help. Yes, your coworkers are likely busy and stressed, but they’re also probably really happy to have you on their team and want to make sure you feel confident in your role. They will make the time to help and being proactive about it will save everyone time later.” 

 

Jon HumistonJon Humiston, instructional designer 
ansrsource
“As you’re onboarded, be patient with yourself and the company. Write down all your questions as you’re getting onboarded, so you can review them with your supervisor or mentor. Keep a strict schedule. It’s easy to skip a bit of lunch to finish a project or to work a few hours in the evenings because your workstation is close. Don’t do this. Also, you’ll be sitting a lot, so prepare to build in times for walking and exercise and stick to those break times. In terms of equipment, set up a nice workstation, invest in a comfortable chair and order a good headset (headphones and microphone) to minimize background noise while you are on video calls.” 

 

Myla EdmondMyla Edmond, associate vice president for communications and marketing
California State University-Dominguez Hills
“Ask your new colleagues how they communicate with one another and use those tools rather than what you prefer or are comfortable using. Be open to different ways of engaging that may not have happened (or happened so soon in the onboarding process) during pre-COVID-19 times like sharing your cell phone number or having conversations about coping with working from home. Be patient with yourself and others as you try to build rapport on teams that have already established that rapport in-person.”

 

Tanjae ChairseTanjae Chairse, media coordinator
Gage Cannabis
“Don’t be afraid to communicate your needs and set boundaries. I experienced burnout early on because I thought I could handle everything, especially since I was at home. Remember that home and work are two separate things, despite sharing a space. If you know you need a hard cut-off at 6 p.m. or need a few hours to decompress before jumping into a huge project, let your team know. The key is to integrate work into home, so set a routine and be flexible.”

 

Matt DeVries Matt DeVries, marketing director 
Midland Business Alliance
“A lot of people have shared that developing a routine is a way to stay on track. Wake up at the same time, shower and get dressed like you would any other normal job or workday. I think those things can work and help certain people. But, depending on your organization’s philosophy about schedules, sometimes working periodically throughout the day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. may work better. It’s all about finding what works best for you and allows you to be the most productive.”

 

UP NEXT:

Our next post will focus on specific strategies for building relationships and trust with your new coworkers. Be sure to follow @VenturesomePod on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for the latest posts.

 

Setting boundaries and achieving life-work balance with Lily Allen-Dueñas

Lily Allen-Dueñas serves as the interim executive director of the The State of Women Institute and a holistic health and wellness coach, yoga teacher and meditation instructor. She’s also a master at setting boundaries and life-work balance. 

In this episode, Lily and I talk about the importance of prioritizing your life before work, strategies for achieving life-work balance, and how to set boundaries at work to prevent burnout. 

Want more advice on being ambitious, brave and curious in your career?

Join us on Patreon for special patron-only benefits. 

This month, patrons receive worksheets that help them with self-reflection and identifying their workplace values. You can join for as little as $1 a month.   

Become a Patron! 

Learn more about the initiatives Lily discussed

Amplifying Her Voice: From climate change to self care, racism to financial literacy, the “In Moms We Trust” summit covers a broad range of topic. Sessions also feature women in the space industry, blockchain, podcasting and more. I’ll be on a panel on May 12 called “All Kinds of Coaching & What Makes This Career So Fulfilling.” Register for the Summit, which takes place May 11-13. 

SHEQONOMI: SHEQONOMI is a podcast platform built by millennial women to serve 2 billion women globally, where content creation and listening are rewarded. 

Wild Yoga Tribe: If you’re interested in yoga and meditation with Lily, check out Wild Yoga Tribe and learn about her online classes.

 

Growing through discomfort and ambiguity

 

New is uncomfortable. Growth is uncomfortable. 

When you take on an opportunity at a new organization, it’s jarring. You go from expert to unknown. From trusted resource to uncertain authority. 

Just as much as they don’t know or trust you yet, you might not trust yourself. Imposter syndrome sometimes rears its head and your friends remind you, “They hired you for a reason. You’ve got this.”

lightbulb with plant growing within it

I first experienced these feelings when I left Central Michigan University after nearly five years as the associate director of communications and social media. At CMU, I’d led our social media strategies and was the voice of the university online. I’d counseled vice presidents, deans and directors, and I had a seat at the table during critical conversations and crises. As a known, trusted communicator and adviser, I had established relationships across campus. 

In my first few months as director of communications at Davenport University, I experienced the absence of the credibility I’d had at CMU. Not a single person on campus knew me or what I brought to the table. I had to build relationships and confidence in my expertise from scratch while learning to navigate the new realm of private higher ed after years at a public institution. 

You can feel this shift when you take on new projects or work in other industries as well — like when I was asked to lead efforts for a client within the clean energy policy sector. I knew absolutely nothing about clean energy or policy, and had to stretch my skills in a new direction.  

Sahil Bloom explained it well in a recent post, On Competitive Advantage

“Discomfort leads to growth. It is an absolute necessity. If you train yourself to accept and embrace discomfort, you will always have an edge.”

Accepting uncertainty and risk certainly gives you a competitive advantage for your future career growth. My advice for these moments:

1. Listen and observe. You may see 15 things the organization could or needs to change, but first you need to hear what those on the front lines have to say about what they’ve seen and experienced over the years. Take your time and build trust by involving others in your team in the process of identifying, planning and implementing changes. Collect and sort through the ideas, wants, needs and the “this is the way we’ve always done it” comments as you formulate a holistic plan. 

2. Identify your gaps and fill them. You were hired for your strengths, and sometimes it feels like a new job or project shines a light on your weaknesses. There are new terms you don’t know and things you’ve never done. There are new processes and expectations. Note the gaps in your experience and the areas you feel deficient and fill them by asking questions, listening to podcasts, reading and even enrolling in online courses. 

3. Embrace the ambiguity. There’s no syllabus to tell you what’s next. Siri won’t tell you when to merge into a new lane or change directions. Sure, that can be scary. It’s also exciting because it means you have the power to map this journey yourself. 

4. Acknowledge your fears, and don’t let them stop you. Whenever I make a change, I think of all the catastrophic ways that things could go wrong. I could fail. I could fall flat on my face. I could lose everything I’ve worked for. It’s fair to acknowledge the worst that could happen, especially if it helps you make contingency plans. Just don’t let it stop you from growing. Move forward despite your fears while considering and planning for the “worst” case scenarios if that makes you feel more confident.   

It’s in the moments of fear, discomfort and ambiguity you grow the most. Don’t these feelings get in the way of your career momentum. 

Setting yourself up for success in a new job with Olivia Adams

Setting yourself up for success in a new job with Olivia Adams

In Venturesome’s first-ever duo episode, Olivia Adams joins me for a conversation about being successful in a new gig — whether it’s an internship or a full-time job. Through our conversation, you’ll hear our tips and tricks for standing out the first few days, weeks and months.

Also, if you’re interested in the Brené Brown episode referenced during our conversation, you can listen on her website or find it on Spotify. The episode is #1 on Unlocking Us and it’s titled Brené on FFTs.

Rachel and Olivia painting at a Wine and Canvas event in 2017A bit of background: Olivia and I first met through Twitter and our friendship is a great example of how you can go from social media connections to friends to colleagues to confidants. Olivia also hand-lettered “Venturesome” for the podcast! On the day we recorded this episode, I was offered a new job and have since started in my new role. 

Want more advice on being ambitious, brave and curious in your career?

Join us on Patreon for special patron-only benefits. 

Become a Patron! 

I’d also encourage you to join our Facebook Group, which is a safe place to talk about the challenges and triumphs in our careers. 

Workplace Trauma & Working Through Fear with Dr. Tega Edwin, @HerCareerDoctor

Workplace Trauma & Working Through Fear with Dr. Tega Edwin, @HerCareerDoctor

Dr. Tega EdwinDr. Tega Edwin, also known on social media as @HerCareerDoctor, helps women who are unhappy at work get clarity about who they are so they can find a satisfying, fulfilling career. 

In our interview we talk about coping with workplace trauma and toxic stress, and working through fear. She also talks about how the collective trauma of the pandemic and the racial unrest of 2020 are affecting people emotionally, especially people of color. 

The Devil You Know

Dr. Edwin often hears people say “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know” when it comes to work. 

Tweet screenshot from @HerCareerDoctor: Too many women underestimate the impact previous work trauma has on their decisions to stay in an unfulfilling career that's currently making them unhappy.

The devil you know is still a devil, she says. 

I loved this phrase because so often we are paralyzed from making a change in life because we’re comfortable. And, we’re afraid that by making a change that we’ll make things worse. 

Years ago, one of mine was a job. I was extremely comfortable at Central Michigan University. I had built strong relationships and was proud to work at my alma mater. However, as I began to burn out from the high turnover on our team and the always-on nature of being a social media manager, I started to consider how the pain of staying might be worse than the discomfort of taking a risk and leaving. 

Three months after my realization, I had a job offer in hand that would require me to move to start a role at a private university. It was scary for a lot of reasons. I had to build trust and credibility with new people and learn the differences between public and private universities. I even had to rent an apartment while my husband stayed in our home as we prepared to sell it.  

Your devil might be staying in your hometown. It might be a job that no longer fits you. It could be your boss, who isn’t ideal but you have worked with long enough to predict their needs. It could be a relationship that is no longer supportive. What are some of your devils? What are the fears that are holding you back? 

Connect with Her Career Doctor

The heart of being a venturesome professional is taking risks, even when it’s hard. Dr. Edwin offers inspiring, though-provoking content on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook at @hercareerdoctor. 

I’d also encourage you to check out her Fulfilling Career Guideand, if you’re seeking clarity on finding a career that fulfills you, check out her six-week small group coaching program

 

Women in the workforce

Central Michigan University’s College of the Arts & Media recently interviewed Venturesome’s host, Rachel Esterline Perkins, about her perspectives on public relations, her time at CMU and her experiences as a woman in the workforce. 

With permission from CMU CAM and interviewer Sarah Grandstaff, this interview has been shared as Episode 5 of the Venturesome Podcast. 

 

 

You can also watch the interview on YouTube:

 

 

Other interviews included:

  • Julia Sikora, a Traffic Producer/Reporter for the WWJ 24-Hour Traffic Center in Detroit
  • Sarah Opperman, retired VP of Public Affairs for Dow Chemical and a former chair of the CMU board of trustees
  • Sara Ketchum, line producer at CNN
  • Claire-Francis Sullivan, a New York City-based performer, playwright, and composer-lyricist
Venturesome

 

“Do you think you’re lucky?”

As I sat in the dark conference room with the vice president of the company, I was caught off guard. I had expected “Tell me about yourself” and “What’s your greatest weakness?”

But not this question. This wasn’t on the handout from the Career Services office.

I was finishing my junior year of college and seeking my second internship. At a professional development event, a Central Michigan University professor introduced me to an alumna. The woman, who had graduated from CMU a few years before me, brought me in to meet the CEO and president to discuss the possibility of spending my summer as their intern.

The harsh overhead lighting and our stiff suits made this interview feel more like an FBI interrogation rather than an internship interview. I paused, thinking about the question.

“No,” I said. “I don’t think it’s luck.”

When I was 13, I worked all summer to save enough to buy my first computer. As a first-generation college student, I’d navigated my way to and through college on my own. I balanced a part-time job on campus while taking up to 18 credits each semester. In addition, I sought every opportunity to gain hands-on experience, including writing for the student newspaper, working for the student-run PR firm and joining PRSSA committees. 

I started a blog. I volunteered my budding PR skills to nonprofits, writing brochures and creating websites. I even spent nearly a year working up to 70 hours a week as a carriage driver through 90 degree heat, pouring rain and snowstorms to help pay for college.

To get to that conference room interview, I had worked hard, made sacrifices and raised my hand for every opportunity. I refused to give up or give in, and embraced experimenting, learning and rejection.

“The harder I work, the more luck I have,” I added as the president nodded encouragingly.

The best interview questions catch you a bit off guard. They make you sweat a bit and you have to choose if you’ll bravely tell the truth or if you’ll water down your answer to what’s expected. Your honest, raw response is what the interviewer wants to see. And, if they don’t like your answer, you have to question whether or not it’s a place you’d want to work. 

As I reflect on this moment 12 years ago, I realize one thing has stayed the same:

I’ve worked hard to get to where I am and where I’m headed. And I’m not waiting for luck to pave the way.