How to be an Optimist in the Professional World…and Stay That Way Too!

Remember when you were in your freshman year in high school? The world was your oyster. Everything was in front of you, and everything was within reach. You were told that anything was possible if you worked hard and believed in yourself. You were wide-eyed and idealistic. You had a constant safety net beneath you that encouraged you to try new things and saved you when you failed.

The professional world is not like that.

In the professional world, every ounce of optimism and idealism in your soul is constantly under fire. It’s interpreted as weakness, lack of experience, lack of knowledge, or sheer stupidity. Never in my life have I been so afraid to “show my true colors” as I have in the professional world.

This is my personal story of how I found the balance between optimistic, idealistic, high school Cassidy who believed anything was possible, and business woman Cassidy who wants to be taken seriously.

I should note, that I’m lucky enough to work for one of those companies where everyone’s opinions and feedback are valued. My company is very transparent about all aspects of our business (especially internally). One of our core values is to “seek first to understand, and then to be understood”. Because of this, I probably have it a lot easier than 99% of people in the professional world, but I didn’t always have it this good.

I’m currently working my second office job. My first one was in a call center, where we did outbound sales. We sold trial newspaper subscriptions for local newspapers all over the US. In 2011. As you can imagine, business wasn’t exactly booming. The people we called were usually upset, rude, and otherwise unpleasant. My coworkers were apathetic at best, and my boss was a special brand of human scum. It wasn’t the best job, to say the least, but it paid well, so I put up with it.

Things started to get worse and worse. My boss would single me out in front of everyone, and instead of giving me constructive criticism that could have helped me, he attacked my very personality and made me believe I would never be good at that job. The day I finally quit, he was yelling at me so close to my face that little particles of spit were hitting my cheek. I left that day without a word and never came back.

Where was that starry-eyed girl who thought she was going to change the world? I couldn’t even control my own attitude, let alone affect change in the world. I was surrounded by people who thought that because of my tattoos, or my nose ring, or my lack of a degree I would never be anything more than a slave to the minimum wage. It really narrowed my perception of what my options were.

Finding my job at ChicoBag really changed my life. It was the first time that I had the opportunity work for a company with a mission I believed in, be heard, provide help that was valuable and appreciated, and make money doing it. I seemed to fit in well from day one, and my managers seemed happy with my performance. Never has a group of people fostered so much creativity, productivity, and positivity within me as my coworkers have. Never have I felt as supported professionally as I do here.

Do not let the rest of this story tarnish what I just said.

I knew that this job was my big chance. That no matter what, this place and these people were going to open doors for me for the rest of my life. Being a person with a shaved side of their head, plenty of tattoos, and a pierced nose with no degree sounds like a recipe for a jobless future, I know. I want to serve as an example of what an intelligent person can do no matter what their exterior looks like. That is a LOT of pressure.

Because I am different, I had this nagging sense that I didn’t really deserve this job. Some of my coworkers shared the sentiment. Some made it clear that they didn’t think I’d ever be qualified to do this job. Some made me feel like I didn’t belong here after all. It was eating me away inside.

When I’d tell people about it, they’d say I was putting too much stock in what everyone thinks, and that too much of me was dependent on my professional life. “Leave work at work, and home at home. Keep your head down and just do your job.” I knew that this was a viable option. I knew that most people take this approach. Most peoples’  lives are neatly compartmentalized into different sections, and they do not live and breathe and die on others’ opinions of their professional work.

I had never done anything like that before, so I tried it!  When I went to work, I shut down my personal life and focused. I worked with intense efficiency and less personality involved, and I tried not to put myself into my work like I was before. I tried not to care as much, and to do what was required and nothing more to avoid conflict.

The result was my work really suffered. Our customers weren’t as engaged as they were before, and my coworkers noticed I wasn’t as bright and sparkly as I used to be. I didn’t feel personally satisfied by work anymore, I just felt so-so.

It seemed like either way I was going to suffer somehow. Either I put too much of myself into my professional life and get emotionally burned sometimes, or I keep my personality out of my work and feel nothing. I feel this is a predicament that a lot of people, especially young people, have been in.

What changed my outlook was the realization that a lot of that pressure and expectation was self-induced. Yes, I do put a lot of myself into what I do. Yes, I deviate somewhat from “the norm” in terms of appearance. Yes, I have very big ideals and a positive world view, and I am one of those people for whom everything is personal and I always will be. What I needed to do, was to find a way to make those things my strengths rather than my weaknesses.

It came through a series of ideas that make me who I am professionally. I’d like to share those things with all of you:

  • You owe it to yourself to be yourself. Nothing more.
  • Everyone is fighting a battle that you know nothing about. Don’t assume you know anything, and be kind to everyone no matter what.
  • Never lose the belief that anything is possible.
  • Listen twice as much as you talk. You have great ideas, and they should be heard, but you also have a lot to learn.
  • Your attitude is a choice, and you make it every day. Choose carefully!
  • Don’t let the world of computers and cubicles get you down. Creativity exists here, you just have to look for it.
  • Never believe that the best of what you can do is behind you. Always look forward.
  • If you’re not happy where you are, go someplace else! Every instance of rejection or failure will bring you to something better in the end.
  • If you believe you are the right person for the job, everyone else will too. You will get exactly what you expect, not what you hope or wish for, so expect what you need to feel valued and important.

If you’re struggling with feeling out of place, or beaten down by the professional world, STOP, and write down this list in your own handwriting. Put in on your bathroom mirror (or wherever you’ll see it every day) and read it out loud every morning. Don’t analyze it, just read it. Eventually, your outlook and situation will change for the better, I can promise you that.

In short, you shouldn’t give up on that freshman in high school you once were. Even though sometimes it can really sting, it’s worth it to put yourself out there. You get to feel something, and that’s incredibly valuable.

Sneak Peak at Future Posts!

So, I fell off the writing wagon for a while. But never fear, I’m back! Let’s shoot for a healthier, more sustainable 2014! Woo hoo!

Here’s some stuff you can look forward to seeing in the near future:
1. “Is 2 Really Better Than 1? Sonoma County’s Bag Bans Examined”
2. “Sustainable Advertising: Eco Friendly Products You Can Put Your Name On”
3. More DIY/Repurposing/Upcycling ideas, I’m going to do them weekly each Friday instead of daily now.

Thanks to my loyal readership for hanging in there with me. Look for my DIY Projects of the Week post tomorrow.

Cassidy

5 Awesome Upcycling Ideas of the Day 06/18/13

Sorry I haven’t been posting enough! This weekend was crazy, and last night was my husband’s 21st birthday. Here are some ideas for repurposing/upcycling!

stamping old credit cards into guitar picks

Turn old credit cards and gift cards into guitar picks! From Twisted Sifter.

old cd holder as bagel holder

Turn an old blank CD holder into a bagel storage device! From Twisted Sifter.

turning library card catalogue into bar stand

Old school card catalog turned mini bar! From Twisted Sifter.

using old barrels to make a drum set

Old barrels become a drum set! From Twisted Sifter.

old door frame used as standing mirror

Turn a door into a floor length mirror! From Twisted Sifter.

Chico City Council Tries to Kick Farmer’s Market out of Downtown Chico. My response:

Dear City Council Members and Mayor Goloff,

I’m writing to you concerning your decision to try to push the Saturday Chico Certified Farmer’s Market out of their current time and/or location in downtown Chico.

My father-in-law, Reid Seibold, is a long-time vendor and current board member for the Chico Certified Farmer’s Market. My mother-in-law, Ann Noble, is a long-time vendor. My great aunt, Lori Noble, of Noble Orchards, is a long-time vendor. My mother and father raised me on produce from the farmer’s market. As long as I can remember, I have always been involved with the market somehow. I value the sense of community that exists there, I value high quality produce and other locally produced products available to me there, and I value all the people who show up every week to make the market possible.

It would truly be a tragedy, if due to the complaints of a few people, the needs of our community would no longer be met. The farmer’s market is one of the only places left where you can buy local produce. It’s one of the only places available for local farmers to sell their produce.  In a world full of food of questionable safety, I know I can rely on the local farmers for safe, quality produce. With childhood obesity, diabetes, and many other diet-related diseases on the rise, I find it hard to believe that my city government, whose job it is to keep our community safe and healthy, would see fit to rid us of this beautiful tradition.

I also find it difficult to believe that downtown business owners cannot see how the farmer’s market is a positive thing for them. The complaints I’ve heard so far basically boil down to a lack of parking, yet every Saturday our parking structures are ghost towns. The farmer’s market reminds people that downtown is not just for vagrants and drunks; it is for families and the community at large to enjoy. In addition, many people do not come downtown for any other reason except for the farmer’s market. They often shop at downtown businesses when they are already there for the farmer’s market.

It is truly appalling that you would choose to “strong arm” the farmer’s market this way. The board of directors has been more than open to negotiations of moving to another downtown location that would be better for all involved. There’s no reason for you to act this way.

If the market does move, that parking lot will likely be developed. I know that’s been a topic of conversation for years. More malls and businesses that will fail is not what we need, when we already have a market that is flourishing there.

I’m asking, as a very concerned citizen, that you please reconsider asking the farmer’s market to move. It is has been a tradition for as long as I can remember, and I can’t imagine having to tell my children one day that the reason we no longer have good quality produce for them to eat is because 6 people made a bad and hasty decision.

I will see you all at the meeting on Tuesday to voice this opinion, alongside many vendors, patrons, board members, and citizens who care deeply for the market.

Yours,

Cassidy Noble

Eco-Friendly Father’s Day Presents and Celebration Ideas

As you all know, father’s day is coming up this Sunday. If you’re like me and you waited until the last second to get your dad something (oops!), here’s some tips for how to keep your dad and the planet happy!

CSA Subscriptions

This is a great option for keeping Dad healthy and keeping food local! Usually, the service costs somewhere between $75-125/month, and you go pick up a new box of fruits and veggies each week! It sounds like a lot, but $20-30/week isn’t much for quality organic produce. These boxes tend to be LARGE as well. A quick google search for CSAs in your area should turn up your options.

Juicer/Dehydrator

If your dad already loves fruits and veggies, or if he’s a jerky man, think about investing in a dehydrator or juicer! This is a great way to ensure none of the beautiful produce from your CSA subscription or local farmer’s market goes bad and goes to waste.

Hit the Thrift Store

Thrift stores always have quality stuff for low prices. If you’re on a tight budget, this is how to get the biggest bang for your buck. It works especially well if you are creative and crafty. You might find something you could upcycle or repurpose to make it extra special.

Make it Yourself

This is the most time consuming option, but probably the most appreciated and special. My dad loves collages of family pictures, and giant cards. He’s also a big SF Giants fan. Take a trip to your local craft store for inspiration, grab your glue gun, and go nuts!

Choose Green Wrapping Options

Consider wrapping your dad’s present in a reusable shopping bag, or in newspaper or wrap made from recycled content. No sense in waste just for the sake of aesthetics!

This is by no means the whole list. Your imagination is the best source of inspiration, and you definitely know your dad better than some random person writing a blog post. But hopefully you’ll choose something unique and eco-friendly for Dad this year! Feel free to share your ideas by commenting!

National Bike Challenge

This year, May-September represents the period for the National Bike Challenge. Riders can ride solo, or as part of a team. Many workplaces have a team you can be a part of!

I’ve been participating since May, and so far, I have logged 185 miles on my bike! I have also saved 169 pounds of CO2, and $54!

The best part? Every day you ride at least one mile, you get 20 points, plus 2 points for each additional mile. At each new benchmark (first one is Bronze, at just 100 points!) you get the opportunity to win cool bike-related swag (like a free year of Roadside Assistance for Bicycles at Gold level, 750 pts!)

I encourage you to check it out. It has helped me stay motivated to get on my bike, instead of in the car!