Part Two: Something we don’t talk about – Women CEOs

Hi all,

This is the second installment of my review and insights about the Korn Ferry Institute’s report on women CEOs. If you didn’t read the first one, please do! I will ground us quickly by highlighting what I discussed previously. The last post examined what characteristics are most prominent in women CEOs according to the Korn Ferry Institute, and next up I will share with you how the traits previously outlined are the ingredients needed to become a CEO. The main question Korn Ferry poses though is, what values and interests or motivators, referred to as drivers, guided the women’s career decisions?

According to Korn Ferry the drive for these women CEOs was described in one word, challenge. Thriving on challenge, and having been less interested in competition was a huge factor for women CEOS. Korn Ferry found that routine job promotion is generally not enough to stake the thirst for challenge, and found that their interviewers stepped knowingly into less-than-desirable, ill-defined roles because they saw potential in these opportunities, like diamonds in the rough. Tell me, have you ever done that? I know that I have. I didn’t do it with the end potential that I wanted to be a CEO someday, but more for the potential that the opportunity would give me a skill I may have been missing, or teach me something I needed to learn. There have been times where I’ve been in a job that I wasn’t maybe crazy about, and kept telling myself that there would be a lesson or something I would gain from that experience no matter what. And, often times it doesn’t feel like that will be the case in the moment, but it always turns out that there is a lesson to learn in everything…whether big or small.

Now, to tackle the notion that women thrive on challenge and are less interested in competition. Korn Ferry also heard from their CEOs that sometimes they were so intensely focused on whatever challenges were before them that they neglected longer-term career planning and mastering the “political” aspects of the organization. A typical refrain they found was: “I was head-down, delivering results in my current role.” It is hard to not get caught up in that, especially if the thought of competition or playing office politics is not interesting. Korn Ferry found that they are largely disinterested in inside-the-company competition. They preferred to let their results speak for themselves. I have always been this way, but have also found that unless you have someone in your corner helping exhibit your good work, it can sometimes go unseen and not “speak for itself.” According to Korn Ferry, this challenge-centric mindset explains a striking observation from their interviews: 63% of the CEOs either didn’t mention organizational barriers or explicitly said they were not hindered by being a woman. In some cases, organizations were seamlessly facilitating their growth and grooming them for leadership. I guess I’m a little cynical, and find this surprising, but also somewhat comforting. Maybe a tide is turning a bit for women in the workforce?

Independence balanced with collaboration

Korn Ferry’s assessment also revealed higher-than-expected scores for a driver called independence. These scores also indicated another dynamic – these women were happy to get things done on their own, and overall Korn Ferry sees female CEOs exhibiting benchmark levels of collaboration, so this hasn’t impeded their desire to foster and lead teams, to build consensus or to share responsibility. Korn Ferry does explain however, that there is a cautionary flag here. Those who become overly autonomous in how they work can later find themselves without the support, networks, or advocacy that they need around them to become CEO and stay there. There’s that key again, support, networks and advocacy. Many of the women Korn Ferry interviewed had strong late-career sponsors who pushed their careers forward, but then discovered they didn’t have the broad support they needed for their agenda as CEO. Others found themselves blindsided by competitive executives, or without enough allies when they discovered others were waiting – or rooting – for them to fail. So, a little bit of politics and keeping your head up may be a better route to go in the long run?

So, then Korn Ferry posed the question, “why doesn’t such drive produce more female CEOs?” According to them, the fact that women must exhibit such a huge appetite for challenge to reach CEO speaks volumes about the systemic barriers many women still face. Their adaptations to that working environment, further, can harm their chances of success. So, there’s a fine line to toe here. According to Korn Ferry, we will never know, for instance, how many women didn’t become CEO because they were more independent than well-networked, or because their humility undermined how they were perceived, or because organizations didn’t recognize their drive. Those are very situational reasons and of course are hard to measure, but definitely something to make you think about. Finally, Korn Ferry discovered that multiple studies have documented that women are more likely than men to leave positions in which they are unsatisfied. That doesn’t mean work is difficult or unpleasant. The CEOs who were interviewed quit or turned down jobs when:

  • The company didn’t meet their standards for integrity
  • The role lacked a sense of larger purpose or
  • It was a place where people were treated very poorly

I think this is important to note. If it doesn’t feel right, morally or supporting a larger purpose, we will find something else to do or somewhere else to go. I have always believed, if you’re REALLY not happy…LEAVE! It does nothing for you to stick around when you are unhappy, and that goes for any situation!

So what type of things motivate women in the workforce? According to Korn Ferry, more are motivated by work-life balance. The participants in their interviews never shied away from hard work, and they took no shortcuts. But they did, on average, express more desire or work-life balance than Korn Ferry’s CEO benchmark. All of them were currently or had been married, and said they had supportive spouses, though some didn’t find that until a second marriage. According to Korn Ferry, being a CEO is not a one-person job, and this was acknowledged by the participants. A CEO’s partner has to “lean in” too. The partners of the women CEOs often took primary responsibility on the home front, managing the logistics and outsourcing of childcare, while choosing to stay home or take jobs with more flexibility. Some even said that their career affected what kind of mother they were. One said, for example, her children were resentful of her career commitments when they were young, but came to admire her accomplishments when they were older. I mean, I guess it’s nice that her children came to admire her eventually, but yikes – that kind of resentment is a bit scary if you ask me. According to Korn Ferry, many pointed out that being a mother added to their abilities as executive leaders and it gave them a particular grounding and sense of perspective, as well as gave them practice on patience and compassion, along with setting appropriate boundaries, creating clear expectations, and making unpopular decisions.

Korn Ferry also found that women are motivated by purpose  and creating a positive culture. Purpose and mission were central to their messages as leaders and working to create a more positive culture was a primary way those women carried out purpose and mission in their companies.

So as Korn Ferry does for every section, they outline key takeaways for women and for organizations. I want to continue to highlight them for you because I think if you take nothing else away from these installments, you takeaway from this section something that could be useful for you in the future.

Takeaways for organizations

  • Organizations need to re-calibrate how they recognize ambition.
  • The drive in high-achieving women may not manifest as corporate-ladder climbing or jockeying for promotion.
  • Men who might be motivated more by advancement could be more willing to take any promotion as long as it progresses their careers.
  • If women hesitate or turn it down, this can be misconstrued by the organization as a disinterest.
  • Organizations also have a big problem if women aren’t interested in the top jobs that are offered.
  • Sr. leadership and c-suite roles need to be described in a way that captures the challenge and opportunity they present, as well as what outcomes are possible and needed. This is what speaks to women’s sense of purpose and desire to contribute value and shape culture.

Takeaways for women

  • To navigate into leadership roles, women have to resist inclinations to be overly self-reliant, which can be part of that “head down” focus.
  • They need to create a strategic network, because without those relationships they don’t have influence on the things that matter to them.
  • Results don’t speak for themselves; some positioning and packaging is needed for people to notice.
  • Women should seek out not just difficult challenges, but also “high visibility” ones.
  • Negotiating with a partner or spouse as to who takes a big job and who manages the personal side of life is crucial. This can have implications very early on, even in the kind of person who chooses one chooses as a partner.

I hope you enjoyed this installment! Next up I will examine some of the major turning points in women CEO’s lives that impacted their road to CEO per Korn Ferry’s research.

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Part One: Something we don’t talk about – Women CEOs

A couple of months ago I was attending a conference where they had a panel that consisted of Women CEOs, specifically in the utility industry. The panel participants were also the same CEOs who had been interviewed for a Korn Ferry Institute research project titled Women CEOs Speak – strategies for the next generation of female executives and how companies can pave the road. This project was also supported by The Rockefeller Foundation.

Korn Ferry is the preeminent global people and organizational advisory firm. They help leaders, organizations, and societies succeed by realizing the full power and potential of people. Korn Ferry Institute is Korn Ferry’s research and analytics arm, and was established to share intelligence and expert point of views on talent and leadership. They do this through studies, books and a quarterly magazine, Briefings. They aim to increase understanding of how strategic talent decisions contribute to competitive advantage, growth and success. So, as you can imagine I knew immediately that they would have an interesting take on women CEOs (or lack-there-of).

What motivates a study like this? When roughly 94% of Fortune 1,000 CEOs are men you may ask yourself, “what qualities drive the 6% who are women in the most elite reaches of corporate leadership?” To find out, the Korn Ferry Institute studied 57 women who have been CEO – 38 currently and 19 previously – at Fortune 1,000 – listed companies and others of similar size. They analyzed structured interviews with all 57 women and the results of psychometric assessments taken by two-thirds of them. The Rockefeller Foundation, which funded the research, wants to change the astounding fact that only 6% of Fortune 500 CEOs were women in 2017. Re-read that again. Only 6% of Fortune 500 CEOs were women in 2017. I know I have written a series in the past about women in the workforce, and I try hard to not sound like a hell-bent feminist (not that there’s anything wrong if that’s how you describe yourself) but I try hard to support women’s rights but also not be so into it that I don’t have a realistic viewpoint of what is going on. I think this study does just that by taking a very hard look at what is keeping women CEOs from becoming a norm and not a “nice-to-have” at companies. The Rockefeller Foundation, has established a target through it’s 100 x 25 initiative which is to have 100 women leading Fortune 500 companies by 2025. Korn Ferry’s portion of that initiative, called the CEO Pipeline Project, seeks to learn from the women who have already succeeded at becoming CEOs, and what women in the workforce now can do to take the CEO path, and most importantly, what companies and organizations can do to help women succeed along the path to CEO.

I have a copy of the study and found it moving so much so that I wanted to share it here, along with my thoughts – especially given that I have never had a desire to be a CEO, let alone even manage people. Nonetheless, I still felt it was interesting and useful information to share. Also, I feel as if this holds a special place in my heart. When I was working at the utility, I was present for the announcement of the utility’s first female CEO. It wasn’t lost on me that I was witnessing history, and she was also part of this study. I hope you enjoy what I have to share and reflect on with this topic.

To ground this research, Korn Ferry gathered publicly available biographical data about all female CEOs in 2017 Fortune 1,000 companies and compared that to a parallel example of male CEOs who led companies of the same revenue size. Interestingly, when demographically compared, male and female CEOs look very similar, and while the differences are subtle, they definitely add up. Here is a quick comparison:

  • The women were, on average, four years older when they got their very first CEO appointment, though it is worth noting that in the study’s male sample many CEOs were their company’s founder.
  • Overall, the women accrued more diverse experience by working in a greater average number of senior roles, functions, companies and industries.
  • The fortune 1,000 data also reveal that female CEOs are not spread evenly across industries.
  • They are in greater numbers in consumer goods, utilities, and finance (particularly insurance), but less represented in industrial companies and the health and life sciences.

The next question Korn Ferry asked themselves to ground their research, was: “is 100 x 25 attainable?” The answer is yes, but the pace needs to accelerate. They found that in higher-revenue Fortune 500 companies, women held the CEO role at 32 companies in mid-2017, up from 12 just a decade earlier and two in 1997! Now, this next fact surprised me, especially in comparison to other countries…it currently takes 269 days on average to place a female CEO in the US – which is 30% longer than the 207 days to place a male CEO. When compared to Europe and Middle East markets, there is no such delay and women are placed 14% faster than men, and in Asia-Pacific where they placed women 22% more quickly. What Korn Ferry says this suggests is that boards of directors in the US still aren’t open to female CEOs as boards in other countries. So, what gives?

Before I dive a bit deeper, for those of you who have the analytic mind (not me), I will outline the Korn Ferry Institute’s research tools:

  • Korn Ferry conducted structured interviews with the 57 CEOs, asking about key events in each woman’s career progression, including pivoted experiences, set-backs, and factors that enabled or hindered her success. These were analyzed and coded to determine common themes.
  • Their assessment for executive leaders specifically measured:
    • Traits: A person’s inclinations and aptitudes, such as personality traits and intellectual capacity. Traits also include attributes such as assertiveness, risk-taking, optimism, and confidence.
    • Drivers: Deeply held values and internal motivators that guide a person’s actions and decisions. A desire for power, challenge, or work-life balance are things we categorize as drivers.
    • Competencies: The observable skills essential to management success, such as innovation and strategic vision.

Some of the main characteristics identified were personal fortitude and courage – or what they like to call “the right stuff.” That’s what female CEOs exhibited in their assessment scores, beginning with their traits. According to Korn Ferry, their mean score matched their CEO benchmark on 16 of 20 traits, including persistence, need for achievement, curiosity, focus, assertiveness, risk-taking, and empathy. I know, as a woman, that I have many of those characteristics myself, and they are among the characteristics about myself that I am most proud of, so it was no surprise to see those reflected in their study. The places in which women deviated from the benchmark were in humility, confidence, credibility and openness to difference.

I have always believed that how you are brought up and just your own personal makeup is identified early on in life. Korn Ferry’s study found similarly, that personal traits are not immutable, but they are established early in life and difficult to alter. So, the close alignment to the CEO benchmark suggests that these women had the style and mindset of a CEO early in their careers. I thought this was so interesting! So, remember when you hear someone say – that little girl will be a CEO someday…they just might be on to something!

Additionally, Korn Ferry found that humility and valuing others reign over confidence, ambition and drive growth out of early formative experiences, and their outlook is optimistic and fearless. I’ll break them down below:

Humility and valuing others reign over confidence

  • High humility scores indicate a lack of self-absorption and more importantly, an expressed appreciation of others.
  • These women are very willing to give credit to people and situations that contributed to their success.
  • The female CEOs repeatedly made note of people who’d helped and supported them.
  • Credibility is generally shorthand for delivering on your word, but in their assessment it also captures something better described as dutifulness or “good soldier” behavior.

These are so interesting to me. All of those characteristics described above are exactly what I like to see in a leader, and I know for a fact I have made gripes and complaints of a leader lacking in all of those areas. Why isn’t this the norm in all leaders? Maybe that’s the problem – it should be the norm, but it is hard to come by. Could there be a direct correlation between that and the lack of female leadership? Maybe!

Ambition and drive grow out of early formative experiences

  • In the interviews, they heard that these traits have deep roots.
  • Asked about “key events in your career progression that contributed to your development as a person or a leader,” many spoke first not of their career but of their childhood. In their interviews, 23% of the key events the CEOs chose to discuss were about personal experiences unrelated to work.
  • Parents instilled resilience, high expectations, and a strong work ethic in their daughters. Some CEOs had particularly difficult childhoods – a parent was ill or deceased, for example – and they had to take on responsibilities when quite young.
  • More than 40% of the CEOs earned undergraduate college degrees in science, math or engineering. This prevalence of STEM degrees may seem surprising, but similar rates are seen in male CEOs as well.
  • Another 19% studied business, economics, or finance, while 21% were in the arts and humanities.

Their outlook is optimistic and fearless

  • Generally speaking, the women CEOs were not at all cynical about the corporate world they entered.
  • Their traits scores and interviews both indicated that they are highly optimistic, trusting, sociable and empathetic.
  • The interviews underscored how much emphasis these women placed on being authentic and remaining true to themselves.
  • Compromising on their values – or on their vision – is not in their makeup, even if it would mean turning down some opportunities for advancement.
  • Some said they didn’t feel they could give their all to a goal, strategy, or company that they didn’t believe in.
  • These women seek input at critical stages, then solidly make up their mind. And these women are exceptionally focused on pursuing their own vision.

What I especially appreciate about this study, is that they highlight key takeaways from each section for women and then separately for organizations. As you can imagine, especially given the numbers Korn Ferry offered about the slowness in approving women CEOs, organizations and companies can still take a word of advice on how to cultivate and identify potential women CEOs. To give you a taste of how Korn Ferry offers key takeaways for each section, below I have listed the takeaways for the information just outlined.

Takeaways for organizations

  • The traits that made these women CEO material – curiosity, willingness to take risks, persistence, and a need for achievement – were reinforced early in their lives. But these traits are not rare among women, and can be further cultivated in the workplace.

Takeaways for Women

  • An education in science, math or engineering sets a strong foundation for becoming a business leader.
  • While confidence is important, tempering it with equally high levels of humility doesn’t seem to have hurt these CEO’s careers.
  • Women should also pay attention to the issue of openness to difference. Women who are in the minority in an office might presume they are sufficiently exposed to differing (in this case, male) points of view. But CEOs aggressively seek out others’ opinions as they shape their own strategic vision.

I hope you have found this first installment of the Korn Ferry Institute’s “Women CEOs Speak” interesting. To really give you a detailed idea about what characteristics are most prominent in women CEOs is a great way to ground the study and to kick off my series of posts. Next up I will share with you how the traits outlined by Korn Ferry in this blog post are the ingredients needed to become a CEO. The main question Korn Ferry poses though is, what values and interests or motivators, referred to as drivers, guided the women’s career decisions?

Let me know what you think about this blog post and anything else you’d like to share about female CEOs!

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Amazon Weekly Roundup

Hi all!

Here is a weekly Amazon round up for ya! I am indeed working on a post with a little more substance than this, but in the meantime I wanted to share some Amazon items I think are great deals and I may be interested in purchasing.

The first is these rubber Birkenstock dupes! I had an awesome girls trip a couple of months ago to San Diego and one of my girlfriends had the actual Birkenstock version of these and she loved them! So, here’s a version for even less.

rubber birks

Next up is the St. Tropez Applicator Mitt. I LOVE the St. Tropez self tanner foam – it really is the best, and I’m one of those stubborn people who didn’t buy the mitt along with the self tanner, but it really is a must. This is in my cart and I will be purchasing as I have a trip to Santa Barbara coming up soon and these pasty white legs will need some color, and preferably without messing up my manicure!

applicator mit

So, I have a water flosser and it’s the best! This one is a similar version to what I have, but actually more compact. I received one for Christmas last year and I’ve added it to my dental routine!

water flosser

I have been very interested in exploring the whole essential oil diffuser thing, and without breaking the bank I think this find from Amazon is a good choice. It’s in my cart as we speak, but may still do a little more research before I pull the trigger on it. Definitely interested though because I’m a huge candle person, so why not essential oils?

diffuser

Last but not least, Meyer’s hand soap is 15% off on Amazon right now. I love this stuff, and usually get it from Target, but it’s not always marked down at Target. Definitely always have a spare bottle in the cabinet for when I run out.

meyers handsoap

That’s all for this week. Like I said, I’m working on a really great blog series that I’m hoping to get launched in the next couple of weeks, and I have a Fall FabFitFun box to review as well!

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Old Navy Roundup

It’s been quiet around here lately, which is 100% my fault, so I thought I would do a little Old Navy roundup. I haven’t been to Old Navy in some time so it was nice to see what they had available. A few of the pieces I picked up, and some I didn’t but if I had an endless wardrobe I would have purchased them.

I tried to roundup pieces that I thought were time capsule worthy. So the distressed denim jacket is great to wear casually with anything, and great to wear with a cute jumpsuit or dress to dress it down a bit. Also, the d’orsay shoes that Old Navy carries are THE BEST! When I was commuting to work every day they were a staple in my wardrobe. Plus, they’re so reasonably priced that you get plenty of wears out of them. I also included the faux leather mule – it’s a total Madewell dupe and super cute. I have the Madewell version of them and love them, but if you are on the fence about wearing a mule then this is a good way to try it out!

To see some of the pieces I bought check out my IG account: Wishbonedreams

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Saying Goodbye When You Aren’t Ready

Recently, I had to say goodbye to someone who in all honesty, I hadn’t seen in a number of years. But nowadays, with Facebook and Instagram and SnapChat, it’s so easy to feel like you still “see” that person or even “talk” to that person, even if you really don’t. With that said, myself and many of my high school classmates had the shock of our lives. We had to say goodbye to someone we had all grown up with in a number of different ways. Some had known him since they were four, others were his coaches, his sweet and loving family, or for some of us we met during those early years in our teens where everything you say, and do and the people you meet shape a significant piece of who you grow up to be.

Do you remember your first real date? Not the kind of date where your mom drops you off at the mall and you meet up with a boy – I’m talking about the boy drives his mom’s car over to your house to pick you up and take you to the movies. THAT kind of real date. And do you remember your first kiss? How about your first prom date? I bet you answered yet. These are important and people-shaping moments and memories in a teenager’s life. For me, the person I had to say goodbye to was all of those things. My first real date, my first real kiss, and my first prom date.

When I heard the news shock hit me, then I was overcome with complete sadness. The tears just flowed. I was sad for the people who love him so much and wouldn’t have him to talk to every day, I was sad for his two beautiful little boys, I was sad for the sports community that he had been such a big part of…I was just sad. Then the memories hit me like a ton of bricks. I shared some of the most important high school memories with him. I quickly realized that I was so lucky to have those memories with him and that every time I think of him or look back on those memories, I won’t be sad for long because they will make me smile.

His celebration of life was probably the nicest thing I’ve ever seen. His sister and family did an amazing job and it really celebrated him. It also brought so many of us back together again – many of which hadn’t seen each other in 20+ years! Yes, there were lots of tears, but there were also a lot of laughs and that helped everyone get through the day, and if I’m being honest, I think it’s what he would’ve wanted anyway.

It has been a tough couple of months for the large group that I grew up with. There has been a lot of saying goodbye recently to those who shouldn’t be leaving  so soon, and while I hope this is the last one for a long time, I am inspired by the notion that in order to heal and support we are all able come together. My brother pointed something interesting out to me – my graduating class, which was the class of 2001, was very closely linked to the class of 2000 and the class of 1999. My brother also pointed out that not many classes after mine co-mingled, so-to-speak, the way in which 1999-2001 did and it was very evident at the celebration of life. We all truly care about one another and when the need to come together is there it will happen – and in huge numbers! Of course, we all agree that it’s nice to see everyone and we should do it more, however not in this way, but in times of need, sadness, despair, or whatever it may be that’s when those who truly have your back show up.

This loss has also put many things into perspective for me and has made me think about things a little differently: mortality, love, life goals, commitment, loyalty…the list goes on. Something like this makes you take a self inventory and ask yourself if you’re really making the most out of life. Do you need to make a change? Do you need to slow things down and embrace experiences more? All I can say is hold those special things and special moments a little closer and a little tighter to your heart, because you don’t know how long you’ll have with them, and just be grateful. Be grateful for what you have and even for what you don’t have.

For now though, I have found myself lost in my thoughts and sad for the weeks following. I appreciate the little reminders of him that I randomly see. Whether it’s my 6 year-old niece plastering an entire sheet of Star Wars tattoos across her chest (he loved Star Wars – made me watch it on one of our “dates” for the first time at his house), or seeing a “Beast Mode” t-shirt at the gym – these are reminders of him, and though they make me sad at first, they also make me smile and that is something isn’t it? My only regret is that I didn’t actually see him more after we graduated, but I take solace in knowing that I have some pretty amazing memories that will forever be mine and his to share. As I said before, this isn’t goodbye forever, it’s just goodbye for now.

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Wishbonedreams Turns Two!

WordPress kindly reminded me that my blog turned two last month. Last year I was so excited and so aware when my blog turned one, that I did a whole reflective post and stats on my first year which you can read here.

This year, I was thinking it would be fun to reflect on my very first blog post, which you can find here Four Girls, a Road Trip & Camping. Two years ago myself and three girlfriends (the same three I was in Italy with), decided to road trip up to Oregon and go camping. And not some like comfy camping – I mean don’t get me wrong we had bathrooms and showers – but we also did good old tent camping. It was a lot of fun, but in reflecting on the post I realize how much my blog has changed. I’m still trying to figure out what the niche is – is this blog a travel blog? Not really. I travel, and occasionally share it on the blog, but that’s not it’s main focus. Is my blog about beauty products and outfits? At times I focus on those things, but not all the time. Is my blog about women empowerment and inspiration? Sometimes! The point here is that I still haven’t determined what this blog is supposed to be like, but people seem to enjoy it so I just write about whatever it is I’m feeling.

When I think back on the time I wrote my first blog, I had just changed jobs and was no longer doing executive communications. I was worried that my need to write wouldn’t be satisfied after removing that part of my daily work, so the blog was something to fill that void. It has definitely done it’s job! So much has changed since then! I am no longer working in that position, or at that company for that matter. I have traveled so much more since then – Italy, Mexico, all over the U.S. – and my relationships during that time have evolved, or gone away all together – both good things if you ask me 🙂 But what I’ve realized the most and appreciate the most is everyone who reads this little blog, and though I don’t always know how people are feeling about it, occasionally I’ll see someone I haven’t seen in a while and they’ll tell me how much they love reading my blog, and that is the reason I keep doing it! I enjoy it, it’s a way for me to express my feelings or share my experiences, but ultimately I love hearing that people enjoy it. For me, that’s the point.

I’m keeping this one short and sweet because really this is to say THANKS to the people who take the time read my little blog when it posts. Life gets hard sometimes and doing this makes me happy, and so I hope that reading it makes you all happy and relieves a little bit of the madness that life provides.

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How to Pack for a Work Trip Like a Pro

When I took my new job I knew that there would be some travel involved. What I didn’t realize was just how much travel. Since the end of March I have traveled to Austin, Orlando, Chicago, New Orleans and San Diego – five different cities and four different states (I live in California), all within a four week period. That’s a lot right? As you can imagine, I had to figure out the best way to pack for these trips, because not only am I out on the exhibit floor but there are always activities during the evening at these things as well. With that said, I had to take to my list-making skills and really plan out what I was going to wear and when.

I gave up on the idea of only taking a carry-on. It’s not worth the stress of trying to put a week’s worth of clothes into a tiny bag, so eliminating that right off the bat was very helpful. I realize that many people only ever want to take a carry-on and by all means I feel that way a lot of the time, but for work it just made more sense to take a bigger bag. Anyway, I figured I would list here the process I use for packing. I realize other people probably have a more efficient way of doing this, but this really keeps me organized.

  1. I scroll through my Pinterest account for outfit inspiration. I used to do this the night before work every day (before I was working from home), and would frequently find cute outfits that I could put together just from looking at some of my style boards on Pinterest.
  2. I make a list of the outfit that I’ve been inspired by.
  3. Then I make a packing list that will include all of the pieces that I am planning to pull, in addition to things like underwear and pajamas.
  4. Pull the pieces from my closet and try them on. This is important…there have been times where I have packed something that I was certain would look great on, only to find out at the hotel that I was very, very wrong. So, now I always try it on first before I pack it.
  5. Take a photo of it once it’s on. Sometimes once I’ve tried it on and packed it, I get to the hotel and think, ‘what the heck did I pack this to go with?’ So, to avoid that, I will take a photo of the outfit I tried on so that I can reference it once I’m in the hotel.
  6. Shoes! Be strategic with shoes. Try to pack a shoe that will go with more than one of your outfits.
  7. Jackets – I try my best to wear the one jacket I’ll want on my trip, one the airplane – that way it takes up less room in my bag.
  8. Throw some dryer sheets in with your clothes! It will keep them smelling fresh. Isn’t that the oddest thing? I pack clean clothes, pull them out after half a day of travel and boom, they don’t smell clean!
  9. I always, always unpack completely once I’m in the hotel room. I used to not do this…I would literally live out of my suitcase and not unpack anything, but now that I’m traveling more for work it’s essential to unpack especially for those pieces that will get wrinkled during travel in your suitcase.
  10. Roll you clothes. I’m sure most people already do this, as I’ve been doing it myself for sometime – especially when I packed 10 days work of clothes for an Italy trip into an international sized carry-on.

That’s my list! I hope you find it helpful. I do have some new ideas though that I’m going to try out for one of my next trips for sure. For example, I keep seeing things about packing cubes. It’s supposed to keep things compact and organized – definitely something I’m going to look into purchasing. I also read that packing your socks and undergarments in a small reusable cloth bag helps with organization as well. Given that we use reusable bags for everything I’m definitely looking forward to trying that. Especially because I’m notorious for throwing all of my dirty clothes in the dry cleaning bag and separating them from my leftover clean clothes when I travel home. And another thing…I have yet to find a suitcase that I just love, so that is definitely on my list for future purchase, so if anyone has recommendations let me know!

Until next time folks!

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Working from home: 10 ways to stay productive AND focused

A little over three months ago I started a new job which also includes working from home. I do have a local office about thirty minutes away from me, so if I do need to be present for something it’s not an inconvenience. I have to preface all of this by saying that I came from a previous work environment where it was often frowned upon to work from home. I will say that it was getting better (allowed one day per week to work remote – to enhance that work-life-balance stuff that everyone talks about, but no one really has), so I had a taste of what it can be like to work from home.

So, when the opportunity was given to me to expand my career, make more money, and work from home I was all too willing to explore it. I mentioned in a previous blog post that I did not make that decision lightly, and I stand by that, but the things that ultimately factored into making the decision I listed above. One of those big factors was a huge adjustment for me: working from home.

When I tell people I work from home their eyes light up and I usually get, “that’s so awesome,” “you’re so lucky!” but I also get the occasional, “isn’t it hard working from home?” “how do you stay focused?” Bottom line is this…it was an adjustment, and my boss at the time was worried that I would get lonely. She had previously worked at the same place I had been working and knew what the culture was like there, but I strangely found myself really happy – at first. I can be very social, but I can also be very, very introverted. It comes and goes. I have found though that working from home can contribute in both a negative and positive way when it comes to my state of mind and how I’m feeling.

The first couple of weeks on the new job I had to go into the office – I wasn’t quite set up for working in the system (IT stuff), so it was good to get to know some people so that when I am in the office I have someone to say hi to and chat with. But after that I was 100% working from home. Now that I’ve been doing it for a little over three months I thought I would put together some tips on how to stay productive while working from home, these are also tips on how I keep a positive state of mind while working from home:

  1. Act like you’re still getting up to go to work – I still set my alarm for 6:30 am. Also, it helps to get a jump start on the day because most of the folks I work with are on the east coast, and in some cases in Germany. Do I get fully showered and dressed at 6:30 am? No, but I do get my cup of coffee, launch the computer and start looking at what my day is going to be.
  2. Separate your work space from your living space – I learned this the hard way. My mom was painting my desk for me (she’s super crafty like that) so there was a delay in getting that space totally set up, which was fine because I was really just trying to get myself acclimated to the new world I had just embarked upon. However, I realized that working from the couch is a terrible idea. Imagine sitting on the couch and working for eight plus hours, then continuing to sit on the couch to watch TV in the evening? It was fine at first, but I realized quickly that having a separate working space from your living space is essential.
  3. Create a schedule/routine for YOU that works for YOU – Do you normally go to the gym like I do? I realized I now had the flexibility to squeeze the gym into the middle of my day. Not only does that break up my day, but it also gets something I dread leaving till the end of the day out of the way. It also gets me up and out of my desk chair. Which leads me to number 4…
  4. Take breaks – this may seem like a no-brainer, but here’s the thing…when you’re working at home you just crank things out. I’ve had days where I didn’t leave my chair for hours, which is not good! So, breaks for me consist of walking the dog, going to the gym, making my lunch and eating it not at my desk, folding my laundry and putting it away, even cleaning the bathroom! Seems ridiculous I know, but it gets you away from your desk to take a break, and in some cases mark a chore off of your list!
  5. Don’t stay in your pajamas all day – While some days this sounds like the BEST, believe me it’s not. Always get yourself out of your pajamas. I mentioned above that I start my morning in my PJ’s, but I don’t stay like that all day. I will often take my morning calls and then get ready for the day – even if that means putting on gym clothes for later – the bottom line is that you get yourself out of your pajamas! Sometimes I will get fully ready – makeup and hair without the intention of going anywhere, just to feel like I’m put together and not a total bum.
  6. Try to work no more than an eight hour day – I know I wrote “try,” and I did this because it’s not always that easy. For example, I took a couple of days off a week or two ago, I paid for it when I returned as I had two ten hour days that week. But it happens…and if it isn’t necessary then DON’T DO IT. Don’t put in the extra two hours every day just because. Would you do the same if you were commuting to an office every day? Probably not. Would you do it if you had deadlines etc.? Probably. Don’t change how much you would or wouldn’t work simply because you’re working from home and it is always accessible and right there at your finger tips.
  7. Keep your desk and general work area clean and organized – I try to clean up a bit every day when I’ve wrapped things up. It can be difficult at times, but if I don’t get to it, but the weekend I will definitely clean things up and get things organized for a good start to the following week.
  8. Make time for people – I have found myself cancelling plans because I get into this weird anti-social funk, which I believe is a result of working from home. Make yourself go and be social. Some weeks I’m dying to visit with friends, and others I’m introverting big time. Either way, try to make time for those people, it will give you a boost of energy and feeling of purpose outside of the house and your work space.
  9. Set daily goals – I did this even when I wasn’t working from home. I have this huge planner that I write my lists in (YES, I write my lists – I don’t keep them typed somewhere). I take great satisfaction in marking something off of my list. But, in all seriousness, if you kept lists or sticky notes everywhere in your work cubicle, do the same at home, it will help you feel comfortable and organized.
  10. Be grateful you get to work from home – don’t forget that working from home is a privilege – it really is! I commuted via train for ten years before getting the opportunity to work from home, and sat in a cubicle for the same amount of time. Don’t forget to be grateful for it, even if it feels like a challenge at times.

There you have it! These are just my tips with a mere three months in, but I think they are helpful. I’m sure they will change and I’m sure in another three to six months I’ll have more to add to this list, but these ten things I have found helpful in the early stages of working from home. Does anyone else work from home and have tips and or tricks to add that I didn’t list here? I would love to hear them!

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Self-Care – What is it and what does it mean?

What is self-care? With all of things I go through, work frustration or relationship sadness or frustration, I find comfort in self-care. I have even suggested it as a way to cope with a break-up to some of my friends. It really makes a difference. For me though, the definition of self-care is taking that time to pamper yourself – get your nails done, an extra long pedicure, or a massage. For some people, that may just be part of their regular self-care routine and it isn’t extraordinary and therefore might not make them feel better, which prompted me to think about other aspects of self-care. I broke it down into physical, emotional, personal, social, spiritual, and practical self-care. I will caution this by saying, I am no expert, these are just my opinions on how you can take care of yourself when you’re not really feeling like yourself.

Physical self-care

This encompasses your basic physical needs. Sometimes, if I’m angry, going for a run is the only thing that will make me feel better. Maybe my mind is running around in circles and I’m overthinking something (shocking!), and yoga is the best way to re-center myself and clear my mind and chakras.  Pampering your body and just simply doing what feels good is part of physical self-care as well. Does a massage help you relax and work things out in your head? Or maybe help you not think about anything at all? For me, when I have a multi-day migraine a massage is the only thing that can clear it up.  Having a pedicure that is like the deluxe edition – hot oil etc. – will often be my go-to when I’m not feeling so great. Identify what works for you and have no hesitation in taking those steps to make yourself feel better!

Emotional self-care

This is identifying the best way to process emotions in a healthy way, figuring out what your good coping mechanisms are. Does meditation help you? There are so many great guided meditations on YouTube. I highly recommend exploring that option, not only will it help you think about something else, but these meditations will guide you back to the right train of though in case your thoughts go astray – which is likely to happen while meditating. Spirituality is also a good way to process emotions in a healthy way – if that is something you believe in and practice. Also, don’t be afraid to feel your feelings…just don’t live there for too long. I strongly believe that there is nothing wrong with a really good ugly cry. But have it, be in it, and then wipe your tears and say, “that felt great, but I can’t live here.” If another way of coping emotionally is seeing your therapist or calling a friend who is just a great listener, then by all means confide in those people as well!

Personal self-care

Some activities in the personal self-care area can be getting to know yourself in a different way. After a really bad break-up, I decided that I needed to shed some relationship weight so I got a trainer, signed up for a half marathon and discovered a new part of me who really enjoyed going to the gym, and wasn’t intimidated to grab weights and workout on the gym floor with others. It really helped me get out of my funk and begin the path forward. Trying new things – so I haven’t necessarily been a “cook,” and my mom would make fun of me in high school and college because I basically had no desire to cook – so who would want to marry me?! Anyway, with the introduction of at-home delivery of fresh produce and recipes I have discovered how much I enjoy cooking. It’s something I look forward to, and is very satisfying in the end. I’m one of those people who love to follow instructions and have an end product, so BlueApron is a great new thing that I’ve tried and enjoyed. Spending time alone is another personal self-care option. For some people this might be a bad idea, but if you have children or are involved with your family a lot, have a really busy social life, spending some time alone might be just the thing you need to reset and recharge. Making time for hobbies you enjoy is another personal self-care item that I think is often thrown off to the side. If you love to write (like me!) or draw, paint, read etc., then do it and make time for it! It really is a therapeutic task. Last but not least, have goals for yourself. Especially if they can directly relate back to self-care. Are your finances stressing you out? Set a goal to set aside something simple like 5 bucks a week. It will help feel like you’re making progress.

Social self-care

For some people this might not work. But, not getting enough social interaction is also a bad thing. I have realized how important social self-care is now that I work from home about 95% of the time. Even if it’s just getting out to run to the bank, it’s good! But in the same token, social interaction can be a little toxic with some people and that’s where having really good boundaries is important. I’ve talked about my issues with drawing boundaries in past blog posts, and I still struggle with it, but ensuring that someone isn’t going to drag you down with them, or impact how you feel personally is so very important. Create those boundaries and hold them to it – it is good for YOU!

Spiritual self-care

I talked a tiny little bit about this when we were discussing coping mechanisms, but if you are spiritual it’s important to take self-care in that area as well. If you’re confused about your beliefs, take the time to really figure it out. Read books about spirituality and prayer. I have found that many of the fellow bloggers that I follow frequently share books they are reading on prayer or their beliefs, or some of their bible study groups, so that is a way to engage in spiritual self-care.

Practical self-care

So this is doing things that are practical, but very much impactful. Getting your finances in order, completing chores…I feel so accomplished when I do really mundane things like vacuum the stairs, or clean the bathroom. For the short period of time it takes to complete those tasks, you can enjoy the result for multiple days. Of course, something else that lands under practical self-care is to set healthy work boundaries. Now that I work from home I have moments where I think – wow I haven’t stepped outside in 10 hours. If healthy work boundaries means stepping outside to go for a walk and clear your head, or checking your last email at 6 pm and not again until the next morning, then amen to you because that is a very practical self-care thing to do – and something I need to practice myself. Healthy work boundaries is also an area I struggled with in the past. Sometimes it’s hard when you become close friends with the people you work with to identify where your boundaries are – so take some time to really think about it and see what works for you and you work relationships.

I wanted to write this blog post, as I mentioned before, because I truly think self-care is important. As I began to write about it and search around a bit. I found that there were multiple ways to self-care, so I hope that by my sharing this you are inspired to start treating yourself to some self-care. Likewise, I hope that it reinforces the importance of continuing to treat yourself with the utmost care and consideration.

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FabFitFun Spring Box Review

I believe this is my sixth FabFitFun box. It’s $49.99 per quarter and you receive full-sized samples. I absolutely love it. I also receive a monthly BirchBox, but those are really just sample sized, so the flip side of this is if you really like something you got in your FabtFitFun box, the good news is you have the full sized product…the bad news is if you don’t like something then you’re either stuck with it, or on the flip side you can give it to a friend who might want or like it – which I have done in the past. I don’t have to keep it and figure out what to do with it if I don’t need it – I can give it as a gift to someone else who might love it.

Dove exfoliating body polish

I generally like Dove products. I’ve been using Dove deodorant for as long as I can remember – it’s the only thing that doesn’t irritate the skin under my arms. And, I think I would use more Dove products if I was a bigger fan of the way they smelled. I don’t think they smell bad per say, but I think it just doesn’t agree with me. Anyway, clearly that’s just me being a weirdo, but I wanted to definitely give the Dove exfoliating body polish a chance. Plus, anything to exfoliate my skin while we are in full on winter/spring things are blooming, etc. stage of the season. Couple of things: 1. The packaging was deceiving. FabFitFun is almost always full sized products – not sample size. So when I ripped open the packaging I was surprised to find that the packaging on the front – which looked like a cream jar – was a farce! I opened the back up to find a foil wrap to open next. I peeled that back and voila there was the product. So needless to say, I quickly realized I was going to need to use the entire thing in one shot (there was no way to securely close it after I opened it). 2. It is very grainy feeling. You know when you have the body washes or face wash that have the beads in them? Yeah, that’s what this felt like texture-wise. I’m not generally a fan of that, and I know that it is possible to have exfoliating cream that goes on smoothly (I use the skin exfoliate from European Wax Center). So, I had to make sure that any that hadn’t gone down the drain, or had ended up on the shower wall somehow was additionally rinsed because I could feel the exfoliating beads on the floor of the shower.

OK – enough about the packaging and how it felt. If I didn’t have those two gripes, oh and the smell (so basically change the whole thing! Hah just kidding) I would say it was a good product. My skin did noticeably feel softer when I got out of the shower, having done what I’m sure it was supposed to. I will also say that having an exfoliate that you can use in the shower makes for a lot of convenience (the one I use from European Wax Center you can only use on dry skin – however you can see a NOTICEABLE difference in that you are actually pulling up the dead skin – gross, I know). Anyway, if you’re looking for something that exfoliates pretty well and that you can use in the shower – and you don’t have all the other weird gripes I have – then I say go for it. I will personally not be purchasing that product.

57 Physique Massage Roller

This roller massage is a dream! My nieces think it’s hysterical and fun to use as well, but I really do enjoy it. I’ve been on a bit of workout hiatus but I’m looking forward to putting it to good use a day or two after a hard workout to workout some of soreness I always feel. Another great thing is that FabFitFun also includes a little newspaper/magazine that explains how to use the products in your box, which means for the massage roller they outlined a number of ways to massage specific parts of your body. Definitely need to file that one away!

Dermelect Cosmeceuticals Makeover

If I’m being totally honest, I probably won’t use for a long time. I get my nails done like clock work every 2-3 weeks, and I usually get gel manicures. However, there are times where I take a break (I think it’s good to take a break every once in a while and give your nails some time to air out), so when I’m taking that time I’ll explore using the dermelect cosmeceutical makeover. When I do I’ll let you know what I think!

Anderson Lilley Sunset Collection Candle: No 15 Fresh Linen Candle

I LOVE having candles in every room so when I saw there was a candle in my FabFitFun I was really excited to check it out. For me, a good candle smells clean and/or fresh (not like food or drinks bleh), and lasts a while! I will burn a candle all day long if I’m going to be in that room that long, so as you can imagine that means if it’s a bad candle it will burn very fast – which is frustrating. As a tip, I usually get my candles at HomeGoods, TJ-Maxx, or Marshalls – you can find HUGE candles that smell heavenly for under 15 bucks! And most importantly, they always seem to last a very long time – which makes me happy.

Anyway, I’m digressing a bit here. So, this candle smells SO good. It also came in this adorable brass colored tin container which I will have to figure out how to reuse at some point, and most importantly I have been able to burn this candle for several hours with minimum burnout. I’m excited to have this candle hang around for a while!

Free People Eye Mask

I took this with me while I was in Austin, Texas for work. I figured this would be the perfect place to use it with all the traveling and the reprocessed air that I would be taking in, which for some reason always makes my eyes puffy. It is a vegan leather eye mask that features a removable, non-toxic cooling insert to keep you feeling and looking refreshed. Luckily I had a mini fridge in my room so I was able to get the mask to cool a little bit and use it. I love it and will definitely use it going forward.

Ettika Day Dreamer Tassel Earrings

I’m 100% on the fence about these earrings. I realize that tassel earrings are really trendy right now, but I haven’t quite figured out how to style these. I’ve put them on a few times, but didn’t feel like it worked with my outfit and took them off. I will try again, and maybe it’s something that might look cute with a summer dress or something like that, but we aren’t quite into summer yet, so this will have to wait for a real review.

Rachel Pally Reversible Clutch

I love this purse. I don’t know how FabFitFun does it (I mean, I know I had to fill out a preferences form so they could get to know me and what I like), but I’m always so surprised at just how spot on they get my style. This purse was one of those things. I have loved bird of paradise plant. I just think it is so pretty, and just makes me smile when I see it. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see the reversible purse with a tropical pattern that included bird of paradise! Can’t wait to use it once the weather gets a little warmer and it feel more appropriate to carry (SO much rain in Northern California these days – though needed, it’s just been a lot over a couple of weeks).

ISH lip statement pallette 

Well…I did not like this lip selection, unfortunately. I tried every single one of the 12 options and they just didn’t look right with my skin. The lucky person who got their hands on this slightly used lip palette? My 6 year old niece who loves to play dress up. It made her day!

Korres Guava Body Butter

In complete honesty, I absolutely DO NOT need another lotion, BUT I do really like this one. It is a really good hydrating lotion and kept my legs soft all day. Also important to note, it smelled like vacation! What i mean is that it reminded me of Hawaii for some reason, and who doesn’t want that reminder?? Anyway, I recommend it and I’m pretty excited to continue to use every day after I shower.

Murad Skin Perfecting Lotion

I have to say, I really like this facial lotion. I’ve tried thicker lotion, thinner lotion, astringent type facial “lotion” so I was happy to find that this one was somewhere in the perfect middle of not too thick and not too runny. I like it a lot, and in general like Murad products so this was definitely a win-win. How things will go over time while using it, obviously I don’t know yet, but I do like it enough to continue to use it until the bottle is out.

Bando Hot stuff tumbler

So, this item was an add-on. FabFitFun has this great option for subscribers where they open up a time period where you can add-on additional items for a lower price – and this is also the time that you can choose some of your samples! Which I think is a great option as well. Anyway, depending on the time of year – for example at Christmas time I did some add-ons and gave them as Christmas gifts! Or, in cases where I think I may be in need of something and FabFitFun happens to have that item then I’ll add it on! I recently began working from home so the need for just one nice single coffee tumbler had come about. I had been thinking about getting rid of the crummy ones that I had been using every day for the past 10 years and purchasing one cute tumbler that I could use on the days that I was going to be traveling into the office. Queue the Bando hot stuff tumbler!

First impression is that I love the color. Also, it kept my coffee warm for the 45 minute drive I had into the office, also a plus! The only thing, and I think this was most definitely user error, was that I had pushed the lid shut, but didn’t twist the lid. So, the first few sips were spill-free, but then as I got closer to the middle/end of my coffee it started spilling down the front of me. Like I said, user error. Once I realized what I did wrong I haven’t had the same problem again. Bottom line is that I really like the tumbler and will be tossing all my other tumblers in the recyclce bin!

Whish body butter and wash

I just in general love the Whish brand. Their lotions always smell amazing, and a little goes a long way (which is good because Whish is not a cheap brand by any means). This was also an add-on for under $20 and having purchased Whish products in the past I knew that getting the body butter and wash as a bundle for that price was worth it. I’ve only used their lotion or body butter so I was excited to try the body wash. The body wash, along with the body butter, had a very clean scent to it. Not too strong, and not that of floral or sweet…just clean, which I like! The body wash, similarly to their lotions, a little went a long way. The body butter smelled the same as the body wash, and is thick enough that I felt like it was hydrating my skin – especially during these winter months when my skin is extremely dry. Again, a little goes a long way and I like that even though the lotion is thick it absorbed quickly enough that when I put on my leggings I didn’t feel like I was taking any of the lotion off – don’t you hate that? Anyway, I recommend the body butter and wash for sure!

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