Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My Story

I was asked to write a biography for a dance team that I recently auditioned for (and was unfortunately, not selected). I had no idea what to write! I felt like some things they wouldn't care to hear or it wouldn't come across as professional. It might not have, but after writing it and reading it, I was so PROUD. I didn't realize how far I had actually come, how many failures I've had to endure just to get to the few really amazing successes. I think we all have gone through these types of ups and downs, but putting it on paper made a huge difference. It also showed me just how many people have touched my life in so many positive ways!
Here is my dance story -

I have danced since the age of 3. I studied many forms throughout the years and being open to learning new styles and genres has afforded me many opportunities that I could never have predicted. I split my childhood between Maryland and Georgia. While in Maryland, I joined a company called Rhythm N Shoes and was on one of the first competitive pee-wee/mini groups in the state. We competed all over the Northeast. Due to the unique nature of my team, we were asked to audition to be a part of a Prudential Life Insurance Commercial. The producers and director picked 5 girls and I was chosen! That was one of my first experiences dancing as a job and I loved every minute of filming.

Moving to Georgia at age 8 was one of the biggest transitions I’ve ever undergone. Not only was it a completely different culture than in Maryland (and the fact that I had to make all new friends), the dance scene was very different. The big thing at the time there was clogging. I joined 2 studios in the area to get a feel for the differences – one competed and one did not. The studio that competed required that all dancers take clogging classes in addition to ballet, tap and jazz. I had never heard of such a thing, but was eager to try. Clogging became one of my most favorite forms of dance after that! I went on to compete nationally and take home many championships with my team. We also got very unique opportunities to perform all over the country and abroad. I was part of a group that did a mini-tour through the south and we performed at the Grand Old Opry, Sea World in Florida and on a Disney Cruise (the ship itself and at one of the islands in the Caribbean). You can still catch me doing it in the grocery store today!

 In addition to the competition scene, I still trained and the non-competitive studio. The owner was Royal Academy trained in ballet and she had a stellar staff that included a
former Atlanta Falcons Cheerleader. Once I got to high school, I tried out for my cheer team but did not make it and was really discouraged. I consulted with the former professional cheerleader to see how I could improve and she offered me a spot on the Junior Atlanta Falcons Cheerleading team. I was able to perform during pre-game and halftime shows at the Georgia Dome and got my first look into the world of professional cheer and dance for sports teams. I was hooked. Through that organization, I was able to audition for the NBA All Stargame dancers when the game came through Atlanta and was selected! I was assigned as a back-up dancer for the halftime performance with Mariah Carey - which is probably the most surreal experience I’ve ever had (I'm in the back right wearing a Chicago Bulls jersey). I knew that I wanted to do this long term. In addition to that, I participated in many ballet productions with this studio including The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music and Scrooge the Musical. Fun fact – I nearly almost always played a boy in these productions because I loved to jump and turn.

After high school, I decided to attend UT Dallas on an academic scholarship for two reasons. The first was that the university was a great fit for me from an academic and student life standpoint - lots of research, clubs and organizations available. The other was that I wanted to experience the dance scene in Dallas, which was and is very different than in Atlanta. I did not make the dance team at UTD, which was one of the primary reasons I selected the school, so I tried out for cheerleading thinking that I probably would not make it, just like high school. However, to my surprise, I was selected and cheered all four years for the Comets. I also accidentally got a minor in dance in addition to my degree in Psychology. Accidentally, because I was not actively pursuing it – I just took so many classes and participated in the UTD Dance Ensemble that my advisor told me to declare it as I had the hours already. I also took my first modern/contemporary class at UTD, which led to many performances with other universities in the area as well as great companies like Battleworks. UTD also gave me the great experience of being in a sorority – Kappa Alpha Theta. I could write a novel on how that organization has shaped my life and helped me, but I won’t here. I can say that they lead me to never give up on my dreams, kept me dreaming big, introduced me to my favorite philanthropic cause that I still support today and helped me to evolve and grow in almost every aspect of my life. Thorough that organization, I was awarded academic, philanthropy and spirit awards. I also represented Theta as Ms. Greek at UTD. I still am an active alumnae for Theta and am a volunteer advisor for recruitment for my chapter – I want to give back some of what I have been given.

After my undergrad years, dance had to take a backseat to my graduate degree. While pursuing my masters, I did teach dance at a recreation center and was the sole dance person on staff. I taught ages 3-15 in ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop and cheer. That was my outlet amongst the difficulties of graduate school. I loved my studies and work within the field today (Industrial Organizational Psychology), but it really took all of my time and attention to be able to perform well and grasp the information. It wasn’t just about classes – I had to conduct research and present findings on national levels. My research, symposiums and posters, were accepted at UT Arlington’s ResearchFair, Industrial Organizational/Organizational Development conference and the Society of Industrial Organizational Psychologists conferences. I can talk all day about selection, statistics and human resources if you ask me! I love that my job helps people find the best fit for them for a job and for an organization. I don’t take any selection decisions lightly as it affects people’s lives and well beings. In addition to this background, I got heavily into social media and digital marketing through my first job as a research consultant. I love being able to help people more efficiently and impact them in positive ways. I still brought dance into the workplace by coordinating flash mobs and routines for conferences or events like Taco Bell’s 50th anniversary. I love bringing that component of myself to my coworkers and associates – it makes people happy.

Once I became financially stable following graduate school, I decided to re-try my dream of dancing on a sports team in Dallas. I have to be honest – this city intimidated me. Everyone was so put-together, had amazing training and knew so much that I did not. In addition, I was coming into the game late at 25 years old when many of these talented women enter the game at 18. I had to catch up and fast. I had to learn the styles in Dallas and lose the weight I put on through school. I had to learn nutrition which is no easy task later in life. I lost a total of 26 pounds and made the Texas TornadoSiren Dancers in 2012 and loved every minute of being on that team. I had never really experienced hockey up close and now I follow it and am a huge fan! The following year, I danced with the Texas Revolution Dancers and loved that I got yet another experience with a different team and sport. Through those experiences, I’ve met so many people, made life-long friendships with girls on my teams or girls I met in classes and learned so many things that I don’t want to stop dancing, if I can help it.

 I’ll leave you with one of the best quotes that was shared with me, especially during times of failure as I’ve had my share of them – Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined – Thoreau. While I love that quote, I want to the live the life I cannot imagine – sometimes you just can’t imagine the best and most beautiful experiences in life! 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Go, FIGHT, Win! Who doesn't miss college?

Who doesn’t miss their college years? I sure do – and not for reasons that you might think. I really loved going to different classes and learning about so many different subjects. I feel like I was almost rushed through it to obtain a degree and go out into the job market. While travelling abroad, I wished that I had taken more classes on foreign language, art – practical and historical, world history and world events. I wished I had the time to catch onto subjects that weren’t my forte (looking at you, chemistry).  Those classes didn’t really figure into my degree, so they were left by the wayside. I miss the continuous growth and development and hard measures to ensure that you ARE growing. I miss the accessibility of experts when you had questions or needed help getting something (Google isn’t always the answer, but it’s a good place to start!).

I miss the flexibility that college afforded. I could work 4 jobs in completely different areas (part time, of course) but still cheer for my university, be in academic clubs and be an active member of my sorority. Nowadays, it’s tough to do anything outside of work because of the standard “you have to be in office to prove you are working” mindset.

I miss the friendships and accessibility to them. I was actually talking to a friend who lives in a different city about this the other day. It is pretty sad when you have friends that talk to you all day, but can’t get lunch with them. I’m so glad to have social media – otherwise keeping up with people is really close to impossible. People move, start families and are at different points in their lives. I want to keep in touch with my friends who are moms just as much as my friends who live in Europe and just as much as people who are in the same place in life I am. It’s easier to gravitate towards those who are in similar spots – my mom friends really don’t want to come to a happy hour at 6pm because their kids need their attention. Conversely, I don’t want to hang out at a kid-friendly place with no kids (sorry, makes me feel awkward. But college afforded an arena where everyone was on the same page, even if they weren’t going through that era in the same way. I loved being able to have instant lunch or pool friends because they happened to be on campus. I loved working with my peers if they didn’t have time to hang out. I even visited friends when they were working, or went to intramural or university games in which they were playing or participating. There was always someone to see.

I miss the clubs and groups. I loved being on a cheer team, doing master dance classes for free with my ensemble and talking about neuroscience, even though that ended up not being my major – as an adult there are few options for hobbies anymore. For example, I’ve been looking to take an art class for adults and have come up rather empty. I miss my sorority. I miss having a weekly meeting where we conducted ritual to remind us that we are aspiring to be better than we are. That we had to think about others, including current, past and future members and how we can help each other be successful – whatever the definition of success for that individual might be. I miss the lessons on how to work with friends and how to work with people who you would definitely not call a friend, but you would call them your sister. I miss the activities that would build us as a group, but also as an individual. What sparked these thoughts was the picture here. We wrote our name on a kite at sisterhood retreat and each member wrote a message on there. Reading them made me tear up with happiness – the messages ranged from saying I’m a great dancer to that I’m a strong and fearless woman. Even though that happened about 10 years ago, I still needed to hear it. It felt like it did when I first read them.

I feel like each component of college offered so many lessons, relationships and so much knowledge that really gets squashed afterwards. I FIGHT to have multiple interests and I FIGHT for my dreams to stay alive. I FIGHT for my relationships and I FIGHT to be sure that they don’t fizzle away. I also wonder why it has become this way. Why do we let this happen as post-graduates or even adults? You don’t have to go to college to have these same types of feelings – who hasn’t had to give up on a dream due to time and finances? Who hasn’t let people who you once spent every moment with drift away? I don’t think that’s healthy or right. I think that there are ways that we can continue that growth and continue those connections. You need to hear those positive messages from your friends and they need to hear them from you. The world might not be set up for all of that, but I’ll be sure to FIGHT for it. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Eavesdropping on Recruiting

Listening to my recruiters call potential candidates, do phone screens and set up interviews has really become a ritual. I sit in a cube near them and while I’m posting to social media, researching vendors, wrangling vendors (LOL), investigating hard-to-fill areas and looking for ways to help them in general, I hear “Good afternoon, may I speak with..” “Hey, I’m just giving you a call back to check on your status of paperwork..” “Ok, I can walk you through this process, it will take about 10 minutes…” ”Do you have time between 2-4pm for an interview…” “ While on the interview be sure to be professionally dressed and really talk about your experience and excitement for the position..” and the list goes on and on.

What occurred to me the other day is that these people, MY recruiters are truly helping others. While it might seem like an automated machine of filling requisitions and jobs, they WANT these people to get jobs. I hear them talk about their candidates and how they get frustrated when the hiring manager doesn’t give them the time of day when they are a good candidate. Or when the candidates act like they are telemarketers – they really are trying to get this person a job and squared away to be hired! I also hear them coach them after the hiring manager decides not to hire them. They ask about the interview, ask what was said and provide feedback based upon the hiring manager. I would have LOVED to get that early on in my career or even now! Interviews often feel weird when you are denied a position – how can I improve? I’m hearing them do this for their candidates, whether they are part time or salaried.

Sometimes recruiting gets a bad rap. Recruiters are like salespeople in a lot of ways – they are selling the job and organization to a candidate. They are looking to assess fit on the front line and are looking for people that WANT to work; who would be a good addition to the team. I hear candidates and hiring managers tell these people that they do not have the best interests of others at heart – that they just want to reach numbers. That isn’t what I’m seeing. I’m seeing people trying to do right by others. I hear it every day. And I’m proud to hear it!