The Carpe Career! Plan


First year students often feel like they’re in a holding pattern when it comes to career exploration.  Not true.  Before launching into internships, you can begin dipping your toes into lots of career prospecting waters by shadowing professionals every chance you get. I recommend starting during your very first semester at college (if you haven’t already begun in high school).  Follow this Carpe Career! Plan to get started…

The Carpe Career! Plan

1. The List.

Between now and winter break, create a list of professional people (‘experts’) you know in your ‘field’ of interest, who might be able to provide some insights about careers.  If you’re interested in Biology, but uncertain about which biological field to explore, cast a wide net.  Do you have an uncle who’s a Biology professor?  An aunt who’s a doctor?  What about the veterinarian you’ve been taking your dog to for years?  Are you on good terms with your high school biology teacher?  What about that guest speaker from the local zoo?  Wasn’t there a kid on your football team whose mom was a forensic biologist with the police department?  All of these are great people to put on your ‘expert’ list.  What if you’re interested in a very esoteric field, like computer game design, and you don’t know anyone who knows anyone who does that?  Well, have you read any gaming magazines that mention the gaming gurus who are taking that world by storm?  Throw those guys’ names on your expert list!  It certainly can’t hurt.

What if you have absolutely no idea about anyone in your field of interest?  What a great excuse to pop in and see your professors?  Ask them if they have any names.  Many professors have contacts all over the planet.  (Good thing you’ve been cultivating all those great relationships with your profs!!)  Your campus career center probably has an alumni network you can tap into, as well, and there’s nothing wrong with venturing online to see some cool TED Talks and contacting some of those ‘famous’ people.

2.  The Letter.

Well, we know letters have gone the way of the cassette tape, so let’s just make it an email.  Draft an email to everyone on your list (the more difficultly famous folks might take some resourcefulness to track down their addresses).  This email should be short and sweet and to the point.  You’re a student looking for some guidance.  Here’s a template you can follow and modify as you see fit.

Subject:  Student Seeking Advice

Dear Ms. Wisenheimer:

I am a first-year student at Clueless U. who is interested in (insert your career aspirations here) and looking for some guidance.  I’m good at (insert some stuff you’re good at) and I’m especially interested in (insert stuff you like, general career ideas, or courses you like here), but I don’t have a good sense of how this might translate into career opportunities.  If you would be so kind as to answer a few of these questions to the best of your ability, I would truly appreciate it.

  • How did you prepare for your career?
  • How did you break into it?
  • What do you love about it?
  • What do you hate about it?
  • How do you spend most of your days?

I thank you, in advance, for any responses or additional advice you can provide.


K. Reer Hunter

If you’re concerned about sending a ‘cold call’ letter out of the blue, don’t be.  Most people would love an opportunity to help out a young student, and you’ve just given them the opportunity.  There will be few other times in your life when you can play a card like ‘the student card,’ so use it while you can.  Most professional people will respond with a kind note when they find a moment to breathe.  If you don’t get a response, maybe you got lost in their spam filter.  If they’re high on your list of important people, then try again in about a month.  Don’t guilt-trip them.  Just follow up.  After that, if they still don’t respond, just make a new list: “People I’ll be sure to fire when I become king of the world.”  Just kidding.  Assume they’re on an extended vacation or simply not interested and don’t waste any more mental energy wondering about it.  Of course, be sure to check YOUR OWN spam filter to ensure that their response is not sitting in YOUR email box.

3.  The Leap.  (aka The Bait and Switch or “You want more?!”)

After you’ve received a nice response from the nice professional person, it’s time to ask for more.

(Oooops.  First read their note and be sure it was a NICE note.)

Now, despite the seemingly negative header of this section about wanting more or ‘baiting and switching’, asking for more falls into the categories of ‘it can’t hurt to ask’, ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ and ‘if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.’  Remember, you’re playing your student card, so ask, ask, ask!

Ask for what?  The biggie!  An opportunity to ‘shadow’ this professional person for a day at their job.   And this email should sound like this:

Dear Ms. Wisenheimer:

Thank you so much for your generous response and thoughtful note.  Your insights will serve me well as I continue to explore who I am, what might be out there for me, and how I might contribute to a better world.

If I may be so bold, I was wondering if you would ever entertain the idea of allowing me to ‘shadow’ you at your job for a day, either during my winter or summer break.  I’m hoping such an observational experience will give me heightened perspective on the field of (insert field here) and a taste of ‘the real world’.

If you think it would be feasible, please let me know.

Again, thank you so much for your helpful response.


I. M. Needy

Of course, planning and logistics are going to come into play both before and after you make such a request.  If you live in Ohio and Ms. Wisenheimer lives in California, this will be tougher (and more expensive).  So, start with people geographically close.  If you live in Cleveland, and your uncle works there, start with him.  I’d recommend that a 2-hour driving radius from your home would be reasonable.  That’s a long drive, and it will be a long day, but it’s an investment you should be willing to make.  Let’s put it in perspective…. Take the longest road trip you’ve made for fun with your friends, cut it in half, and make that your geographic radius.

Now, let’s consider some tougher scenarios.  Let’s say that you’re looking at becoming a computer game designer, and all those people are on the coasts while you’re stuck in the ‘flyover’ states (as a Midwestern kid, I’ve always hated that term).  Jack B. Nimble, the hottest game designer on the planet actually responded to your email, and you want to spend a day with him.  What to do?!  You’re going to have to get creative and you’re going to have to look at your budget.  Here are some options:

  • Ask Jack if they have an office near your home in Ohio.
  • Ask Jack if he knows of other game designers closer to your home.
  • Talk to your folks about a potential family trip to California, so you can see Jack.
  • Do you have any relatives you can visit near Jack?
  • Do you have any friends who want to road trip to Jack-ville?
  • Tell Jack that it’s a long way and very cost prohibitive, and ask if he’d be willing to create a mini-internship that covers the costs of your travel and lodging if you made the trip? (I said you might have to get creative!  In fact, now would be a great time to send Jack some of your cool ideas or projects you’ve worked on to make him ‘hungrier’ to meet you.)

All of this is really as simple as it sounds (depending upon geography, of course):  The List.  The Letter.  The Leap.  It’s just that simple.

Here are some supplemental tips:

  • Try one shadowing experience during your first winter break.  This allows you to get used to it, and it demonstrates to yourself, and to others, that you’re serious about your future.  Then do 3-4 shadow experiences over your next summer break, and continue to pepper your college breaks with similar experiences.
  • Every time you shadow someone, ask for another professional’s name.  This will make the process self-perpetuating and less of a grind.  You just set the wheels in motion during your first year, and then simply make new contacts and set up shadowing appointments after that.
  • Offer to pay for lunch in appreciation for your host’s time.  They will rarely take you up on it, but be ready with $100 cash in your pocket.  When you get home, you can put it right back in your bank, but… Scout’s Motto:  Be Prepared.
  • Treat each experience as a potential first contact for an internship or a ‘real job’ after college.  This is not fantasy.  This is REALLY how initial contacts are made.
  • Get a decent, professional-looking notebook, take it with you, and jot down ANYTHING you think is interesting:  big ideas, names of people you meet, job-related information, questions that emerge.  Write down (or record in a voice memo on your phone) everything you remember immediately after.  Don’t wait until after the long drive home, or your sure to forget some good stuff.
  • Do some homework ahead of time about the person you’re visiting and the organization.
  • Get your host’s business card and write a HAND-WRITTEN thank you note when you get home (or make it an email if they seem too busy for such ‘old school’ charm).

Remember, the rationale behind all of this is to have a long-term focus designed to give you perspective for the next big decision you’ll make in your life – your life after college.  That’s right.  This is about having a plan AND asking forward-thinking questions like, “What do I want to be able to say at graduation time?”  Aside from your academic success, you’d probably like to say that you have SOME idea about where you’ll turn to next.

Consider this:  What if you have decent grades, the economy is decent, and you end up with four job offers coming out of college?  How can you possibly choose among those offers if you have no perspective?  Well, this approach will help you garner perspective.

Think about it.  By graduation time, if you do two big internships, which will give you a relatively ‘deep’ experience in your field of interest, and you dip your toes in lots of different waters by shadowing many professionals for a day at a time, you will have secured plenty of perspective about how you’d like to proceed.  You will have amassed multiple and varied experiences from every professional you visited.  Each one will have become a contact and maybe even an advisor, whose counsel you could seek as you make your first career decisions.  When it comes time to choose between job offer A or job offer B, you can draw upon all these experiences.  Maybe you shadowed someone and thought, “Oh my gosh, they do that 350 days a year.  There’s not a chance I want to live that way!”  On the other hand, maybe you shadowed someone whose job wasn’t even really on your radar, but your uncle suggested you check it out, and you walked away from that day saying, “I could REALLY see myself doing that day in and day out.”

Again, what you are seeking from these professional interactions is PERSPECTIVE.  Start during your first year and take it slow.  Enjoy the experiences and learn from them.  It’s like a 4-year scavenger hunt helping you make wise decisions about the direction you’ll take somewhere down the road.  You’ll make lots of stops, meeting helpful people along the way, and by the end you’ll have a nice collection of goodies.  So, plan to experience these professional interactions beginning early in, and peppered throughout, your college career.  If you wait until junior or senior year, it will become a chore.  You will be stressed, it will be one more thing you HAVE to do, and you won’t enjoy it.

Don’t do that to yourself.  Start soon!

Three Week Streak!

a streaking we will go....

a streaking we will go….


There is NO requirement that anyone get naked for this.  Do you ‘kids’ even know what streaking is?!  Anyway, this is NOT that.  It’s a different kind of streak… hopefully, a winning streak of sorts where you fly through your first three weeks on campus and lay a good foundation for yourself.

Here are Ten Tips to help you get through those first three weeks:

1. Door Open

When in your dorm room, leave your door open.  This sends a message to all that you’re open to meeting new people.

2. Eyes Up

When walking on campus, keep your eyes up, make eye contact with others, and smile. (And lose the headphones if you want to be accessible to others!)

3. Don’t Be Late to Activate

Join a club, activity or intramural team immediately.  It’s much easier to walk away if it becomes too much to handle than to try and join midstream later after everyone’s already gotten to know each other.

4. Share a Meal with Your Mate

Join your roommate for a meal at least once a week. This helps cultivate the relationship and prevent trouble spots that can be aired out quickly.

5. Pop in to See the Profs

Stop in their offices to introduce yourself to EACH of your professors.  Again, you are cultivating relationships, and these could result in research opportunities, recommendations and long-term mentors.

6. Play Bulletin Board Bingo

Once each month, find a posting on a campus bulletin board that is out of your comfort zone but piques your curiosity. It could be a guest lecture, political rally, art show, or athletic event.  Attend it and expand your horizons….regularly.

7. Reach Across the Aisle

In each class, introduce yourself to any student.  You’ll meet more people, and you’ll find more study partners.

8. Assess the Mess

Is your weekly plan going okay? Any trouble classes or social relationships? Are you eating healthy and getting enough sleep? If you got off on the wrong foot with anyone, ask forgiveness (sooner rather than later).

9. Has the Fun Begun (In academics or social life)?

By three weeks in, if nothing is fun yet, it’s time to regroup and ask yourself why.

10. Seek Shadowy Characters

If you haven’t done this before arriving on campus, do it soon.  Create a list of professionals you’d like to shadow for a day during winter break.


Seize Your Senior Summer


IMAGE_016Tips for relaxing without being a slacker.

So, you’re graduating from high school and, as much as you might like to take the summer off to rest up for college, you can’t really afford to slack off like that.  You want to lay a good foundation this summer to build toward a successful first year on campus.  What follows is a quick list of seven essentials to help you make that happen.

Before we begin, let’s assume you will socialize and have fun with your friends before heading off to school, so I won’t cover that here.  However, with summer jobs, things can get busy, so be sure not to fall into an all-work-and-no-play groove, earning cash for college, only to look up in August and realize you haven’t seen your friends.  Go ahead and see your friends.  Have some fun.  Live a little…

But try these Seven Steps to Seize your Senior Summer, too….

1. Rest

No one thinks well when tired.  For each of the following items you’ll need to be well rested, clear headed, lucid and capable of deep thought and reflection (You know, like most of your Monday mornings over the past year).  Oh, and you’ll need to write (type?) this stuff down.  Sure, the best thinking starts in your head, but it germinates on the page where you can look at your ideas, they can stare back at you, and you both can improve together.

2. Reflect

Think back on HS as a means of knowing thyself.  What were your successes? Failures?  What do you wish you could do over?  Consider what were you good at in terms of “being a student” (i.e.. we’re you good at taking notes?  Good planning and studying?  Did you use time wisely?).  What were you good at socially?  Did you make friends quickly, or was it a slow build?  Did you keep good friends?  Why?  How?  Think back to your freshmen and sophomore years.  That’s when you were just starting out in a new place, which you are about to do all over again. Consider what went well that first and second year, what approaches you’d like to repeat when you go off to college, and what you’d do differently.

3. The June Question

Speaking of starting college, most of your focus will be on getting a good start in September, but summertime gives you a great opportunity to think about the following June.  That’s right, June!  By then you will have finished your first year with all the academic and social experiences that come with it.  Before you begin the school year, however, it’s a good idea to imagine what you’d like to be able to say in June about how it went.  Would you like to look back on your first year and say you got a 3.5 GPA? Made one good friend?  Joined a club?   These are your hopes, and these hopes should become your goals for year one.   (Reminder: Write these down.  They will come in handy in a moment.)

4. Roommate questionnaire

Surely, one of your hopes/goals is to have a good roommate experience.   That will be your ‘home life’ and if it’s not good, the rest of your life will follow suit.  Think about it.  If you’re not getting along with your roommate, it’ll be tough to focus on school day in and day out. So after you’ve completed the roommate questionnaire they gave you from school, try this one at to help you identify only the ‘deal-breakers’.

For the rest of the non-deal-breaker issues, you and your roommate(s) are just going to have to be tolerant of each other.  It helps to recognize that if you were too alike, things would be boring.  So embrace your idiosyncrasies and weird habits.  It’ll keep life interesting, and you’ll have better stories to tell.

5. EMO (Not the music and skinny jeans.  It’s your ‘Effectiveness M.O.’)

When you’re done addressing your life with others, you can then focus on your life with you.  In order to achieve all your hopes/goals, you’ll need a plan.  You will want a rich life filled with great learning and great new campus fun, and in order to fit it in, you need to plan well.  What kind of planner would you like to use?  Your school will probably give you one to write in when you get to orientation, and that should be a good one.  Maybe you want to use an online calendar synched with your phone.  Whatever it is, summertime is a great time to build a template for planning.  If you know your class times, load ’em in.  If you want to exercise, get that in your planner. Studying regularly during the week means more social time on weekends.  Plan for it!  Want a club or campus activity? Add a couple of hours in the middle of the week.  Beginning to put a plan in place now makes for better news in June.  And remember to WRITE IT DOWN (or type it in).

Oh yeah, and don’t let your family touch it.  It’s YOUR planner, not theirs. Welcome to life on your own (aka owning your life).

6. One Day of You

Before you leave, this is the best gift you can give your parents.  Sure, you’ve probably seen too much of each other, but its been mostly centered on you and your college-related stuff.  The purpose of this day is to give them a great day with you on their terms where you can just enjoy each other and set the tone fore a great relationship when you part company.

7.  Shadow

I’m betting that some sort of internship experience should be part of your collegiate years.  Prior to that formal experience, it’s a great idea to get some informal career shadowing in and, believe it or not, this summer is a great time to start.   Sit for a half hour and make a list of all the interesting professional adults you know.  Your parents, aunts or uncles.  Your friend’s dad or older sister.  Your doctor or favorite teacher.  Everyone you can think of.  Take the top two you’re most interested in, contact them, and ask if you could shadow them for a day over winter break. This is a wonderful way to dip your toes into lots of career possibility waters to see what you might like or dislike.

Plan to shadow people a few times during each break (including summers).  During each visit, be sure to ask for additional names of potential professionals to shadow in the future.  That way, it’s a self-perpetuating system, and all you need to do is set up appointments, show up, and say thank you (and write thank you notes).  Combine these ‘skimming the surface’ shadowing experiences with your more intensive internship experiences, and you’ll have the perfect melding of breadth and depth, providing great career perspective when graduation time rolls around.

Graduation time?!  Yep.  Just like high school, it’ll be here before you know it.


Father’s Day is Hannah’s Day


Today is Father’s Day, and I lost my daughter to cancer a little over two months ago.  I have no idea how to deal with this.  It’s been one big guessing game cloaked in a pall of pain.  To complicate matters, I’ve released a book designed to help young people, but its modest success floats in the wake of not being able to help heal my own daughter.  So my roles as teacher and father continue to merge and confound me as I aim to help but often fall short.

What follows is simply a father’s attempt to help.  It’s a piece I found that I’d written to my daughter, Hannah, a couple of years ago when a relationship with a boy went south.  It’s my attempt on one particular day to help my daughter heal and grow, and the teacher in me hopes there’s a nugget in there somewhere that can help other young people down the road.

(From the sound of it, I had apparently wanted to sit and chat, but she wasn’t ready for that, so she asked me to write it down…. So, I did.)

Happy Father’s (Hannah’s) Day!


Advice from Dad…

Hi Hannah-

You wanted me to write this down, but for expedience, I’m going to type…..

First, I love you very much, and I’m very proud of you in the way you conduct yourself at school and in your relationships with friends.  I know you’re not going to be perfect, but I can tell that you try to be respectful of others’ feelings, and that will serve you well in life.  At the same time, I think you have become strong enough that you are not ‘a doormat’, allowing people to walk all over you whenever they please.  That should also serve you well.  Being tough enough to withstand the bad behavior of others while maintaining your own moral compass and dignity is a wonderful personality trait to nurture, and I can tell you’re working hard and doing a good job of it.

When it comes to relationships in the teen years, I think it’s important to recognize that you’re all going through tumultuous times with body changes, emotions, trying to fit in at school as well as social settings, and trying to find your way in the world.  These are difficult waters to navigate, and I think you’ve done a wonderful job of it so far.  Again, I’m sure you’re not perfect, but give yourself a break and recognize that, as long as your heart is in the right place, you’ll end up in a good place.

On the specific occasion of ‘the boyfriend break-up’ I wanted to share some thoughts.  I hope they’ll offer some help, but you can take ‘em or leave ‘em.  Here goes….

  • Relationships are grounded in trust, but teen relationships can be so tenuous (look it up) and laden (look it up) with emotions that little missteps can result in significant reactions.  To complicate matters, most teens are highly social and communicative, and one person’s business becomes everyone’s business almost instantaneously.  And, often, teen friends want to appear to have your best interest at heart, when they often just like to create drama (as long as it’s not THEIR drama).  This can make it very hard to make decisions and to know how to behave.  I think the best plan is to always be grounded in your own moral compass of respect for others without compromising respect for yourself and your own goals and dreams.  In your current situation, I’m guessing it was hard to have your relationship with XXXXXX become everybody’s business and to have everyone chiming in with their thoughts on the matter.  In the end, take some quiet time to reflect on what you think is best, speak to XXXXXX about it, and then move on.  You can listen to others and respect their advice and input (my own included), but in the end, you must make these decisions for yourself.  Remember, your family is ALWAYS here for you to help or listen if you need us.
  • As an aside, I think FACEBOOK is one of the worst places to ‘deal with’ these issues.  Private relationships should be dealt with privately, and it’s best to do so in person, face to face.  If people want to chat about ‘the drama’ online, it’s a good idea to simply post “We’re working through this on our own.  I appreciate your thoughts, and I’ll let you know how things go.”  This way, you can deal with the situation, give it time to work itself out, and not burn any bridges or say anything online that you can’t take back.  You can’t ‘un-ring a bell’ or put ‘toothpaste back into the tube’, as they say, and once you say something online, it’s out there forever.
  • I’ve watched a lot of high schoolers try to navigate these relationship waters, and I tend to think that less drama and cooler heads make for happier people.  I think it’s best to listen to everyone’s advice, then find your quiet place to think things through, and do what you think is right in the end.  While it’s easiest to live in a world of black and white, where rules and penalties are clear cut and easily meted out (look it up), I’ve come to realize that the teen years (and much of adult life, too) are in a world of GREY.  So, it’s a bit harder to say what’s right and wrong and what the repercussions should be.  Again, this is why we must try to develop and inform our own moral compass as a guide.   Teenagers make lots of mistakes, and when they become adults, most would hate to be judged on the mistakes they’ve made in their teen years.  So, oftentimes I find that teens would be best served with an old adage to live by:  “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.”  This reminds us that teens are going to make their share of mistakes because they’re all trying to navigate such difficult waters, so maybe an air of forgiveness would help.  If someone messes up, and it hurts you, it might be okay to recognize it as a teenager messing up, and find a way to talk through the issues and forgive, with the understanding that a ‘second chance’ is a blessing, and future behavior can change.  If, however, the same mistake is repeated, then the ‘fool’ is the person who allows him or herself to be the victim of harmful behavior again and again, and new consequences should come into play.  So, maybe a good, private discussion would be in order with XXXXXX, so that you can both decide how you can move forward, as friends or otherwise.
  • Because you are a teen, trying to find your way, you are going to make mistakes, too.  My best advice is to ‘own’ them, acknowledge them, apologize for them, and learn from them to make yourself a better person.  This is the best way to get to a place in life where you can follow the next bit of advice I typically offer my students about how to live their lives:


In order to do this, you must find your own happiness, but not at the expense of others, and you must try to leave the world a bit better than how you found it.  You see, you can go through life doing no harm, but you may not ACTIVELY seek to do good either.  I think it’s better to tackle both and, at the same time, not lose sight of finding your own bliss, that special thing that makes you happy.

So, PLEASE try everything.  Take a taste of what life has to offer, from school to sports to books to charities to music to love to travel to adventure upon adventure (and, of course, singing in the shower)!!!  By trying lots of stuff, you’ll begin to find a path that leads to your own happiness.  Then, you can go about the business of leaving the world in better shape.

I think you’re off to a REALLY good start!!!!

Friday Feature: Former Student Alex Farnsworth


Hey, if I got named to a “40 under 40” list, could I ride in a private jet, too?  Wait, I’m over forty….  Meet my former student Alex Farnsworth, who was happy to lose sight of the shore!

Alex Farnsworth

What do you do for work?

I am currently the Director of Marketing at a luxury boutique hotel, beach club and country club in Delray Beach, FL called The Seagate Hotel & Spa.

Staying hydrated!

Staying hydrated!

One of my greatest accomplishments has been the completion of my MBA program from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, NY. I had the pleasure of meeting students from all around the world, which added great value to my education. With this experience I gained tremendous confidence in my ability to communicate, influence and connect with individuals exhibiting different interests, beliefs and backgrounds.

My undergraduate degree (at State University of New York at Geneseo) and graduate education, coupled with my valuable, two-year internship at Constellation Brands, Inc., led to my current position as Director of Marketing at The Seagate Hotel & Spa. As Director of Marketing, I have learned how to manage people, processes and projects. My experience has taught me how to embrace and overcome obstacles and challenge old practices. I have learned how to marry enthusiasm with structured processes and traceable results. The autonomous management style at The Seagate has allowed me to thrive in a newly created position.

At The Seagate, I oversee and manage all of the marketing, advertising, public relations, promotions, sponsorships and brand management for The Seagate Hotel & Spa, The Seagate Beach Club, The Seagate County Club, the Seagate Spa, the Atlantic Grille and the two boutiques within the hotel (Aqua Resortwear and etc. café & gifts) and the soon to be Seagate Yacht Club.

Constellation's private jet reenacting scene from The Bachelorette.

Constellation’s private jet reenacting scene from The Bachelorette.

I was hired for the position in October of 2011 and I started work on December 5, 2011, after completing my MBA in November as well as my nearly two year digital marketing internship at Constellation Brands, Inc., the 2nd largest premium wine company in the world, headquartered in Victor, NY – just 5 minutes from where I grew up. I concentrated in Marketing and International Business and my undergraduate degree is in business and psychology.  When I was offered this newly created position at The Seagate, I was on “cloud 9.” I had secured my “dream job” out of college. If I had defined what my dream job would be upon graduation, this position would have fit that description to a “T.” I am incredibly grateful for where I am. For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m making my own story and finding my independence/self …Although, I guess that happens when you move to a state that’s 1,369 miles from everything that you’ve ever known.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is meeting world-renowned travel writers and photographers and treating them to dinner at one of our distinctive dining venues (preferably the upper-level dining room at The Seagate’s private beach club, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean – depicted here).

“I’ll have Le Big Mac & Royale with Cheese”

Other favorite parts: there are never two days that are the same – each day is a new adventure and my job is constantly changing, as marketing is continuously changing. I’ve had the opportunity to explore new digital marketing opportunities and prove how powerful and cost-effective social media, blogging and other inbound marketing techniques can be.

In 2012, Delray Beach was voted “the most fun small town in America” by USA Today and Rand McNally – so needless to say, another huge perk is working in “America’s most fun small town” on Delray Beach’s famed Atlantic Avenue!

What do you do for fun/enrichment?

In my spare (vacation) time, I love to go boating with family and friends in my hometown (Canandaigua NY). Every summer I go home to visit family 2-3 times, since June – September is considered our “off-season” at the hotel. We have huge family parties at our cottage on Canandaigua Lake. We cookout, go boating, and spend the majority of our time on the water. I also love to travel! Fortunately, one of my best friends lives in San Francisco and I was able to visit her this past fall to see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39, etc. We also went to their favorite winery in Sonoma (Scribe Winery) and a few wineries in Napa Valley as well. The pictures below are from a trip that two of my best high school girlfriends took to New Hampshire. The lake was so calm and serene. I honestly felt like an Olympian (not really though) when we would waterski, kneeboard, wakeboard, etc.

Never stray too far from the water.



How did you prepare for your life/career so far?

The most beneficial endeavor that I took part in to prepare me for the “real world/real work world”, was my 1 year, 8 month internship at Constellation Brands, which was not a requirement of my undergraduate or graduate degree. It was a complete exploratory/learning experience to help me figure out what I was interested in and what career path I wanted to pursue.  I didn’t fully realize how beneficial it was until I obtained my first “real full-time job” at The Seagate. Looking back, I realize how much I learned from that experience and even though I was simultaneously working on my graduate degree, the strategies, communication skills and leadership characteristics that I developed during that time period were invaluable. The internship made my graduate degree that much more beneficial and rewarding. I learned the soft skills that complement the technical skills, verbiage, theories, etc. that you learn in school.

At Robert Mondavi Winery w/Margrit Mondavi

With Margrit Mondavi at Robert Mondavi Winery

When I flew down to Florida from New York for the weekend to interview for this position at The Seagate, I had three of my best Marketing reports bound with a laminated cover to present at the interview with the management team. I had multiple copies of my resume, which highlighted my major internship achievements (Tip: be specific! For example, I listed this: “By creating and managing the company’s social media channels, we were able to reduce our advertising & marketing budget by $25,000 in the first year.”

My mantra during this time in my life was: “You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” I always felt like my life was lacking spontaneity, excitement and adventures!  When I decided to move to Delray Beach, FL for this job opportunity, I didn’t know anyone. I was a plane-ride away from home and all of my family (or a 24 hour car ride). This was definitely an adventurous move for me AND one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I truly believe that risk taking is key to a fulfilling life. Opening yourself up to adventure/vulnerability and getting outside of your comfort zone is such a powerful way for you to grow and “find yourself” (easier said than done, I know)! I think that you’ll be surprised at the happiness, satisfaction, confidence and feelings of self-worth that result from doing this.


What are you proud of?

I was hired to fulfill a newly created position at The Seagate. The management team knew they wanted to hire someone with a marketing/communications background to manage their public relations and advertising agencies. Since it was such a new position that wasn’t clearly defined, I decided to document all of my major achievements/completed projects throughout the year so that they 1) knew what I had done and 2) recognized the value that I (hopefully) added to the sales team. The document was only 24 short pages (laminated and bound at Office Depot). Ha!J My General Manager thought I was crazy AND I ended up getting promoted to Director of Marketing (my previous title was “Marketing Manager”), so it was all worth it in the end. Around my two-year anniversary at The Seagate, I was featured in a “40 under 40” article, which was kind of exciting because I was able to share our successes with in-bound marketing including blogging and social media and demonstrate how it’s a revenue-generating channel for us (and a pretty powerful branding tool).

40 under 40

What advice can you give younger people as they prepare for the adult world?

Definitely do an internship whether it’s paid or unpaid. It will help you prepare for the “real world” by allowing you to learn and practice the soft skills that you don’t always learn in college (negotiating, oral/written communication skills, presenting, goal setting, etc.) It will also make you a more attractive candidate during the interview process. You have an opportunity to prove yourself (to the organization that you’re interning with and to yourself). You also have the ability to practice everything that you learn in school and master it. Lastly, and probably the most important piece of it all, is that you discover what you’re passionate about and even more importantly, you discover what you’re not interested in. Patience is key.  Don’t be part of the so-called, “Gen Y – Entitled Generation” – work hard, learn continuously and always find ways to better yourself. As my father has always said, “knowledge is power.” Your efforts will be recognized and if they’re not, it may be time to move on. J “Be content always and satisfied never” – said one of the wisest and most magnificent men that I’ve ever known, my Grandfather.

Update: Former Student Yasmeen

Hey fishes, I can see your house from here!

Hey fishes, I can see your house from here!


If you recall Yasmeen Smalley’s feature, she was doing an internship at the New England Aquarium.

Well, she’s now on her way to the National Park Service to help create a 3D map of Yellowstone Lake!

You can read more about her travels and see a recent video on her blog, Seeing is Believing.

Have fun, Yasmeen, and keep us posted.

Friday Feature: Former Student Matt Olpinski


Another start-up.  Hmmm… I keep hearing former students talk about these so-called APPS.  Sound like they might be on to something big.  I hear that Facebook thing is gonna be big soon, too.  Maybe I should read up on that stuff…  While I do that, you can read about former student, Matt, who’s doing some cool stuff….

Matt Olpinski

What do you do for work?

I have been serving as the Interactive Art Director at Dumbwaiter (, a full-service web design and development firm in Rochester, NY for over 2 years now. My daily tasks include bringing in new prospective clients, overseeing all projects from a design and development perspective, communicating with existing clients, UI/UX design, front-end development, and internal business strategy. I also have a steady flow of freelance projects that I do on nights and weekends for extra money and personal enjoyment.

Working so hard he needs two screens!

Working so hard he needs two screens!

As if that wasn’t enough, I’m in the process of co-founding a tech startup for an app I’ve been working on for 2+ years. Without giving away too much information, the app will make dynamic connections between people and networks such that lost or inaccurate contact information will become a thing of the past. Think of it as a self-updating contact list based on selectively shared information. With a successful launch, we anticipate that it will change the way people connect forever starting in early 2015.

I graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2012 with a BFA in New Media Design & Imaging which focused on digital and interactive design in areas such as web, mobile, 3D, and motion graphics.

What do you for fun/enrichment?

Low to the ground...

Low to the ground…

In my free time, I usually try to stay away from my computer. I love music and play guitar often. I also love the outdoors, so if the weather is nice, you can find me outside playing Frisbee or riding my bike. One of my favorite things to do is drive. I have always loved driving, but I enjoy it a whole lot more now that I own a 2006 Mustang GT Coupe.

Lastly, I love traveling whether it is around the block or to another country. Any time I can explore other parts of the world and its respective cultures, I do. You can see some of my travels at




How did you prepare for your life/career so far?

Looking back, I don’t think I actively prepared for my life and career at all. I think I just worked really hard at everything I did and followed my instincts. I didn’t do everything with my career in mind. I just did what made me happy and things sort of fell into place. During college, I focused on the courses that I knew mattered most and did a few solid internships that helped prepare me for my work outside of school. I maintained friendships and was involved in a number of extra-curriculars because life and happiness is about so much more than a career.

If you’d like to learn more about my jobs and internships, I wrote about them here.

What are you proud of?

I could write a long list of material things that I’m proud of, but I think what I am truly most proud of are the intangibles in my life. I am proud of the way I have trusted my instincts and feelings with major life decisions. I am proud of earning a college degree in a booming industry. I am proud of the endless passion I have for my craft. I am proud of my successful connections, relationships, internships, and jobs. I am proud of working so hard and so diligently every single year because I consistently reap the benefits of my labor and get to share those benefits with others.

What advice can you give younger people as they prepare for the adult world?

Work hard. Stay humble. Follow your instincts. Weigh options. Be objective. Think logically. Love what you do.

I could beat this car in a race.

I could beat this car in a race.


Don’t Hate the Mate!

Matt is a good roommate:  Yes/No (circle one)

Matt is a good roommate: Yes/No (circle one)


Back in January, I posted some Quick Tips for Roommate Survival, hoping first-year college students would be heading back to school after one semester of roommate living and possibly looking for smoother sailing.  Well, in the spirit of preemptive and preventative measures, this post is for graduating high school seniors as they begin to meet their roommates for the very first time.

It’s an excerpt from an appendix in my book called “Don’t Hate the Mate,” and it provides some discussion prompts for soon-to-be college roommates.

Feel free to share with those who might care….

‘Don’t Hate the Mate’ Share Sheet

(For sharing with prospective roommates)

In our ‘Don’t Hate the Mate’ chapter, we talked about how good communication is key to roommate relationships, and how that communication can begin BEFORE meeting in person in the fall.  Knowing that you can’t possibly predict your exact sleep schedule and social behaviors once you actually begin your ‘dorm living,’ the questions below will help you prevent some of the issues that could fester and grow.

Feel free to share this with your new roommate via social media, and maybe even do the exercise together.  It’s either going to help you start bonding right away, or scare the s*** out of you!

1. What smells bug you?  (Body odor?  Potpourri?   Are you a fresh air freak where you’d rather have the window open in the winter time and wear a sweater than smell that thick, musty indoor air?)

2. What sounds bug you?  (Screamo music?  Only hearing one side of a phone conversation?  Snoring?  Alarm clock sounds vs. music to wake you?)

3. What sights bug you?  (Messy spaces?  Open curtains?  Sunlight in the morning?  Black-light posters?  Cat posters?   The color yellow?  Old tennis shoes?  Anything other than complete darkness when you sleep?)

4.  What’s your greatest fear or concern about your prospective roommate(s)?  (He’s a Taylor Swift fan?  She will bring boys into our room for ‘extra-curricular activities?  He will play video games all day and never talk to me?  She won’t like it WHEN I borrow her clothes?)

5.  What are you like when you’re at your worst? (When upset, do you shut down? Do you rage for five minutes and then want to be buds again? Are you a little passive aggressive? Does it help if someone brings you ice cream?)


NOTE:  If you have trouble coming up with answers to these questions, you are going to be an incredibly tolerant roommate, and anyone would be glad to share space with you.

Answer the questions honestly and share your responses with your prospective roommate(s).  If Taylor Swift or black-light posters or borrowing clothes will be a deal-breaker, it is absolutely best to figure that out sooner rather than later.  In fact, having reflected on these things that bug you, maybe this is a good time to consider if they REALLY are deal-breakers, or if, with a little bit of effort, they could fall within your expanded level of tolerance.  If you think you could tolerate them, imagine doing so EVERY day for the ENTIRE school year.  That should be a good indicator.

 Again, know thyself.


(If you find the roommate note in the above photo entertaining or scary or both, feel free to check out more here.)

Consuming College: Trapeze or not Trapeze?


Money matters...

Money matters…

For high school seniors, May decision day has passed. They’ve picked a college and written their first check. But if they think ‘the process’ was pressure packed for the past several months, they ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Now the screws will really begin to turn, pressure will mount, and those young people will need every fiber of their being to fight back. Their future will truly depend on it.

The pressure will come from parents, politicians and pundits in the press who will all be talking about money. They’ll toss around tidy phrases like “bang for your buck” and “return on investment” and “getting your money’s worth.” Of course, they will mention ‘value’, and rightfully so.

But beware the trappings of what comes next. Talk will turn to taking the right major with the right classes in order to get the right job right after college. The problem with all this ‘right’ talk is that it will steer an upstart collegian so incredibly wrong. It masquerades as a constructive form of financial focus to ensure success after college, but it’s actually a dangerous myopia that limits thinking, opportunities and dreams even before that student arrives on campus in the fall. And, at the worst possible time, it will sow seeds for a mental paralysis that can permeate the entire collegiate experience.

The current excessive emphasis on getting short-term economic value out of college will have students attending to their safety net at the precise time when they should be thinking about swinging on the trapeze.

College is a special odyssey of experimentation, exploration, risk-taking and discovery. If students become paralyzed by financial concerns, they will miss out on the true benefits and enrichment they’re paying for. They may pick a STEM major, but lack the passion for it. They may forego extracurricular involvement in order to focus on academics. They may not take on that music or religion minor for fear it may interfere with getting good grades, or they may shun the liberal arts, saying no to philosophy or English or that History of Pop Music course they would have loved in high school but now consider ‘fluff’.

These are bad ideas all around. They would be, as Mark Twain put it, allowing schooling to get in the way of one’s education. They would be hanging out on the safety net while never reaching for the trapeze.

Twain, Campbell and Thoreau (who's not mentioned here, but likes to be included with the Three Amigos)

Twain, Campbell and Thoreau (who’s not mentioned here, but likes to be included with the Three Amigos…. And he has some good advice in his little voice bubble!)

The college experience encompasses a rich collection of endeavors inside and outside the classroom that shape and prepare young people for success later in life. Without extracurricular interaction, they’re unlikely to develop the ‘soft skills’ so many employers seek, the nimbleness that comes from managing time across activities, and the essential ‘distractions’ that become as enriching as their studies (and may even become part of a career down the road).  Dipping their toes into the interesting and diverse waters of the college curriculum affords an array of experiences that will be invaluable for years to come. The ability to see connections across disciplines, to synthesize those connections and imagine new possibilities, and to communicate it all deftly and effectively – that is what such toe-dipping can do. It helps cultivate skills that propel people into management, leadership and visionary ranks well beyond their first job.

More detrimental than foregoing these skills, however, is the possibility that students may be dooming themselves to middle-aged misery where they’ve lost track of what they loved, replaced their passion with practicality, and looked up two decades later wondering how they got there.

So, what’s a young, college-bound person to do? The recipe is an amalgam of Joseph Campbell’s ‘Follow your bliss’ and a dash (or dollop) of practicality. Of course, they should be prudent about selecting a major. But if it’s devoid of passion, it will be a losing proposition. They should be judicious about finances, too. No one is suggesting throwing college money down the drain. But if concern over money makes them too risk averse, tentative, and myopic, they will forgo enrichment that could be essential to building a future.

Trapeze School NY

Trapeze School NY
Photo: GmanViz (via Flickr)

They should dabble. Explore. Double major. Double minor. Road trip. Study abroad.  Shadow professionals over break. Get to know professors. Do one thing each month that’s out of their comfort zone.  Paint their faces on game day. Flip from one interest to another. Grab hold of opportunities that don’t make practical sense but seem interesting and cool in the short term. Steve Jobs didn’t know that a calligraphy course he took on a whim would pay off years later when he launched that first Apple computer. And that’s the point. There’s no way to know. So students should err on the side of opening up, rather than limiting, their possibilities.

By taking a turn on that trapeze every chance they get, their college years will be filled with trials and errors and diverse, engaging experiences. Will it be risky? Sure.  But it will also be thrilling and, oh, so rewarding, too.

Some might even call it valuable.

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