The Importance of Creative Side Projects

The Importance of Creative Side Projects

There are so many advantages to having a side project, especially if it’s something that pulls out your creativity. I love my job. I truly do. But my job doesn’t define me, nor is it what my life revolves around.

To stay sane, I freelance and work on a couple of passion projects. And you know what? My boss loves it because it keeps me happy and motivated, which in turn, makes me a better worker for my company.

I am a firm believer in the fact you need to make time for the things you love. By doing so, you’ll create a healthy work/life balance and not feel drained by your day job. It should go without saying, but it’s important to not lose your passions after you accept a job, especially if your new profession is demanding.

When you have a steady income, that can make the side projects you have feel much more fulfilling. There isn’t pressure to hold down your creative side, You have the freedom to try different things, like taking the cooking class you always wanted to try. Take up painting or photography. I write in my spare time; throughout the work day, I’m able to write a bit on breaks and over lunch. Not only does it feed my soul, it boosts my brain and gives me a burst of energy, especially when I have hit a wall.

The other nice thing about having a day job and with various passion projects on the side is that it not only shows you can manage your time well, but that you have a diverse set of interests. This builds your set of skills too, which makes your resume look great when you’re looking for a new job.

You can even turn your creative side projects into money makers. Become an expert in something you enjoy by taking an online class or getting a certification, then doing some freelance work on the side.

Keeping a creative side hustle keeps your brain sharp, your resume stacked, and your life full. Make time for something you love each day – your soul will thank you!

This post was originally published on the VINAzine <3

I Took A Social Media Detox… Should You?

I Took A Social Media Detox… Should You?

Over the last decade, it’s no secret that social media has wildly grown and become an essential piece of our daily lives. There are SO many pros to using a social media network, like connecting with friends, co-workers, family, or meeting awesome new friends. We can make connections around the globe and aren’t limited to the people who live in our vicinity. It’s truly a beautiful thing, when used correctly.

For me, Facebook became a site I logged into out of habit and rarely enjoyed my visit. I would endlessly scroll through the timeline and became increasingly annoyed at most of the posts I read. I got to a point where I would log in and think, “Why am I even here?”

Sure, I enjoyed seeing updates from friends and family about their happy lives, but i could no longer tolerate or scroll past the users who would blindly share incorrect information or misleading/fake news stories. I wanted to shake the person posting and scream, “Seriously, it takes 30 seconds to open Google and verify something these days!” I even texted a friend and said those exact words. Their response? They didn’t care or think it was a big deal. I finally reached a breaking point.

I decided to actually do something about it. I couldn’t continue correcting people in the comments (yeah, it’s fine, I was that person…). It was time for me to bid my adieus and bow out gracefully. But that isn’t the answer for everyone!

How do you know a social media detox, whether it’s in the form of deactivation or deletion, is right for you? Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Is this adding joy to my life, or is it simply a way to pass time?
  • Would I miss it if I didn’t have it?
  • Am I wasting too much time endlessly scrolling through a news feed, only to find myself annoyed or angry at the content I view?

That third question was a big YES for me and that’s how I knew it was time to detox. I ended up deleting my Facebook account in May after having it for 12 years. TWELVE YEARS! I mean, the archive this website had on me was insane (which, to be honest, was a great reason to delete it). I was worried I would have a serious case of FOMO, but I don’t. Sure, I miss connecting with friends and family but deleting has (happily) forced me to make phone calls and send texts/emails to the people I love.

I still have Twitter and Instagram, but I’ve changed my habits on both of those platforms after this detox. I took a small break from posting anything on those networks and even deleted the apps off my iPhone for a couple of weeks. I missed those much more than Facebook, though. It didn’t take long to reinstall those and I didn’t have a sense of dread when I did. I kind of had the “first day of school” feeling — you know, when you’re excited to get back to see all your friends and hear about what they did during the break!

When I decided to end my detox with Twitter and Instagram, the first two questions I mentioned before were now easily answered: yes, these do bring joy to my life (but also to pass time when I am waiting for someone or something), and yes, I did miss it when I didn’t have it. That’s how I knew I took enough time away.

Deleting Facebook was a bigger decision, given I was connected with family and friends. That, and I used Facebook for professional purposes. I help moderate several pages and groups on different networks for the podcasts on which I work, and I simply can’t abandon them. I found a way to work around this and still have a successful detox and/or removal of my main account, but it does require some effort.

  1. Make a new “burner” account. Create a new, separate profile without any friends or personal details (or what you consider to be the bare minimum of information for your profession).
  2. Log back into your original account and make that new burner account an admin/editor of all the pages you run. If you work for a company, make sure you clear this with your boss first!
  3. Log into the new profile and test! Double-check your permissions are correct and that you have access to everything you need.
  4. Wait a couple of weeks. Make sure you have everything you need from your original account before pulling the plug. Or, just rip off the bandaid – honestly, what’s the worst that can happen?
  5. Click that delete button! It’ll feel so good, I promise.

Would I detox again? Absolutely. I think it’s healthy to take a break from everything in life every now and again – it’s just like taking a vacation from work. Sometimes you just need to unplug!

Budget-Friendly Online Courses

Budget-Friendly Online Courses

Love to learn? Hone your craft or pick up a new skill via these websites to enhance your learning experience!

Calling all creatives, professionals, and lifelong learners! If you’re a vina who enjoys learning something new or honing a skill you have tucked away in your back pocket, there are many resources available around the web that can fulfill your educational needs on the cheap. Some require subscriptions, are free, and others are pay-per-course. Below, I’ve gathered some of my favorite sites to take online classes that are not only fun, but provide a great end-user experience.

GET CREATIVE

Brit+Co is a great place to browse for classes. Prices are in the $25-50 range (never more than $90) and they offer many online classes to help you cultivate your creative side. The artsy courses they provide include calligraphy, how to kill it on Instagram, cookie decorating, how to throw a great cocktail party, and much more!

Level up and take a course with your vinas! They have a cool painting course you can purchase for a lovely Saturday night in with your vinas for just $29.00! Hit up your local hobby store to purchase the supplies (a list is provided) and have everyone pitch in to make it even more affordable. Just don’t forget the wine and snacks!

BE PROFESSIONAL

There are a few sites you can check out for courses that will help you advance your career. One of them is Canvas, the network that provides classes taught by some of the most prestigious universities in the world for free! Learn about Molecular Epidemiology from Ohio State University or The Best Practices for Biomedical Research Data Management from Harvard Medical School. Browse their course catalog to see if there’s something that piques your interest!

Skillshare is another favorite I discovered last year when a writer I follow on Twitter, Ashley C. Ford, promoted a course she was teaching about creative writing. Their categories include Creative, Lifestyle, Business, and Technology. There’s truly something for everyone; you can learn about accounting, management, graphic design, web development, and so much more—all taught by seasoned professionals. Skillshare is a paid service. You can either pay $15/month or $99/year. I recommend signing up for their free trial (an entire month) so you try before you buy.

FOR THE BIGGER BUDGET

Got some cash to burn and want to learn something from someone famous? Got’cha covered, babe. I’m a big fan of MasterClass, a site where you can learn specific skills or professions from the greats themselves. Take a course on cooking taught by Gordon Ramsay, learn photography from Annie Leibovitz, or enroll in a class on writing by Judy Blume or James Patterson. Each instructor provides video and workbook (PDF) lessons and walks you through how they’ve becoming successful over the course of their varied careers.

Once you enroll, you can go at your own pace and get involved with other classmates through their community, The Hub. The courses are $90/each but if you plan to take more than one or two in a calendar year, I highly recommend the year pass for $180. It’s so worth it!

Now that I’ve given you some different venues to check out, open up your browser and start checking out what these sites have to offer. You’re sure to find something you enjoy, either solo or to take with some friends. Don’t forget to share with us what you find in the comments below! 

This post was originally published on the VINAzine <3

Why I Journal

Why I Journal

Keeping a journal has been an essential piece of my writing process, since the moment I became a writer all those years ago. Putting the pen on the page and letting my thoughts spill out before me is not just comforting, but helpful – even if I am just doodling or writing about how much I dig the pen I’m using.

Journaling been so many things to me, but the three things below are what I find most important about my journaling journey.

BRAINSTORMING

When I am working on a project (personally or professionally), I often start with brainstorming. I will literally just start writing down topics, key words, random thoughts, or any tangent of an idea that I’m having at that moment that is connected with the task at hand. When I take to my journal to hash out potential ideas for a blog, poem, or for a process at work, I let my pen narrate my thoughts. It helps me to visual the ideas I have, either in front of me on the page or displayed on a white board. And because I love lists, it helps me organize my thoughts and formulate a plan to move forward.

LOGGING LIFE, EXPERIENCES, AND PROJECT PROGRESS

I have more notebooks than I need, so I usually use them for separate things. I have a journal for personal thoughts, a small journal I keep in my purse for musings on the fly, legal pads for outlining, etc. I also write down big things that happen during every day life, so I can look back and see how I changed, for better or worse. When I got married this past spring, I recorded our weekend and the epic road trip that followed, so my husband and I could read it later and remember exactly how our marriage began.

A few years ago, I decided to dive head-first into fiction and began writing a novel (and I won’t lie, it’s taking forever because, you know, life). I started a journal for that project mainly to chronicle my thoughts, shortcomings, and victories while working on the piece. How wonderful it will be to look back on that journal when I finally finish the book, to see how I grew as a writer. And who knows, maybe I’ll find gems years later that prompt the next endeavor!

THERAPY

Ah. Therapy! Perhaps the most important reason why I keep a journal. Since I was a pre-teen, I have written down my thoughts to sort through them. Those angsty teen (and let’s face it, early twenty-something) feelings I had were always worked out between the pages of my private journal. The things I went through as a kid, teenager, and young adult – I was able to sort through the weird thoughts and feelings by writing down how I felt in the moment. I don’t know where I would be, emotionally and mentally, if it weren’t for my journals.

One of the most therapeutic exercises I’ve done is not even keeping some of those pages inside the journal. To work through the tough stuff I write down exactly how I’m feeling. Maybe it’s directed at a person, or just how I’m feeling in general. When I’m finished, I make a deal with myself: once I destroy this paper, I will let it all go. That’s when I rip it to shreds. I flush it down the toilet or I burn it. It’s a strange relief, I must say. It honestly helps me move forward.

What are your reasons and how does journaling help you? Even if you aren’t a writer, give it a shot. You might be surprised with where journaling will take you!

This post was originally published on the VINAzine <3

Take Control of Your Interview

Take Control of Your Interview

Interviewing is no walk in the park for most of us. Between the nerves and the need to impress the person on the other side of the table (or on the other end of the phone), it can be hard to stay in control of the situation — but it’s important that you do!

You have to remember you are interviewing the person and company just as much as they are interviewing you. By doing your homework ahead of time, you’ll be able to start off with the upper hand. Some things you can do ahead of time:

  • Look into the company culture and check out reviews on Glassdoor (a fantastic resource that not only gives you salary and job information, but reviews from employees and how the interview process went for candidates who applied previously).
  • Have a number in mind when it comes to salary. Know your worth, vina!
  • Be ready to ask them questions about their culture and future as a company, and how they see you fitting into the mix.

So, now you’ve done your homework and it’s time for the phone or in-person interview. How do you stay in control?

For starters, don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer why they were interested in speaking with you about the position. Say something like, “What about my resume interested you?” or “What about my background caught your eye?”  This will help set you up as a power player for the interview.

It will also prompt the interviewer to answer with specific skills that are likely needed, which in turn prompts you to respond with a confirmation statement, acknowledging they have a solid understanding of your background/skills.

Asking those questions in the beginning leads straight into the thing no one wants to talk about, but it’s important to discuss immediately: salary. I’m going to be frank — it’s important to get this out of the way as quickly as possible because no one wants their time wasted — not you, and most certainly not your interviewer. It’s not a fun dance, but a necessary one. You can start by saying simply, “What salary do you have budgeted for this role? I’d like to make sure we’re on the same page.”

If they come back with a range, awesome. If it’s in your desired range, that’s even better! But don’t be surprised if they try to dodge the question or tell you they cannot disclose that information yet. If they turn it back around on you by asking you what you currently make, you don’t have to tell them (in fact, it’s a law in several states that employers can’t ask prospective employees their current salary). Be polite and firm. You can say “my previous employers have always considered that to be confidential information…” and add one of the following to the end of that statement:

  • “…but I’m open to your thoughts on this because I believe you will be consistent with the current market.”
  • “…but I’m open and somewhat flexible as I appreciate the opportunity to add value. Can you share how you value this position and what the budget is for the role?”

The idea here is to be polite, firm, and show your genuine interest in the opportunity. After all, you’re interviewing each other for a reason!

Another way to stay in control is to remind them that they called you. Ask them questions that reflect on your skills. “Can you tell me what a typical week looks like in this position?” or “what kind of projects will I be working on for your company?”

Last but certainly not least, be transparent about the fact you’re interviewing with other companies. It’s not something that should hinder your chances for landing the job, but rather help give you an advantage. You can simply tell the interviewer that you are speaking with other companies and you’d love to continue the conversation, but make sure you ask when you’ll hear back from them. If they don’t give you a definite time frame, don’t be afraid to request one. You don’t want to hang out forever waiting to hear back, especially if other opportunities arise in the meantime.

This post was originally published on the VINAzine. <3

How to Stay Safe Online

How to Stay Safe Online

With the way technology has advanced over the last decade, it’s become all too common for people to be affected by scammers, criminals, stalkers, and imposters. Here are some easy tips to ensure you’re being safe while using the Internet.

WHEN IT COMES TO SOCIAL MEDIA…

In an era when fake news and malware runs wild via links on your favorite social media outlets, you should be aware of what you are clicking on in your feed. To avoid clicking malicious links or being taken to a fake news outlet, you can do the following:

  • Take note of the headline, then open up a search engine to investigate the source it appears to be coming from. Personally, I am partial to the search engine website DuckDuckGo because it doesn’t track you, which is super important nowadays, seeing as a law was recently passed to allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to sell your browsing history.

Be safety-savvy on Facebook (and other media outlets) by doing the following:

  • Be careful who you share private information with. It’s hard to tell sometimes if the person on the other end of the line is scamming you. So trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Watch out for those catfishes, vina!
  • Lock down your privacy settings so the general public, or maybe just certain people, cannot access some of your more sensitive information, such as birthdates, names/info about family members, photos of your children and home possessions.
  • When you’re on vacation, don’t post photos or trip details until after you’ve returned. I’ve heard horror stories from friends who were broken into while on vacation, and the culprit ended up being a random Facebook friend. Don’t put yourself in that position—your posts can wait!

WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR WALLET…

If you love to shop online, make sure you’re purchasing from trusted vendors. If you see something on a unique online boutique, browse for a PayPal option or use a major credit card.

In the event of a scam, often times PayPal or major credit cards will cover your losses and help you rectify the situation. Be sure to speak with card services or PayPal support immediately should you become the victim of fraud.

GENERAL TIPS

Do not click on ads. Even if it appears to be from a trusted vendor or source, some ad links can infect your system with malware or spyware. You’re safest if you just don’t engage. If you see a killer deal on an ad, take note of the vendor, and pop open DuckDuckGo to search for the actual website. Sure, it takes *slightly* longer, but it’s nice knowing your device isn’t going to get a virus because of your impulse to click on the first deal you see.

Do not, under any circumstances, open a link from an untrusted source! A good rule of thumb I follow is this: If it looks shady, lady, it probably is! If I don’t know the sender, I won’t click the link. And neither should you!

This post was originally published on the VINAzine <3