Love Letters

Love Letter: To My 18-Year-Old Self

Whenever my birthday rolls around, I always struggle with whether to do a blog post. I typically do a new year’s post and always decide that is enough. But last year I saw this letter to her 18-year-old self-reflecting on the last 10 years, by Design Darling, and knew that it was something I really wanted to do for myself. She says, “it’s a fascinating exercise to recall memories from so many years ago and see which ones feel like they could have happened yesterday, and which ones seem like they happened to a totally different person.” After doing this for myself, I wholeheartedly agree.

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Mandy,

At 18, you are getting ready to your senior homecoming dance in a green dress that makes your hair look redder than you care for at the time (but learn to love later). When your acceptance letter to Kansas State University comes in a few weeks, you start to daydream about what college and living so far away from home might be like. You tell everyone that you are “still deciding” because you are scared, but when you visited campus in December you knew deep down that you would be back to stay. It is a fun last year of childhood in the dusty sagebrush town you grew up in and you celebrate graduation with your two best friends with a trip to Hawaii. Your lives all go three very different directions but 10 years later they are still an important part of your life. You experience your first taste of heartbreak over FFA state officer dreams that did not pan out and a boy that you met a little too late. But you will remember him for years to come and always be thankful that he showed you early on what a good guy should be.

At 19, you are two months into your first semester at K-State and while you have been more homesick than you expected, you are finally starting to carve out a new chapter. The scholarship house you are living in is already keeping you busy with activities and new friends. There is one girl who talks more than you and laughs just as loud, and after bonding over goldfish crackers and studying for an animal science exam, she becomes your “person” and a part of almost every story you have worth telling. The two of you are still inseparable to this very day. You are relieved that those ideas you had about what a career in agriculture and communications could look like since you were 10 years old are a possibility and you never look in any other direction. You attend an agriculture leaders conference you randomly saw advertised in an email and are recommended for a job in the grain science department. These two experiences will help shape the path to where your career is now. Also, years later you are going to wish you had listened to Mom and taken care of that broken finger properly. Always listen to your Mom.

At 20, you are so excited to be back at K-State for your sophomore year and it is a year full of lots of fun memories, which include spending almost every weekend cheering on your sports teams and falling in love with red dirt music while two-stepping at Longhorns. You are selected to be on a national leadership team for the student ag leader’s organization that you were introduced to last year. Later you will look back and see this as the most meaningful experience of your college career. Your network is still full of people you met back then, and you are still involved at the alumni level. You take a summer internship that is a great experience, but it teaches you exactly what you do not want to do for the rest of your life and you are grateful for that.

At 21, you are headed into a roller coaster year. You moved out of the scholarship house into a house with your best friends, added a few new ones and probably have a little too much fun – too often – exploring Aggieville. Your first semester on the student ag magazine hones your storytelling and creative skills in a new way that makes you so excited for your career path and you take a summer internship that pushes you outside your comfort zone in a good way. On the other hand, you also doubt yourself a lot this year. There are some conflicts, over-committing and growing pains that test your character. After failing your second class of college, you are put on academic probation and are forced to have a serious talk with yourself and your mentors about turning things around. This is also the year you get bangs and then spend years wondering why you thought they ever looked good. Like I said, this year was a roller coaster, but I promise, you get through it.

At 22, adulthood is rushing at you fast, but you are ready to work hard and finish senior year strong. Some of your best memories all these years later are from living with your two best friends (two of you will stand as co-maids of honor in the third’s wedding someday). Attending K-State was the best decision your 18-year-old self could have ever made and you are forever grateful for the experiences and “K-State Family” it gave you. You decide that the Midwest feels like home now and the day after Christmas you accept your first job as the Director of Communications at the Kansas Pork Association, an entire semester before you officially graduate.

At 23, you are a few months into your “big kid job” in the real world. You quickly realize that working for a farmer-led organization gives you a newfound sense of purpose. Hold on to this feeling for the bad days — it will remind you why you love what you do. There is a lot to learn, but you have a supportive boss and a co-worker who is a pioneer when it comes to modern agriculture and communications, and she teaches you how to hustle. You moved into your own apartment, but you are still living in your college town, so you are learning how to navigate being a young professional while still enjoying time with your college friends. You are a part of three weddings for your closest friends – all in the span of a month. These are women you have shared plenty of tears and laughs with and you know you will want by your side someday, so celebrating them is the highlight of your year.

At 24, you truly love your job, but finally admit to yourself that you are in a rut and know deep down you need to move on to something else, but you are not sure if that means moving home to the Pacific Northwest or somewhere else in Kansas. Then one day you see a post on Facebook about an open position just outside of Washington DC. You go back multiple times throughout the day to read the description and by that night you are calling your parents to tell them that you have a gut feeling that this job was meant just for you. Nine weeks later you have accepted the position, moved to the East Coast and started a new job working for an organization that does export market development for the U.S. wheat industry. Everything about your life changed quickly and the learning curve at the new job is high, but you love the challenge and spend the rest of this year adjusting to your new way of life and exploring your new city.

At 25, you have settled into your job and life in DC and are proud of yourself for being able to trust your gut feeling and being brave enough to follow through on it. (Also, a big shout out to the people in your life that continue to cheer you on.) But you also face some growing pains this year and make some not so great decisions. Living in DC introduces you to so many new experiences, diverse types of people and new ideas, that both challenge your way of thinking and refine who you are at the core. DC has so much to offer, but the harsher reality is making friends in a status-climbing, agenda-driven city is hard, and you struggle to figure out where you fit in. You also start to think seriously about dating (which is even harder in this city!) and decide to try online dating. You have quite a few funny stories and conversations to screenshot and share with your best friends, but none of your dates really amount to much. But keep your head up and have a little faith. You move to a new apartment that is a bit quirky but the perfect space for you and finally find a young adults small group that fits you. Your life will slowly get back into a rhythm that feels more natural.

At 26, you will be closer to 30 than you are 21 and are totally OK with that and looking forward to the next season of life. After 23 years, you and your sister finally get a baby Ego cousin and are absolutely smitten with Sawyer June. You are taking on more responsibilities at work and are recognized with a promotion part way through the year. You travel to Thailand and the Philippines for both work and a vacation and realize you have missed out on not traveling more internationally and promise yourself to make that a priority. Then, just as you decide that online dating might not be for you, a quiet, scruffy guy with soft eyes from Maryland messages you and soon you are spending all your free time together. He thinks it is cute when you ramble on and brings you three different types of mac and cheese when you are sick. You love his work ethic, arguing about Lebron vs. Steph, how easy it is to laugh with him and are empowered by how he makes you see yourself. You fall in love for the very first time and start talking about taking him home with you for Christmas.

At 27, the guy you wanted to introduce to your family decides that the timing just is not right, and you make the heartbreaking decision to part ways. This is the hardest thing you have ever been through and you struggle for longer than you want anyone to realize. You have never been more grateful for the small band of people who saw right through that and held you up and reminded you of who you were until you could see it for yourself again. Early on, you practically force yourself to join a Pure Barre studio out of need for a healthy distraction but are be surprised by how much you love it and how quickly it makes a difference in more ways than one. At work, your industry is in for quite a year of uncertainty on the trade front and you take on the challenge of leading a project for developing a new website. You throw everything you have into this project, and while completely exhausted, you successfully make it to launch day and are proud of what you did. Looking back on this year, you will always think of it as a hard one, but it also had a lot of high highs. You made good on your promise to travel more internationally and take a fun girls trip to London and an incredible family trip to Italy.

Now at 28, you are sincerely surprised at how quickly the past year went by, let alone 10 years since that green dress. You have lived so much in that time, finished growing up and took some big risks. You made some mistakes and got lost a few times but are thankful for a lot of grace. You set and carried out some big goals, started to build a career that gives you purpose, made it through growing pains, saw beautiful sites, experienced falling in love and being heartbroken and found people and places that mean the world to you. You are ready for what is next, with just a few more freckles, and tips and tricks in tow.

But Mandy, before I end this rambling nostalgic saga, I want you to know that the best is always yet to come. Hold on to that. I want you to know that it is OK for others to not understand your goals and decisions, and it is OK for you to change your mind about what you want. I want you to know that you should always strive for humility, but you should never compromise yourself or your values for others’ ideals. I want you to know that you have a one-of-a-kind family and you will be reminded often that others are not so lucky. Nothing is more important than family. I want you to know that a small group of people who inspire you and invest in you are a million times more worth your time than a large group of occasional friends. Invest in meaningful relationships and always show up for the people who show up for you. I want you to keep writing on this blog. Do not worry about what people think, that it does not fit into a certain niche or that you need to take a few breaks. This little space is all yours and it makes you happy. I want you to know that you will never regret hustling for what you want. I want you to know that the world is sometimes cruel and discouraging, but I want you to continue to believe fiercely that it is full of kindness and beauty. And yes, it is OK to believe in cheesy Taylor Swift songs. I want to remind you to stop and be still every now and then, and to not fear feeling things that are not happiness. There is a time and place for everything. I want you to know that you are beautiful, smart, thoughtful, creative, funny and surrounded by people who will tell you so.

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Keep searching for good stories to tell. You have got this. I love you.

Love,
Amanda

Creativity and Organization

Jordy’s Cactus-Themed Bridal Shower

My sister Janci is going to be the maid of honor in her best friend Jordy’s wedding, and last weekend she hosted a bridal shower for her. Janci and Jordy have been best friends for as long as I can remember (and they are almost 4 years younger than me), and on top of that, Jordy is marrying Patrick, whom they were also best friends with in high school. Jordy and Patrick are both so genuinely kind and fun, and I am so happy for them!

Jordy and Janci

I love designing invitations and it had been a while since I’ve had a creative project that wasn’t work related, so I was pumped when my sister asked me if I could help out. They chose a cactus theme and I had so much fun trying out different ideas. I downloaded the free original vector images here and then of course made some adjustments to the colors and structure to get the look I wanted.

Graphics Provided by Vecteezy

The shower was a brunch in my parents yard and they had a waffle bar!

The day was pretty busy (they had to account from some rain), but my sister did snag a few pictures for me to share. She did a wonderful job pulling it all together!

Jordy with her mom and mother-in-law to be. Both families are also family friends of ours. Both of Jordy’s parents are teachers that I had in school and Patrick’s parents are really involved in our county fair.

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I am pretty bummed that I won’t be able to make it home in September for the wedding. I love that as adults, your sibling’s friends can become your friends too 🙂 Thanks Jordy, for letting me share this on the blog! And congratulations to you and Patrick!

Jordy and I a few years ago celebrating her and Janci’s 21st birthday’s in Vegas!

Family, Oregon

Home for the Holidays 2017

Originally, I had every intention of spending my holiday vacation time getting ahead on some blogging for the new year. But I ended up sort of naturally taking somewhat of a break from all things technology-related, and I am not one bit mad about it. Obviously my subconscious knew I needed it. But I am back to the regular grind, and now that I spent my first week in the new year getting myself organized for 2018, I want to jump back into a few posts to wrap up 2017.

This year I was able to go home to Oregon for Christmas for 9 days (plus 2 travel days) and overall I’d say it was a great, relaxing time with my family and friends. I saw the new Star Wars movie with my Uncle Josh (our yearly holiday tradition), as well as The Greatest Showman with my mom, sister and Grammy. Both were great movies and, as expected, I loved Hugh Jackman! Its just fun when you can tell that an actor put so much into a role. So yes, if you were to check my Spotify lately, the movie’s soundtrack is what is playing. I caught up with a few old friends, including Richole, who had just welcomed her new daughter Callie, earlier in the month on December 13. As usual, I spent some time at my family’s flower shop, helping out a little bit here and there, but mostly just distracting everyone from doing their work. I also traveled to Portland for a long day trip with my Grampy to watch my Uncle Jay coach his high school girl’s basketball team in a tournament and then over to the Moda Center to watch the Blazers beat the 76ers. I also spent time with dad feeding cows (a separate post on that later this week!) and shopping with my mom and sister. But most of our evenings were spent just the four of us by the fireplace watching a movie.

Of course, the main highlight was spending as much time as I could with my cousin Sawyer. She is just such a fun, sweet baby and definitely has the spotlight in my family right now.

Here’s just a few snapshots of my break.

On this particular day, I had Sawyer ALL DAY while her parents spent a day in Portland. All things considered we had a pretty good day together, except that I contributed to the demise of her napping schedule and she wouldn’t let me put her down for one second to put on my makeup. #parentingcrashcourse

It’s amazing what an adorable 5 month old baby will convince you to do.

Ego cousins!

Christmas morning with this babe.



Our Grampy is crazy, I’ve tried to warn her 🙂

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!

Career/Professional, Friendship, Kansas

A Week in the Midwest

This past week I made a trip back to the Midwest for a week full of learning and professional development, catching up with friends, fun and work. Other than the fact that there wasn’t much relaxing, I’d say that it was a pretty well-rounded (and very full!) trip.

AFA Alliance Forum

If you know me at all personally, chances are you’ve heard me talk at some point about Agriculture Future of America (AFA). This collegiate organization was a game-changer for my college experience, and continues to have a huge impact on my life today. Every year during the annual Leaders Conference for students, there is along a forum for the AFA Alliance, the organization’s alumni branch (but you don’t have to be an alum to join!) of which I am a lifetime member. I was so excited to be allotted the time from work to attend this year’s forum. Simply put, these are my “people” and I always leave my time with them feeling refreshed and with new ideas and tools to implement in my work-life and environment. This year’s forum focused on “Trust.” Trust between the agriculture and food industry and its consumers, trust in systems and working through what we don’t understand, trust between colleagues in the work place and more. We heard from speakers on time management, negotiating (on many levels), cultural intelligence and asking better questions. We also spent time chatting with each other about the high’s and low’s of what we are facing as professionals in the agriculture and food industry, which fostered opportunities to learn from each other.

If you are a professional in the agriculture and food industry and are looking for a opportunity for professional development I would highly recommend joining the Alliance and I would love to answer any of your questions!

I ALSO am very excited to share that my peers selected me to be a part of the Alliance Planning Committee, so in 2018 I will be serving as its Vice Chair and in 2019 I will be its Chair. So basically… be prepared to hear a bit more about all this in the time to come 🙂

Kansas City is one of my FAVORITE cities!



Boulevard Wheat is my FAVORITE beer so I was pretty excited that I finally had the chance to visit its brewery in KC. On the last evening of the forum, we had a joint reception there with the AFA Track 4 students (so primarily senior getting ready to graduate in December or next May.)


On Sunday morning, Michael, Ted and I joined Track 4 again for a panel discussion on “Pursuing Lifelong Leadership”…so basically chatting about our experiences navigating our post-grad lives and “adulting”, the importance of staying involved in things that fuel your interests and develop you personally and professionally and anything they wanted to ask about. And they really did have some great questions! I really enjoy these kinds of things because for me, having mentors that get me and a network of people whom I can go to with complicated questions or even chat with about the seemingly little things with has been something I certainly don’t take for granted. I hope that even if it was just for an hour, that something I said resonated with and encouraged someone else.

He wasn’t at the forum, but I was able to squeeze in a quick brunch with my friend Zech who is now living in KC. Zech is one of my sister’s good friends from high school, so it was great to catch up with someone from good old Eastern Oregon and hear about the really awesome stuff he is up to now. I love when we all grow up and my sister’s friends become my friends too, and vice versa.

Wichita

After I was finished with the Alliance Forum, I picked up my rental car and drove the quick 3 hours to Wichita, where Megan, my best friend and college roommate lives. Since I was in KC for the the forum Thursday through Sunday and then had a work event there scheduled for the following Thursday, it didn’t really make sense for me to fly back to DC again in between. I took one of the days off from work so we could get some quality time in together and then spent the other full day working out of her home office. Keeping up with friends when you live so far away from each other and have separate full lives going on is really hard, but so worth it when you have some great ones 🙂

Thank you Megan and Aaron for letting me crash for a couple of days!

Sonic is scarce on the East Coast, or at least in my area, so I went straight for the Route 44.

Megan’s pups Ned (german shepard) and Luna (corgi mix) were never far from the new excited person in their home…

Trade Talk

After a few quick days in Wichita, I drove back up to Kansas City for the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) annual Trade Talk event. This event is a part of a larger conference, but essentially it is a day where organizations and companies across the agriculture and food industry set up booths featuring their spokesperson(s) and broadcasters from across the U.S. cycle through and record interviews all day long. That gives them a bank of content they can use sooner if the topics are timely or they can save it for the next few months when they need to fill in their programs. It also allows us as an organization to focus on a few topics and talking points that are at the forefront for us right now. It was a long, but fruitful day.

I decided the booth needed a bit more flair this year so I made two of these arrangements while I was in Wichita. I was pretty happy with how they turned out 🙂

So I’m back in DC now for a few weeks… until I travel back to Kansas (Manhattan this time!) for another work trip at the beginning of December. Lucky me!

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Caroline

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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 I have so been looking forward to sharing this feature with you ever since I heard back from the guest! Caroline is shaking the series up a bit by sharing her story via YouTube! I always tell my guests that I want this feature to reflect their story in the best way possible, so I was excited when she suggested a video. Personally for me, video is something I have yet to venture into on my blog, but I am definitely curious!

I met Caroline early on in college through our participation in Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference, and then got to know her a bit better overtime as we both eventually served on the organization’s national student advisory team (not the same year). Caroline’s journey is inspiring. A few months after I moved to DC in 2015, Caroline called me up because she was a crossroads with what the next step was in her life and career. I was honored that she reached out to me for that kind of advice. I vividly remember her sharing so passionately about these ideas and goals she had, about her values and faith and the challenges she was facing. Fast forward to 2017, and I am so excited to see her living out (and crushing) those ideas and goals, and more importantly, so happy and positive about the road she’s on. It’s contagious.

What has always stood out to me since I first met Caroline, was how friendly she is and how gracefully she wears her confidence, and I think you’ll see that in her video. Caroline is also a regular blogger, so if you read or hear something in her story that interests you, I would encourage you to check out her blog at https://strongsweetcaroline.com/. 

-Amanda 

Basics

Name: Caroline Weihl
Age: 25 YEARS YOUNG!
Hometown: Perrysburg, Ohio
College: The Ohio State University
Degree(s): May 2014 Agricultural Communication, minor Agribusiness
Current Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Current Job: Entrepreneur – starting a meal prep company

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
I grew up on a row crop and beef cattle farm and always enjoyed sharing an agriculture story. I was a good writer so it made sense to study agricultural communication. I was fortune to receive a scholarship from The Ohio State University and made the decision simple. I wanted to make the most of the opportunity in front of me.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
AFA, Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow, Alpha Xi Delta Fraternity and many other student orgs through college. I interned with Trupointe Cooperative (now Sunrise Cooperative), Ohio State Livestock Judging Team, Bader Rutter, and freelanced for the Ohio FFA Association.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college?
Anything you would change? Learning to say “no” to the unimportant and make time for priorities.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Make the most to explore new things you want to learn, people you want to build relationships and network with and discover as much about yourself as possible.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
I worked three years with Syngenta in corporate seed sales. I left in August 2017 to start a meal prep company in Atlanta, Georgia. Watch video for more details.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Helped me identify my deeper purpose and talents.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
Focusing on small steps, one day at a time.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Evernote and podcasts!

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
Strengths: confidence, vision, drive, compassion. Weaknesses: impatience and multi-tasking.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
YouTube, gratitude, self reflection, vision board.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
It’s not work-life balance. It’s lifestyle.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Having the courage to do something most won’t: stepping out of a “comfort zone” to pursue new challenges.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
Very busy but towards things I want!

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Start my company and continue to build it from there.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Meditation and 16oz of water right when waking up.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Music.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
This one, but with other businesses started and going in the travel and clothing industries.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
Close friends and networks.

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Caroline, I know you are hustling at life right now, so I want you to know how much I appreciate you taking the time to share your story on my blog! 

Want to follow Caroline more? You can find her on Instagram: @strongsweetcaroline and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/strongsweetcaroline/

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Alison

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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I am excited to share today’s guest because this feature offers something new to the series. Alison is my first guest that is a stay at home mom and small business owner. One of the original reasons why I first began this series was because there are so many different paths that young adults can be on that it sometimes makes it hard for us to learn from, respect and relate from each other. I wanted to create a space that simply celebrates the “hustle”, highlights different opportunities and maybe encourages others to think “hey, maybe I am doing alright.”

I have known Alison for most of my life. We both grew up in Hermiston, OR, and I’d say we really became friends in high school when we were both involved in FFA. What has always stood out to me about Alison was her kindness, creatvity and work ethic. Even as kids, I remember always enjoying working on things with her and I always knew she was someone you could depend on. If you know Alison, then you know that she is grounded by the importance of family, and that hers also happen to be some of the nicest people you could know. (I have so many fun memories from hanging out at Hawman Farms!) I think it is really cool to see Alison start her own (adorable) family and business, and thrive at both. I hope you enjoy hearing her story!

-Amanda 

Name: Alison Green
Age: 27
Hometown: Hermiston, OR
College: Eastern Oregon University
Degree(s): Multidisciplinary Studies (Elementary Education)
Current Location: Meridian, ID
Current Job: Stay at Home Mom & LuLaRoe Fashion Consultant

Background Story
I was born and raised in Hermiston, OR. I grew up in the country on my family’s farm and spent my summers working on the farm. I come from large family which I love; we always seem to have a good time.  When it was time to leave home and go off to college I chose to attend Eastern Oregon University in LaGrande, OR. It was at college where I met my husband, Chad. Chad and I dated all through college and got married once I graduated. Once I married Chad, I moved to Meridian, ID where he had already established his career. We have now been married for 6 years and have two beautiful daughters with one more on the way in just 3 short weeks!

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
I had known I wanted to be a teacher since I was in the 2nd grade. I love working with young children and spent many afternoons as a young girl playing “school” with my sisters at home. As soon as I was old enough, in high school, I began going to the elementary schools as part of the juvenile tutoring program to get as much experience as possible.

When it came time to choose a college I knew I wanted to stay close to home. I have always been one to get home sick so being a short drive away was going to suit me best. I ended up choosing Eastern Oregon University in LaGrande, OR. I knew they had two great teaching programs and I loved the small university atmosphere.

I graduated from Eastern with a Bachelor’s degree in Multidisciplinary Studies with minors in both Elementary Education as well as English as a Second Language (ESOL).

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
Outside of class, I was involved in the Education Club at the university. I also spent many hours in elementary classrooms, getting a feel for all grade levels. In addition I spent summers helping in different summer school programs.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
I ended up graduating from college in three years. I would never change that but it did bring up some challenges as far as scheduling went and the time/quarters classes were offered. But in the end it all worked out.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
The piece of advice I would give to a student during their senior year is to enjoy it but also look to the future. It is your senior year, you need to make sure you have fun and enjoy every part of it. At the same time you need to start planning for your future. Make sure your resume is up to date, start applying for jobs/internships in the area you are looking to be at and make sure you have everything in place for graduation.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
My first year after graduating I did not get a teaching job like I had hoped for, I had numerous interviews but since I had moved to a new state not everything fell into place at the right times. I spent that year transferring my Oregon teaching license to an Idaho teaching license and substituting. Now looking back, I realize how much my year of substituting helped me grow. It allowed me to not only get familiar with the new city I had moved to but I was also able to familiarize myself what Idaho’s standards and curriculum.

After my year of substitute teaching I was fortunate enough to get a full time teaching job teaching kindergarten. Kindergarten was my number one choice so I was ecstatic! I taught kindergarten for three years and loved it.

During those three years, I ended up having two daughters. Once my second daughter was born, I knew where my time needed to be spent and that was at home with my two girls. Luckily, my husband and I were able to make this happen. I have always dreamed of being a stay a home mom and I could not imagine being anywhere else than at home with my girls.

I love spending my days at home with my girls, but after a year of being at home I felt this need to do something for me and to do something where I felt I was contributing financially for our family. This is how LuLaRoe came into my life. After falling in love with their clothing, I decided to look more into the business side of LuLaRoe. I took a leap and a year ago signed up to be an Independent Fashion Consultant for LuLaRoe. Becoming an independent fashion consultant is exactly what I needed. It allows to me to be a stay at home mom while working my business. I am able to create my own hours, determine how much or how little I want to work each week and I am able to involve my girls in my business. I truly enjoy staying home with my girls while working my business at the same time.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Everything I did in college definitely prepared me for my teaching career. I felt so prepared and ready for my first teaching job. But not only did my college experiences prepare me for that, it also has helped me in my “post-teaching life.”  While staying at home with my girls I am able to bring my teaching experience home to begin their schooling early. We do school every day at home so they are prepared and ready for preschool.

As far as my LuLaRoe business goes, the major thing that has set me up for success is organization skills. You have to be organized to run any business and I have found this to be true, plus some, when running a business as well as running a house hold.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
In college, my classes were definitely geared towards education, especially elementary education. When starting my own business I felt a little lost on the business side of things just because I don’t really have experience in the business world. I wish I maybe would have taken a business course or two in college. But lucky for me, I married a financial analyst who is very good with numbers and business side of things.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?

A good portion of my LuLaRoe business is mainly online. I really take advantage of free advertisement through Facebook and Instagram. Facebook is also where I run my Online Boutique. Some other apps I use for my business include; WordSwag, PhotoGrid and MileIQ.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
At this stage in my life, some of my strengths include; being organized and prepared. This works for both my business and family side of life.

One of my weaknesses is definitely being a worrier. I worry about everything and most of the time, over analyze everything.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
Being that I work from home and provide a secondary income for our family, when my business gets busy or difficult I just look at my girls and know that I am doing this for them. This extra income for our family helps us go on those fun family vacations, allows my girls to do all the activities they want to do and eventually will help them through college. My girls are definitely my reason why I do what I do.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
Having a work-life balance is very important to me. My number one priority is my family and making sure they are taken care of and have what they need, that includes up keeping the house and the house hold chores. What works for me is scheduling, to know what I am going to do and when I am going to do it, for both my business and family. I have also learned that it is okay to take breaks every now and then, that’s what you need to stay refreshed.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
What I am most proud of so far in my post grad life is definitely my family.  I have the best husband and two little girls and we are so excited for our third to be here soon!

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
Life right now is definitely busy but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love what I do and who I am doing it for. Some of my hobbies I enjoy include; cooking, baking and crafting with my girls. I also love to go shopping! And when you’re a mom shopping without little helpers is always a treat!

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Business wise, some of my long-term goals include growing my online boutique shopping group so I am able to reach more customers and bring them fabulous clothing! I also want to step out of my comfort zone and try new business techniques that I will help grow my business and increase sales.

Family wise, some goals include adjusting to life with three kids and finding a routine that will work for all of us. I want to stay active and involved in all aspects of my girls activities; here at home, at school and in their extracurricular activities.

Just For Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
I am surprisingly not a coffee drinker but what is essential for me to start my day off right is to be up and get ready before my girls are up. That way when they do get up, I am all theirs.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
When not pregnant, I love to have Diet Coke, definitely my caffeine of choice! Another must have is snacks for my girls, when they are happy and in good moods so am I!

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
Although it is not a completely different career, I would choose to be a Preschool teacher. I absolutely love little children and watching grow and develop those new skills. In preschool kids are still so excited for school and their love for learning really shows.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
What I miss most about college is my roommate. We become such good friends and had the best time doing everything together. We still remain very close friends today but it’s just not the same when you live in two different states and not in the same apartment.

*****

Interested in checking out Alison’s online LulaRoe boutique? You can find her Facebook group page HERE.

Alison, thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this blog series! And congrats to your almost family of 5! I always enjoy seeing your girls’ little personalities and growth when you share on Facebook. They are so much fun!

p.s. Look at us back in high school! Just babies ourselves!

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Nicole

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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I definitely had a different blog post planned for today, but when Nicole sent me her profile back, I knew I needed to get it posted as quickly as possible. It definitely made me laugh, and even made me tear up a little. This gal has such a GREAT story to share, and I hope after you read it you will understand why I basically want to be her when I grow up. Nicole and I often joke that we practically have the same life story, and while we do have quite a few similarities, it would not be fair to leave it at that. Nicole is talented beyond her age and experience, is a social media guru, puts 110% into everything she does and is often my go-to when I need a creative boost. What I love about Nicole is she really GETS people and the VALUE of relationships. She has a great laugh and I can always count on my conversations with her to be real and fulfilling, whether we are talking about communications strategy or our mutual infatuation and homesick longing for Tillamook Cheese. 

This is a good read folks, through and through.

-Amanda 

Name: Nicole Lane Erceg
Age: 24
Hometown: John Day, Oregon
College: Kansas State University
Degree(s): Agricultural Communications & Journalism
Current Location: Wooster, Ohio
Current Job: Producer Communications Specialist

Background Story:

I was raised in the Strawberry Mountains of Eastern Oregon where I fell in love with rural life, agriculture and the stories of the people who produce our food. Growing up 2.5 hour drive from the nearest Walmart wasn’t easy, but it did build character. My desire to share the stories of agriculture led me to Kansas State University where I earned my degree in agricultural communications and journalism with a focus in animal science. Why would a girl who loves mountains move to a state rumored to be flatter than a pancake? It turns out, I’ll go just about anywhere with the promise of a great story, adventure and learning more about ag.

When I left my tiny hometown in Oregon bound for Kansas, I was riding shotgun in a little red car next to a boy I’d convinced to come with me. When he agreed to switch colleges and come along for the ride he made me promise he could pick next. His choice? North Carolina. We’ve lived in Raleigh for the past couple of years while he finished a Masters in Swine Nutrition and coached the livestock judging team. Meanwhile I worked from home as the Social Media Director for a livestock marketing and advertising agency.

We planned to stay in Raleigh for the next few years while he finished a Ph.D. program but… I’m writing this from Wooster, Ohio. We didn’t plan to move around the nation so much, but our shared love of agriculture has taken us from one end of this country to the other — from small rural towns to an apartment in the city and back to rural life again. I am one of the few people who understands the pain of living somewhere too remote to get high speed internet and pleasure of living somewhere so urban, I can get Taco Bell delivered to my door.

Currently, I’m learning to call Ohio home while working for the Certified Angus Beef Brand and running my own communications and consulting business on the side.

College:

How did you choose your college and your major?
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve told this story…

I had my heart SET on Purdue University. I knew I wanted to do Agricultural Communications and Oregon State didn’t have the major so even though I’d been raised to be a beaver, I knew I was going out of state. I applied to several of the big ag schools like Texas A&M and Oklahoma State but really wanted to go to Purdue. I honestly can’t tell you why, I just really wanted to be a Boilermaker. Kansas State wasn’t even on my radar until we took one of those college tests in class. You know, the kind that is supposed to tell you the PERFECT school for you after answering a million questions? All my friends got pages of lists of hundreds schools for them. Want to know how many showed up on my list? One. Kansas State.

My senior year of high school, I was elected to serve as an Oregon FFA State Officer which required me to defer college plans for a year. I contacted Purdue to let them know I wasn’t coming and asked to defer my admission and if they could hold my scholarships. All I got back was a cold email saying they couldn’t help, wouldn’t defer anything and that I could reapply next year.

Then I let K-State know I couldn’t make it in the fall and asked the same thing. Could they hold my scholarships and defer my admission for a year? Not only were they happy to do so, I got a HANDWRITTEN NOTE from a past Kansas FFA Officer congratulating me and letting me know they couldn’t wait for me to come to Kansas when my year of service was through. I had never been to the state of Kansas but I knew I would be going to school there.

When I attended National FFA Convention that Fall as a state officer, I knew I had to seek out the K-State booth. Amanda and I had barely crossed paths as FFA members from Eastern Oregon and I recognized her. So I walked up to her at the booth and said “You don’t know me, but I know you and I’m from Eastern Oregon and want to go to K-State and study Ag Comm like you do.”

And that’s how I became a Wildcat and friends with Amanda. 🙂

(Amanda here: I TOTALLY remember that vividly!)

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I was involved in everything, which I don’t necessarily recommend. I’m not saying that to sound cool, I really did go overboard. I was president of my sorority (Sigma Alpha), president of the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow Chapter (loved it), was an Ag Ambassador, involved in a program called Student Foundation and helped plan the K-State Proud Campaign. I got to help teach an agricultural advocacy class, I started my freelance business, I served as editor of our college of agriculture magazine, I travelled abroad twice, I did six different internships. I packed a lot into the 3.5 years I was at K-State and loved it, but I wish I’d had the ability to make hard choices about what to invest my time in and when to say no. Saying no is sooooooooooooo hard. Sitting down with leadership of organizations to say “I quit” is not easy but it’s so worth it. It also would have prevented me from disappointing people when things conflicted or I really just couldn’t do it all. Pick 2-3 things and do those things well. But always do the study abroad trips. #worthit.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
I don’t think there’s a lot that I would change, other than narrowing down what to be involved in earlier. I would have liked to stay the full four years instead of rushing into the professional world, but I don’t regret saving a semester of out of state tuition. I think if I was to tell my Freshman self anything it would be to be NICE. These people around you aren’t competition. In four years they’ll be your coworkers. Become friends now. It’s better that way. And I know a lot of college kids aren’t this way, but I would tell myself to not take everything so seriously, to go to Aggieville more, take ALL of the human development classes (they are so cool, don’t wait until your last semester) and start making student loan payments now.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Go to Aggieville. Hug your friends. Wear a lot of purple. Buy football tickets. Use the rec center. It’s free. That’s amazing. If your career is in agriculture take more ag econ courses. Do it. Do it now. Understand the markets and what influences them. I don’t care if you are studying herbology, want to work for an ad agency or be in beef genomics. If you want to be in ag, take MORE ag econ. Stop reading this right now and go sign up for more ag econ courses.

Post Grad:

Tell us about your career so far?
I was really fortunate to land a job right out of college that allowed me to work remote from home. This let me live in Raleigh where my husband was attending school and continue the freelance business I started in college. I absolutely loved getting to work in the digital media space helping farmers, ranchers and western lifestyle brands harness the power of social media.

When I was in college, I interned for Certified Angus Beef and to say I loved it wouldn’t be the right choice of words. I feltat home, like I had found my fit. Telling the stories of the beef community for such an incredible brand was like my puzzle piece had found it’s place. When a position came open on the team I had interned and freelanced for, I knew I had to apply. Ohio was never in the plans for us, but I am so fulfilled getting to help teach ranchers about high quality beef production both in the digital and print space. Bonus, is that I continue to freelance and consult, always keeping things interesting and it allows me to live out some other passions like my love for wheat farmers.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
I know it’s so cliche but it’s really all about who you know. The relationships I built in college through friends, my department, being involved in organizations, internships and attending conferences have been the biggest factor in setting me up for success. Honestly, I paid a pretty penny for my degree (#outofstateprobs) but the PEOPLE I met through my degree program are more valuable than any classroom experience and totally worth the college debt I’m paying off right now.

These people have become my coworkers, my freelance clients, and all around rockstars to have in my life. They are cheerleaders and problem solvers and world changers. I’m really lucky that I actually work for one of the company’s I interned with in college and I get to freelance and work with many other people I met or worked for in college.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
Losing your people is tough. In college you go from a life surrounded by friends who have become family and a support system of mentors and teachers and life coaches and then you move away. It’s hard. It gets lonely sometimes. Also, when someone figures out the whole making good friends as an adult thing, I’ll pay to take that class. Notice how both of these answers are about people? People are the best part of college and the hardest part to lose. They are also the most challenging thing about work and the only way you’re going to get through it. People matter. More than skills, more than resumes, more than experience, more than anything.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I’m one of those people that thinks I’m a hot mess and other people think is crazy hyper-organized. I’m a big fan of Asana for task management and am now a firm believer in living that #inboxzero life. I’d be lost in this world without sticky notes, podcasts, the GPS on my phone and the app TapeACall. Also, Freshbooks. Cloud accounting software made for creatives. If you freelance and you are creating your own invoices, stop that nonsense immediately and pay for accounting software.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
Ooo deep question.

Strengths:

  • Knowing my stuff. I spend a lot of time staying up to date with what’s going on in the world of digital communications, media, the world and my craft. I’m good at what I do, knowing the cutting edge stuff and I’m always working to get better.
  • Asking tough questions.
  • Storytelling across all platforms from a 2,500 word print story to a 140 character tweet.

Weaknesses:

  • Being comfortable in my own skin. I really wish I didn’t have to say that at this age. I wish I could say I confidently slay all the time, but I don’t. Often I need affirmation from others to go forth and do the bold thing I want to do but am far too afraid to do. Sometimes that “bold” thing really is something out of the box and innovative and some days it’s talking to a coworker instead of sending an email.
  • Man I REALLY wish I didn’t have to say that one. I overestimate what I can accomplish in a day. I need deadlines and I need help with deadlines. I’m not saying I can’t meet them, but I struggle being realistic when setting them for myself.
  • Expecting perfection. From myself. From others. I’m working on this big time right now. Give grace. We all could use some.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
Oh I’m the last person you should ask about work/life balance. I LOVE what I do. It’s part of my identity and who I am. I was created to be a workaholic. I haven’t worked just one job since I was a freshman in college. However, I’ve learned the hard way that my type A, over achieving, do it all personality is at a high risk for burnout. HIGH RISK y’all. This means when I burn out, it’s not like I just fizzle out of energy, I crash and burn. There’s flames. Big ones. And I’m not the only one that gets torched in the fire. Coworkers, friends, clients, my poor husband — they all have to deal with the repercussions and that’s just not something I’m okay with anymore.

Right now this is a major focus area of my life. I seriously had to set goals and hard boundaries for myself. I have goals around when I will leave work and when I can bring my work laptop home and when I can answer work emails. My supervisor knows this and knows if I break my own rules. Does this sound overboard? Maybe. But I can tell you I am a completely different human now that I’m working from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. five days a week. I have time for things like working out and cooking dinner and I’m even thinking about starting to watch Game of Thrones. Nicole a year ago had to be dragged away from her computer at 11:50 p.m. every night. I worked weekends. I answered work email as soon as it came through. I never shut off.

Don’t be that person. It’s not healthy and it’s not getting you ahead. I’m not saying don’t go the extra mile. Just be the person that does more in their 8 hour workday instead of the person that works 17 hours a day.

Hannah O’Leary Photography

Just For Fun:

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
My freelance work. This might sound crazy but it’s the first thing I do when I get out of bed. I go straight to my home office and crank out the first chore of the day. It also makes me feel amazing that by the time I head off to my “day job” I’ve already put in a couple hours of work while everyone else was sleeping. Also, then when I get home in the evening, I don’t have to continue working and can just relax.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Um… caffeine. In the past it’s been Diet Pepsi. I’m really trying to cut that out or at least reduce my intake but I used to basically drink it like a fish breathes water. So right now it’s Crystal light with caffeine. I can give up the soda, but not the caffeine.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
This is tough because I truly believe I’m doing what I was made to do. I was born to be a writer. I was made to tell stories. I’m passionate about digital media and how we can use it to build common ground. I love agriculture and believe there is not another industry whose stories need so desperately to be communicated and that if they are communicated effectively have the ability to create immense positive change for our nation and our world.

If the ag thing didn’t work out, all limitations aside, I might have gone into journalism for one of the major news organizations or I’d be in D.C. telling the stories of politics. I love D.C. and politics and my husband refuses to live there. He also could care less about policy. However, either way I’d be living out my truth that stories have this insane power to create change and I want to be one of the lucky ones wielding the wand.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
Brooke Harshaw. The color purple. Limestone. K-State Football and Bill Snyder folklore. Raspberry Black Bean Chipotle Dip. Rent being only $375. The Thurston House. The Claflin House. The way people celebrate Kansas Day like it’s a national holiday. The people. Feeling at home.

*****

Nicole, I am so, so, so very thankful for our friendship and that I always have someone to chat with that totally gets it. Thank you for sharing your story on my blog. I know that others will appreciate it as much as I did. #westcoastbestcoast

Cheers!