Always Have a Plan

Always Have a Plan

This might be my favorite topic to cover. Not because it’s the most important but because it’s one of the things I feel most passionate about. It’s something that is ingrained deep in my being.

Growing up the one thing my dad said like a broken record was “always have a plan”. Whether it was housework, running errands, yard work – really anything at all – his advice always remained the same. Always have a plan. When something went wrong, he always made a point to ask “what was your plan” and “what did you think was going to happen”.

It makes perfect sense. You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint. You wouldn’t teach a kindergarten class without a lesson plan. You wouldn’t travel across the country without a map (maybe you would but I’m not a big fan of getting lost).

Without a destination in mind, you really have no idea of gauging where you’re going and how far you’ve come. This makes getting there much more difficult. Quick and easy can turn into detours and shortcuts which take you in all the wrong directions.

Having a plan is more than just putting a bunch of words on paper. It’s figuring out how all your actions ladder up to your end goal. It’s understanding what you need to do step-by-step to get from point A to point B.

I want to first start by defining the word plan:

  • (noun) a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something
  • (noun) an intention or decision about what one is going to do
  • (verb) decide on and arrange in advance

The keywords here are detailed, achieving, intention and advance.

I am going to cover a few different areas of your life where you should always have a plan.

The first is your career:

Every successful business model is full of plans. Some examples include timelines, seating charts, blueprints, financial projects and that doesn’t even touch the surface of all the plans that are made in the business world. Without a plan you have no sense of direction – you are blind.

When it comes to your career it’s just as important to have a plan. I won’t sit here and tell you that you need to be incredibly specific and know what you want to be doing every minute of your day ten years from now, but you should have (or try to get) a good idea of what you would like your life to be like.

Having a plan allows you to jump on opportunities. For example, if a client you work with quits and had the job you want, you can quickly throw your name in the hat. If you didn’t set up your goals ahead of time you might have missed a major opportunity (see my post on exploring every opportunity here).

Your plan should be more than just an idea of “what you want to be when you grow up”. It should be a detailed outline of who you would like to use as a mentor, organizations you need to join, what education you need, what experience would lend itself well to your future role, what companies you might want to work for and what you feel your overall career trajectory is. Having an abundance of direction, resources and, contacts is never a bad thing.

When I sat down to figure out my career plan, the one thing that helped me was removing all limitations. If I could be… if I could do…ANYTHING I WANTED TO – where what would I do? As soon as I removed the “maybe you could do this” and “if I had better experience I could” and just let myself daydream the answer was clear. Not just clear but crystal clear. I want to be a creative director. I want to guide others to the big ideas that I love developing. I want to teach others how to come up with strategic, well thought out ideas that break through the clutter and energize the advertising world as we know it. I want to teach others how to make the impossible possible. How to have faith in their ideas. How to take a “what if” and dress it up into a presentation a client can’t say no to. You must let your mind wander to get there. You can’t restrict yourself. You must allow yourself to think big. You must allow yourself to dream. There are no restrictions on where your career is going to take you. The only restrictions are the ones you are putting on yourself.

If you sit down to think about where you want to go in your career, and you have a million different ideas – try narrowing it down to a more manageable number. Ten to fifteen is a good place to start. Then for each job you think you might want to try – find someone who is already doing that job and set up a time to meet with or shadow them.

Sometimes you think you might want to do something until you see what that job truly entails. Ask them to share how they got to their current position and think about how you would feel taking each of the same steps that they took.

Next is for individual projects:

Having an overall plan for your career is your big picture, but on a day-to-day basis you need to have plans that help you achieve your small goals.

When you start a project, it’s imperative that you sit down with your team and align on:

  • Timing
  • Expectations
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Performance metrics
  • End goal

Having a firm plan for every project allows you to push back when you are off track and it helps hold the entire team accountable. It will make the entire process go so much smoother. Collaborating will be easier. You will have less disagreements which typically lead to stopping and starting and stopping and starting. All of this will make you and your team more efficient.

Last but not least, for your own life:

How do you figure it all out and make everything in your life live up to your plan? You must constantly be reviewing your plan and never let it out of your sight.

I know everyone’s situation is different but as a working mom, it’s so easy to get off track because I feel overwhelmed and don’t have a plan.

I live and die by my planner. I have since I was about 12. I feed off of to-do lists and chaos makes me anxious.

At the beginning of every year get out a calendar. This is one of my favorite things in the entire world – picking out the perfect planner, pens, sticky notes and such. I make sure I am enjoying the planning process and not making it a stressful activity that makes me feel pressure to get stuff done.

First, I block off all the important stuff that makes up your life. The stuff you are expected to do that you can’t really get out of. Most of it is stuff I wish I didn’t have to do but I do (doctor’s appointments, auto service, that kind of stuff).

Now, put those big dreams down on paper. Guess what… you are expected to do these items and you can’t get out of them. If you don’t get your car serviced it won’t work. If you don’t attend to your goals, they won’t happen.

Now at the beginning of each month – do it again. On a weekly basis – you guessed it – do it again. When you wake up in the morning – if you haven’t caught on by now – do it again.

It might be hard to find the time to make your schedule but I promise you that it will keep you on track.

Figure out what you need to do to ensure that you are meeting your goals and reward yourself when you do.

You must learn how to master time management if you want to be successful. The most successful, powerful and influential people all do it.

Here is an outline of some of the big things that I add to my calendar to keep my life in order and ensure that I don’t have to move appointments or give myself any excuse to opt-out of goal driving momentum:


Tip: When I do my calendar for the year, I use my calendar from the year before to pull over the dates so that I’m not searching for them every year.

  • Goals – Major Milestones I Need to Hit
  • Holidays
  • Birthdays
  • Anniversaries
  • Health appointments
  • Hair appointments
  • Vacations
  • Time to learn
  • Time to plan for next year


  • Childcare
  • Goals – Major Milestones I Need to Hit
  • Meetings (don’t take or make meetings that are unnecessary, and meetings don’t have to be set in 30-minute blocks – a meeting can be set for 15 minutes).
  • Project due dates
  • Time to plan for next month


  • Goals – Major Milestones I Need to Hit
  • Phone calls I need to make
  • Meetings
  • Key deliverables for the day
  • Meal plans
  • Exercise plans
  • Time to plan for tomorrow

Happy Planning!

When People Mistake Inexperience as Stupidy

When People Mistake Inexperience as Stupidy

My parents are two of the most intelligent people I have ever met. Neither of them attended college. My dad is a Project Engineer in the aerospace industry. My mother was the valedictorian of the high school class, was offered a full ride to college and turned it down. She stayed home with us to ensure we were raised the way she had always imagined.

My father stayed with the same company his entire life and I am convinced that it’s because he was afraid that if he changed jobs, his lack of collegiate education would position him as inexperienced, which he was not. He worked alongside engineers without an engineering background. He was hardworking and dedicated. He would have been an incredible asset to any company he chose to work for, but I believe he was afraid that people would mistake his inexperience as stupidity and stupid he was not.

My mother was a stay at home mom. She woke up every morning, made the beds, cleaned the house, made us meals, took us to on adventures, and educated us. In addition to watching her kids, she also had a few additional kids that she watched so she was technically running an underground daycare business to bring in some additional income for our family. Her job was 24/7 and she didn’t get days off.

I had two ironclad role models. I knew what hard work looked like. I got my first job at 13. I had to get special forms filled out by my parents and the school because I was so young, but I wanted to work. I craved the experience. I worked for an ice cream and pizza shop a couple nights a week and, on the weekends, then eventually started waitressing at our local Perkins.

In addition to work and school, I also was a field commander for the marching band, ran track, was in a leadership position in the National Honors Society and took dance lessons. I enjoyed learning. I enjoyed being busy. College wasn’t much different other than the fact that I somehow managed to learn to juggle even more responsibilities. I took classes, waitressed at Texas Roadhouse, was the VP of recruitment for my sorority and Panhellenic council, was the Senior Editor for my college newspaper and interned at the local radio station.

I was smart and I was an incredibly hard worker. While I might not have had all the answers I sure knew how to figure them out, but I grew up in the “millennial” era. My parents, bosses, and colleagues threw the term around with a negative connotation.

These “millennials” don’t want to work long hours. These “millennials” haven’t even had to use an encyclopedia, they just Google everything. I got lumped in with the “millennials”. Coming out of college I was already a hard worker. I was passionate, dedicated and ready to make a big difference. I was ready to put in the hours. But I was young, female and a millennial. The perfect trifecta.

In my opinion, there are a lot of companies that underestimate the abilities of their “entry-level” associates. There are some very smart young people and it’s worth trusting them or at least hearing them out and keeping an open mind (if you don’t, they might end up taking your job one day…just sayin’).

Just because you are young and don’t have experience doesn’t mean that you are stupid. There were so many times in my career that if my bosses had just explained to me why we were doing something or how to do it, I could have made their lives exponentially easier and taken some of the work off their plate. But they didn’t because they didn’t feel that I was qualified to help them solely because I was younger and less experienced. I had one boss that told me I was too “green” and I can’t tell you how mad I was. I’m still mad about it.

I had a revelation when I was talking with a client once and she told me that when she was working with her first boss, they had told her “I want you to lead the team. If you need me please let me know. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Anything you do, I can undo”. What in the world?! How freaking empowering is that. Can you imagine being young and having your boss tell you that they want you to drive the ship? Inexperience doesn’t equal stupidity. Not getting the experience equals stupidity. Not empowering the younger generation equals stupidity.

If you feel like you aren’t trusted by your boss, it’s worth a conversation. You need to ensure that your co-workers see you as a force to be reckoned with. Don’t know something, that’s okay. You can learn and with all the resources available to you, it’s easy to learn quickly. I’m about to let my inner millennial out… if you can’t figure out the answer Google it, that’s what Google is for. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be.

If you don’t know the answer, don’t try to make it up. People can see through bullshit. If you don’t know the answer, figure it out. Learn. Get smarter. Get the experience.

Never let anyone mistake your inexperience as stupidity.

Explore Every Opportunity

Explore Every Opportunity

I’ll admit it. I have a trust problem.

Not because I don’t believe others, but BECAUSE I DON’T BELIEVE IN MYSELF. I have always had very low self-confidence and it made making and keeping friends and relationships very difficult because I didn’t know why anyone would want to spend time with me. Why me??

When it came to my career I was bound and determined to ensure that I wasn’t going to let my self-confidence get in the way of what I am truly capable of.

When someone would approach me with an amazing opportunity, I always wondered if it was a scam or if by chance they reached out to the wrong person. Don’t get me wrong – I am a really freaking hard worker but my self-confidence would get in my head. I AM LITERALLY THE PERSON WHO WILL TALK YOU OUT OF GIVING ME A PROMOTION.  “Are you sure I’m ready for this? Are you sure that I can do this?” “I see Bob has been doing some pretty incredible work, he might really enjoy this, and he’s better equipped to handle the challenge”.

WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING? Are you crazy? You’ve been dreaming about this and you are passing up the opportunity because what…you’re scared? You’re not sure of yourself? Oh, Amanda. You sweet, innocent dummy.

It has taken me a long time, a lot of self-empowerment books and ongoing conversations with myself to realize that I can do big things and not just big things but massively huge enormous things if I don’t get in my own way.

When I was younger, I would be offered opportunities and I would turn them down because I didn’t feel ready to take them on. Let me say that again. I didn’t FEEL ready to take them on. Was I qualified – hell yes, but my brain tricked me into believing that I wasn’t capable because getting started felt overwhelming and scary? Looking back, it was among the dumbest things I have ever done. I should have accepted every opportunity.

I have a strategist that I worked with at one of the ad agencies I was at that thought I was a “rockstar” (her words not mine). I admired her. Every bone in my body thought she was the smartest and most intelligent person I had ever known. I soaked up every word she said and tried to get in as many minutes with her as humanly possible. Then she left the company. She had worked remote out of Chicago and I was so upset. I reached out to her and asked if she could give me advice and by the end of our conversation, she was offering to give my name to her new boss who was willing to bring me in for an interview to work on her team. It would have meant moving away from my family, so I mulled it over and turned it down. What could have been the best career move of my entire life. I turned it down because I was afraid to move. I will always regret it.

When my son gets older, I will ensure that he knows that my expectation is that he explores every opportunity presented to him. If he gets a call from the MLB and must move miles away, he better at least give it a shot. If he gets a call from the Columbus Zoo and they want him to do an internship, he better at least give it a shot. Do I want him out of my house? Heck no, I want to smother him but, I don’t ever want him to look back at his life and feel like he lost his shot.

You only get once chance, you only get one life. Chances are, that if you don’t take a chance, you’ll never find out who you were truly meant to be. Trust that this universe will bring you the opportunities you need to get you where you are supposed to go.

If someone brings up an opportunity and it feels right, chances are it probably is. Trust your gut and go for it. I’ll be honest with you. If it’s something new, be prepared to make mistakes – that’s okay! That’s called learning. Embrace it. Embrace every opportunity.

This is my advice to you. Every opportunity comes to you for a reason. If you have time and can dedicate yourself you should give every opportunity a fighting chance.

Enjoy the whole damn journey. Every bit of it.


Finding Your Something

Finding Your Something

Everyone has something. Something bigger than them that tugs on them when their thoughts go quiet. For some people it’s athletics. For some, music. For others, it’s power and money. For me, it’s a passion to create. I am an artist.

I believe that everyone’s mind is hardwired back to one very specific “something”. I believe that “something” is what you were born to do. It’s where your greatness lies and your heart lives. It’s where success comes easy. It’s where vacations seem unneeded and work is your happy place.

It took a long time for me to really get a clear picture of what it was that was driving me. Where my passion was. It took me longer to sit with that realization and allow myself to accept it. It took a lot of self-reflection and time noodling around with different jobs, hobbies, and chores to get to the core of how to settle down that driving force in the back of my mind. I needed to create. I was built to create, regardless of what form it took. It didn’t matter what, it didn’t matter where. It could be cooking a delicious, beautifully plated treat, making a toy for my son, redesigning the décor in my living room, writing a few chapters or a couple blog posts, working on building a website, playing with photoshop or working on my photography. If I wasn’t creating, I wasn’t living my best life and I felt empty.

You see, I work a “normal” day job. I get up every morning, get my kiddo off to school and then head into the office. It’s a very nice paycheck and it gives me the resources to pay the bills, but it doesn’t always light my soul on fire. I am blessed that I have a job that allows me to work in partnership with some amazing artists. I am given the opportunity to learn from them and understand how their brain is hardwired which makes reviewing numbers, conference calls and client trips away from my kiddo all worth it.

I believe for most people, we know when we are very young what our something is and then we lose sight of it.

When you are very little there are usually a few things that you are certain about. One of them is what you love to do. That’s why it’s so cute to ask little kids “what do you want to be when you grow up”. It’s one of the purest, unjaded answers you will ever get. I want to be a vet (this child clearly loves animals). I want to be a doctor (this person loves helping others). I want to be a baseball player (this child loves sports). Most children don’t even hesitate the think about how much time it will take to become that person or the cost of school or if the salary and benefits are good. They simply tell you what they want to do, because they love to do it.


If you asked me when I was a child, I always said “I want to be an artist”. I knew it back then and just had to convince my adult self that being creative wasn’t just “playing around”. I have made a promise to myself that I will never let that little girl inside of me down. I will NEVER stop asking myself what I want to be when I grow up. Every time I start to feel stuck or anxious, I will ask myself “five years from now, what do you want to be doing” and then I will do more of that. I will do as much of that as humanely possible. I will take photos on the weekends, write chapters on my phone lying in bed next to my toddler, whatever it takes to create – you can bet I will find a way to be there.

So now it’s your turn…what do you want to be when you grow up?

Know Your Worth: Negotiating Your Salary 101

Know Your Worth: Negotiating Your Salary 101

Did you know that when you get an offer from an employer, they typically anticipate that you will come back and negotiate for a slightly higher salary? Most employers are pretty honest if they aren’t willing to negotiate, at least in my experience.

Let me first start by saying that you need to be realistic to ensure you set yourself up for success.

I am going to share some tips and tricks on how to advance your career and get a higher salary.

What I’m not telling you to do is ask for a salary that is unthinkable for the position you are applying for or demanding benefits that your potential employer just can’t provide. I have heard countless horror stories of friends that have gone back during the negotiation and asked for way too much and because they were uninformed and honestly a little greedy, their offer was pulled back on the spot. They lost their dream job because they pushed too hard.

What I am telling you is that you need to approach your career negotiation like a conversation to get the maximum benefits possible.

If you do nothing else, my three biggest pieces of advice are:

  1. Let them talk first (you aren’t obligated to give them a salary number – let them tell you what you are worth)
  2. Get it in writing – ask for a contract to review and make sure all changes get updated in the contract
  3. Don’t verbally accept anything (this gives you some leverage to take your time and plot on where you are going to ask for more)

When I got my first job, I was thrilled that I was going to have a consistent source of income. I went into my salary negotiations like a true novice. They called and offered me a number and I excitedly agreed on the spot and let them know that I was “delighted” to start as soon as possible. I didn’t even ask about benefits.

I felt like I didn’t have any real experience, or at least I thought I didn’t. I was wrong. While I was young and a straight-up newbie, I had worked incredibly hard in college and what I thought was invaluable experience was the exact experience I needed to do this specific role. I had waitressed since I was 14, I had been a member of a sorority and held a leadership position, I had an internship at a radio station, and I was the senior editor for our college newspaper. None of that felt like it mattered because I was getting my first big girl job but, it did.

No one told me that I could ask for a higher salary and the worst thing that could happen is they say no. Most employers anticipate that you will respond and request a higher salary and they make room for that when they provide you with the first number.

Let me make sure I’m clear about this – there are right ways and wrong ways to approach salary negotiations. You don’t just automatically deserve more money.

Let’s break it down from the beginning of the interview process.

When asked how much money you want to make you are not required to give an answer. My response to this question is always “I’m willing to negotiate because I am passionate about the position and would hate for a salary to dictate my career path. I would like to make something comparable to the market value.” Most employers will push you on this and it’s so damn uncomfortable. What you need to do is research and a lot of it. You need to find out what “market” value is. There are a lot of resources online where you can find this kind of information. What are other men and women in the role you are looking to be placed in making? Know the high end and low end of the spectrum. If they continue to force you on this, you can say something like “based on my research a {enter job title here} with {enter number here} years of experience makes {enter low-end salary} to {enter high-end salary}”. Then wait to see what they come back with.

If you are happy with the number that they give you and you want to accept that’s awesome but it’s fairly common when an offer is presented for the potential employee to say something along the lines of “I appreciate the offer and need some time to think it over. When do you need my final answer?” This gives you some time to sit down with the salary and the benefits and make sure they are truly aligned with your expectations. It gives you time to ask questions. Personally, it always makes me nervous when someone accepts an offer on the spot because it worries me that they don’t take time to digest the material and make might make rash decisions – but then again, it might be their dream job and they don’t care what they get paid.

When accepting a job, I recommend that you never accept on the spot. Always ask to see the paperwork. This is another big opportunity for negotiation. When reviewing a benefits package, you should look for the following items, if they aren’t included, I would recommend asking if it’s possible for them to get added to your contract. Again, the worst thing that they can happen is you get a big NO.

When I receive the benefits package in my email, I always respond with something positive like “Thanks for sending this over. I am excited about the opportunity and will get back to you with my questions by {enter date here}.” This creates a dialog and turns what could seem like a list of demands into a conversation.

Benefits to Look For:

  • 401k/Retirement Plan
  • Stock Options
  • Travel
  • Medical Insurance
  • Dental Insurance
  • Optical Insurance
  • Healthcare Savings Account
  • Cell Phone
  • Company Car (also look into parking and travel)
  • Bonus Packages

When I go back to the company with my questions, I always try to get to them a day or two before their deadline and I avoid sending my email on a Friday. I had a previous employer tell me once that HR was closed for the weekend and it was the last day for me to accept and that there was no time for HR to make a counter-offer. They had to fill the position by a certain date to keep work moving along and I waited until the last second. Lesson learned.

I like to list out all my questions in a very friendly email. I make sure it looks like I am just inquisitive about the policies. Then I approach salary. I let them know that it would be great if they could do a little better (again, I never give a number and I am very polite about it). I then list out a few of my biggest accomplishments that I didn’t share in my interview that help to make me the perfect candidate and strengthen the reason why I feel like I am the exact person that they need in this role.

Then, you wait. Waiting is the hardest part. You don’t know if they will email or call you back and its pure torture. PURE TORTURE.

If they email you that’s the easiest. If they call you then you should be prepared to discuss all of this over the phone. Practice your speech for why you think they can pay you a little more out loud a few times and have someone ask you why after every reason.

If it’s not possible then it’s not possible but the worst thing you can do in this situation is sound like you are unsure and nervous about asking for more money. Before you send off your email, decide if you are willing to accept the compensation and benefits that they provided so that if they do call to discuss your questions you are prepared to accept, decline or let them know that you need to process the updates they provide and will get back to them.

Never accept a job because they push you. It’s your career. If you need time to think after you talk to them it’s always okay to ask for time to think it through. Just remember you have a deadline.

Before you accept, be sure you have all revisions in writing. Your final contract should always reflect all updates. If they aren’t willing to update it then print it out, write in the updates you discussed and sign that copy. I had a friend that accepted a position without getting the bonus structure included in his contract. After a few short months at the company, they revamped the program and he lost all the bonuses that previously had doubled his salary. A simple mistake that could have easily been avoided.

Once you have secured your position in the company, the next piece of the puzzle is your career growth. Ensure that you understand the review process and schedule. At the beginning of each year put your reviews on the calendar (or a reminder that triggers your boss or HR).

Throughout the year, maintain a folder with all the positive feedback and negative feedback as well (my outlook folders are called “Good Work” and “Better Luck Next Time”). If something comes up in your review and it wasn’t addressed in real-time, I always recommend asking your boss to ensure that feedback is provided in a timely manner vs. quarterly/yearly as you can’t improve upon things that aren’t addressed and you lose the opportunity to grow.

Maintain a list of what you have done well, could improve and the goals you have achieved. Prepare yourself for success. This will make it easier for you to discuss your personal growth without having to go back through a thousand emails.

I have found that it’s good to be somewhat transparent with your supervisor and let them know what your long-term career goals are. Most of the time they are your biggest advocate and can help you grow within your company. If an opportunity comes up for a promotion or a new position, they can make or break your chance.