Hope everyone had a good 3 day weekend! My father served in the armed forces and although he had already retired his military service by the time I was born, he reminded me of his dedication to the U.S. with his actions and through his relationships with those who served with him. I constantly grew up with stories and mementos of his military career. For example, there is a piece of jagged shrapnel that sits on the fireplace mantel of my childhood home that is a keepsake of what my father endured. He was wounded by that piece of shrapnel and kept it as a reminder. When my father passed away, my mother and I had his burial at Arlington National Cemetery and when I visit him now, I’m made more aware of how many more burials there have been in the nearly 30 years since his funeral. The markers are not of those who served in long ago battles/wars but within recent times. I see parents visiting their children, especially mothers/fathers and widows who sit on lawn chairs, sometimes with small children playing beside them while the adults keep their deceased loved ones company. Even after three decades, if I allow myself the moment, I can tear up thinking about my father so I can only imagine the grief that those left behind must feel. Military service is one of the highest honors to this country and I salute all of those who have served and continue to do so as well as give the utmost respect to the family members who support and continue on in service.
Managers, soon-to-be managers, supervisors & the like – we need you to create space for emerging talent and guess what, you’ll be rewarded with those people who step forward with them taking things off your plate! Ways that you can expand the leadership circlestarts with you so let’s get cracking by changing the environment – it’s a WIN/WIN!
The feedback that I’ve received from my team throughout the years is that people in my office feel valued and I take the time to invest in their progress (even after they leave Arum Group). When brands/companies/restaurants/retail establishments create a healthy work environment, teams form with the company philosophy in mind. Individuals are not just getting a paycheck, they believe in the work. When you have customer service where the employee cares about the customer because the employee knows that that’s part of the brand of the company as well as why, you have a brand that will weather more challenging times. Companies that care about their employees take the time to understand their employees’ well being. If I’m on deadline, I maybe a more irritable person and less cheery but my team knows my quirks and knows that I’m on their side to making them successful. Personality is an ever changing situation but the core of my team’s values remains the same. We fight for one another and when we make mistakes, it’s on me. I’m thankful for their work and I care about them individually. It’s important to understand that I value them and not see them as just another person who clocks in. This creates trust between us and that they can count on me as much as I can count on them.
For those folks who are experiencing their 1st professional job interviews post college, you may want to review these tips to make sure you’re prepped. Some of them are very basic but better to be overly prepared then running late going to the wrong address. I had a young woman who was walking frantically in my neighborhood looking for the address for her interview (mind you, I live in a fairly residential area so not a lot of office buildings) so she knew that something was off. I asked her if she needed help and she showed me the address. Of course, living in DC is also about understanding the quadrant system and she was in NE and not NW (where she was scheduled to interview). I let her know and she was quite distraught that she was going to be late (not a good feeling when you’re trying to remain calm as you interview). It happens and you can prevent being frazzled if you advance your interview location or at the very least, check out where it is located on google maps. Happy Interviewing!
Congratulations, you have the job offer! In this market, you may want to accept the 1st position offered to you but let’s take a moment to think about whether it’s the best fit. You spend so much time at work that aside from the paycheck, you might as well get something out of it for a future position.
For those of us who work constantly, there is a major risk of burnout. My friends and colleagues who have moved out of DC have discovered that work life balance does exist and it’s a crazy atmosphere that drives DC professionals to becoming workaholics. Whether it’s the peer pressure of those around us who are consistently working themselves to the brink of exhaustion or the demands of our jobs, where there aren’t enough people to execute the tasks at hand, DC is a hotbed of crazy work schedules and no time to decompress. It makes us wonder if we’re really cut out for a sustained period of time of non-stop work. Does this lifestyle make us resilient because we are battling time and its effects? If anything, it makes me put boundaries on my time. I used to answer my emails every day of the week, including holidays. Instead, I have a no email Saturday. I don’t look at my emails which means I don’t answer anything and continue the cycle of work. It’s a small step in reclaiming my time and the space that is thoroughly occupied with work. I enjoy what I do so it’s not really a complaint of that type of work, but more of an assessment that I need to be more well rounded. Less work time and less guilt and more time set aside to do things outside of work. It’s nice to have coffee with someone and not discuss work! How you take the time to become resilient is less about enduring the tasks at hand and more about how you give yourself the time and space to recharge.
If you haven’t seen these photos about race and power among women, then you need to check it out immediately. Representation is so important as well as breaking racial stereotypes. The images are a starting point for a deeper and more complex conversation. What do you think about them flipping the script?
I survived last week’s crush of events to celebrate AAPI heritage month. It’s always a lovely time re-connecting and forging new relationships with those who are interested in uplifting the AAPI community. There are 21 million AAPIs and we represent 6% of the population so we’re encouraging talented individuals to look at public service as a career. Oftentimes, you’ll find people who aren’t interested in running for office because the sacrifice to run and be in the public eye can be daunting. Compared to pop culture, the majority of elected officials are not “Frank Underwood” or “Fitzgerald Grant”. As a political consultant, I can attest to not ever stealing an election or playing dirty to win. To make policy and politics “sexy”, writers have schemed scenarios that are simply way past anything that any boring campaign/election could ever contrive, with the possible exception of the 2016 presidential election. When faced with squeaky clean candidates, policy discussions and the minutiae of facts and figures can be boring. That doesn’t really draw people’s attentions. If during opposition research, you find information that can be used against your opponent, do you? Whose the messenger? How is that executed? As a political consultant, I’m still a human being. I may compartmentalize my own emotions to work with a candidate/public official but that doesn’t affect how I treat them as a client. I’m helping them to sell their views and ideas, not mine. I’m certainly not going to do anything to jeopardize my reputation and relationships and most definitely I’m not going to jail for them by doing an illegal activity just so we win. Understanding the limits of power is also essential to really understanding what it means to be an elected official. I go to bed at night with a clear conscience that I’m using my skills to help those who are interested in serving people. Working in politics is an honorable profession, regardless of what my counterparts on tv may do.
Here’s Tuesday Truths!
I get asked about what makes a good candidate and I always say that it’s important to be an active citizen. Regardless of your constituency, you have the ability to be a part of your community. I’m a DC resident and I travel across the country training and speaking about getting involved in your community so that you can think about being a public servant and get into elected office. That being said, I’m not particularly an active citizen in my own neighborhood. I trust the people who are my neighbors to help me make informed decisions about how I should vote about particular initiatives affecting where we live. I quietly volunteer for a local nonprofit and have gotten to know the people who serve our community in the everyday work that they do. If I were to run for ANC Commissioner, I would need to show up to the meetings and listen to the concerns of my fellow neighbors. I would need to understand what challenges we face and the history of the relationships that have gotten us to this point. Listening is a key factor to understanding what needs aren’t being addressed and learn how I might join the already existing infrastructure to help get those concerns remedied. If you didn’t already know, I read music and have performed for many years playing guitar and have taken many years of voice lessons, particularly in opera. My voice instructor suggested that I switch it up and take jazz instruction. Well, that was a novel idea because as a performer or instrumentalist, I’m supposed to play the music as it’s written and most people have an idea that jazz is an impromptu performance. Let me inform you that it is and it isn’t. In my jazz class, it was required that we learn the pieces as written and then and only then were we allowed to “blow it up”. In other words, learn it as it was intended and then bring your own spin. I can say the same thing about politics and activism. Being an elected official doesn’t mean you are a know-it-all. Most people like the humble aspect of public servants and when you see a problem, learn from the people who have spent years/decades/more time than you on trying to solve the situation before you decide to blow it all up. Although I don’t know the particulars of this election, it’s my understanding that a younger person challenged an older more established person who was the sitting mayor and won. People voted for the younger person in the primary because it appeared from the article that the young person had spent a lot of his youth tending to the needs to the community by revitalizing an amphitheater and voters paid attention to this individual’s enthusiasm for their shared hometown. That is the kind of candidate you want to be, regardless of age, ethnic background etc..
For all those who are in leadership positions in non-profits please take heed of these myth busters. So important that we don’t perpetuate the ugly cycle that causes all of us to have burnout creep. For those who work in non-profits, share it with your leadership so that they can understand that it’s not meant to be normal. Campaigns with its limited life span has similar attitudes but we campaign hacks know that it will last for only so long because election day is looming. There is a way to have work life balance and work shouldn’t consume your life, unless you’re an entrepreneur and it’s just a way of life (totally different topic with a broad array of answers & attitudes).
Going back to the basics when you need to de-stress. Make time for family/loved ones and your tribe who will help you re-charge and release negative energy. I try to not complain because life is bound to have peaks and valleys and so goes work. I enjoy politics and the energy that comes from it (#politicscanbefun) so when there comes a point to when I wonder why I’m doing something, I remind myself of why I got into this industry in the 1st place.
I haven’t yet watch The Handmaid’s Tale (am I the only one?) but I read the book many years ago when I was a college freshman and it was required reading (considering that I went to an all women’s college, Newcomb College of Tulane University, it makes complete sense). Just like in feminism, solidarity to the sisterhood is defined by power and where you are in proximity to it. This article really reflects on how the women villains are so terrifying. This fictionalized novel will hopefully never become reality, however we have had very real situations in history where the women villains have played a significant role. Think back to the Holocaust, slavery, the civil rights movement and there are women who are complicit in the evils that were enacted.
Going from women villains to SHEROS because these Latinas are investing in other women. This gives me so much energy and I love sharing the accomplishments of women, especially those from diverse backgrounds. These stories are about inclusiveness and bringing new stories to the table.
My alma mater graduated over this past weekend – Go Tulane 2017 graduates from this 1994 graduate! Which means that there will soon be an influx of interns and new graduates commandeering the halls of Congress, the streets of DC and the metro tunnels. Every year I want to take a group of these young professional women and give them my 2 cents on what is deemed professional attire. Each industry has their standard and it’s totally up to you if you want to blend in or stand out. What’s important is that you have a work attitude that goes with your attire, one that screams, “I’m a go-getter and I have the brains to match this awesome outfit too”. People will take you seriously if you look the part with your own personality thrown in for good measure. Here are other professional women’s suggestions on what to wear if you’re an intern or if you’re starting your first career job. For the record, most people say that I always look “dressed up” (trust me, I’m not wearing a ball gown) but their definition of “dressed up” is just my regular way of putting on my armor (white hat not included, Scandal reference BTW). Occasionally I’ll get mistaken for a Member of Congress and that’s probably more a combination of someone confusing me for a real Member of Congress, the way I dress & my demeanor. That tells me that I’m wearing clothes that allows people to make that assumption because if I dressed like a “stereotypical intern” then people would mistake me for one.
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May is Asian American Heritage Month and there are a lot of cultural and political festivities to celebrate the AAPI story. Tuesday night will be Asian Prom, where a lot of my colleagues and luminaries will be all gussied up. There’s a lot of going out and networking – just perfect for the introvert in me 🙂 Needless to say, I know how to harness my energy to make it most useful to me. There’s a whole political fundraising schedule for these kinds of events. The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation has their legislative conference in September while the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute does a series of events during Hispanic Heritage month (September 15-October 15) as well. I was asked by a male colleague if I bought a new dress every time I had to attend these galas and my answer is that I have a closest dedicated to formal attire and my dresses go into rotation. It’s a good thing that Facebook has the memories feature because I can see what years I wore what dress. The dress that I’m wearing for the Tuesday night gala is a dress that I pulled from the archives. I think the last time I wore it, I attended a CHCI gala and there aren’t any photos of me in it so it’s new to you! It also helps that I have generally stayed the same size throughout the years so I can continue what’s in my closet without having to do too much damage on my wallet.
I have always said during the many trainings I’ve done that working on campaigns is like working in a start up many many times over during each election cycle. Generally, there’s not a lot of institutional knowledge and the “adult(s)” in the room are in the late 30s-60ish age group. There’s a lot of young people who are looking to move ahead. The big difference is that election cycles are short and when you work in an organization such as a start up, the payoff can be much later. The similarities, however are tremendous. So when you’re looking for a raise, take heed of some of these points and you’ll see that you have a lot ahead of you.
I’m all for women empowerment and showing solidarity for my sister friends who are battling against misogyny. So when people decide that women who are not supportive of other women who are advocating policies that adversely affect women and discriminate against groups due to their bigotry, are anti-woman or not a feminist, I get extremely annoyed. Remove the gender factor and you are left with a person whose values I whole heartedly disagree with on a very base level. It’s almost the equivalent to when I work with AAPI candidates. First and foremost, my values don’t change when it comes to the ethnicity of a candidate. If you share the same values as me and you’re “fill in the blank“, then we’re going to get a long just fine. I may want more AAPIs and communities of color represented in elected office but I will not actively work with someone who advocating for anything remotely related to discriminatory views – selective sexism.
From time to time, I do #ootd posts on my instagram. In all honesty, I am decidedly less creative in the winter months with my wardrobe selection than when the temperatures get warmer. Getting the chance to layer up and to wear more summer attire is more appealing than throwing on a sweater and pants on the regular. However the warmer months also means dealing with humid DC afternoons and office buildings that over compensate with cranking up the air conditioning. I’m fortunate that I don’t necessarily follow the skirt suit uniform so if you’re looking for creative inspiration for what professional attire you can wear in the summer then look no further. Elle magazine is sharing 11 women and their go-to outfits for the summer. #8 and #10 are my favorites!
Got any questions for me? Drop me a note in the comment section or send me an email!
Vive la France! Such welcome news over the weekend to hear the election results in France. They have a week to put together an Inaugural as well as transition into a new government. Which is simply amazing. I worked on the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) in 1997 on Vice President Gore’s team and I initially started a week after the election in 1996 working with the General Election Co-Chair, who then became Co-Executive Director of PIC. We scoped out office space and started getting the infrastructure together, mainly a lot of the people who had worked on the 1996 re-elect also worked on PIC. With the number of people returning from states, it took a while for people to get their project assignments. It’s a lot of work to put together an Inaugural Parade, multiple official balls, concerts, the swearing in etc…so I will be very interested to see what is involved in a French Inaugural. I didn’t have a day off except for Christmas and we worked on New Year’s Eve with a break to ring in 1997 and were back at it on New Year’s Day. So basically we had 10 weeks to get it all done. We had it a bit easier because we were continuing into a 2nd administration, but when you have a change of administration, everything is up for transition. Bonne chance France!
When I was in my 20s, I certainly wasn’t thinking about retirement and now as I approach the latter half of my career, I can see retirement much closer to the horizon. We know that the fields of public policy, non-profit and politics aren’t that conducive to saving for retirement vs saving for when we’re in more lean times. If you have student debt, you will have even more challenges to saving for retirement. Don’t run away from figuring out the numbers. Embrace the potential in realizing what is ahead for your retirement. Better to see what you may need into the future and not think of it as a lost cause, but a road map to how you can make financial decisions. So if you’re 25, here’s how much you’ll need to retire. via Mic
As a long time fan of twitter personality, DK NY PR GIRL, I enjoyed reading her tweets about life in the fashion industry. Although the author, Aliza Licht has moved on from her role at DKNY, she continues to give terrific brand advice and she recently wrote about how to develop a thick skin in the office. Campaigns don’t do any training when it comes to communicating with staff. Depending on the size of the campaign, you’re talking about a flat org chart and with larger campaigns, you may find that there’s a chain of command, but we’re there to execute plans in a short amount of time so taking the time to understand the priorities is essential to getting the job done. It’s doesn’t mean that it translates so well to other professional outlets. Having a thicker skin also demands that you understand how to manage up and all that entails.
If you have ever experienced bias at work, you know how uncomfortable it can be to clear the air. Here are ways you can handle these difficult conversations and if you haven’t experienced bias, check to see if you exhibit any of this kind of behavior. You can course correct into the future and avoid having this kind of conversation.
Paralysis strikes me when I think I’m going to answer a question incorrectly on a test. I certainly have a fear of failure, but I also have a healthy dose of “who gives a F*CK”. I try to do things that are outside of my comfort zone because just attempting things that scare me is a WIN. Same can be said for those who need a call to action. Having confidence can be more important to ability. Natural talent is wonderful and seeing those who excel because they were born with it can be amazing. Taking action doesn’t always guarantee failure and attempting something can lead to a whole new awareness of your ability to succeed.
Mother’s Day is coming up and I get to celebrate Momma Mielke. She left her home country of Vietnam in 1976 with my dad and me and wasn’t reunited with her mother, siblings (she’s the oldest of 9), their spouses and children until 17 years years later when her relatives immigrated to the U.S. She, herself didn’t return to the country of her birth until 31 years after she left Vietnam. In the meantime, she sponsored all of her family to the U.S., my father passed away and she was raising me to get ready for college (I left home at barely 17 years old to start Tulane). She has seen adversity and I hope that she can relax (although now she continues as a small business owner as a hobby!). This picture was used by Newsweek to cover when my parents & I left Vietnam because we were one of the last American families to leave post April 30, 1975 (when the Communist took over Saigon). Happy Mother’s Day out there to all the Mommas!
Through the years people have commented on my style and how I’ve managed to be a #boss while also be a woman. I’m not into the Mark Zuckerberg way of dressing with his no thinking t-shirt and jeans attire. I see clothes as a way to express my individuality and how I bring presence to a situation. Understanding my body type along with how it makes me feel: more confident, in command and comfortable are all essential to my wardrobe choices. Investing in staples are important to getting yourself to better understanding your style choices. You can start with pieces that are in your price range and then elevate your wardrobe with more expensive pieces when you can afford it. Luckily, the fashion industry caters to all price points so you can always feel your most confident. Here are the staples that can start your wardrobe.
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For my people, “Happy APAHM 2017!” – for those who don’t know – it’s Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month so we’re in full gear to celebrate AAPI contributions to society. So let’s whoop it up, my fellow AAPIs because our heritage deserves recognition for its many accomplishments.
When your mind is racing and you spend too much time analyzing the situation and then mulling it over some more, you may find that the iron is no longer hot and the moment has passed. It’s understandable to take the time to do a risk assessment but sometimes you gotta jump in the deep end and learn to swim. Paralysis can set in and you end up not doing anything at all. Learn the ways you can stop overthinking in its tracksvia Business Insider.
I can not say enough good things about this article by Chris Fralic. A frequently asked question from those who want to run for office is how to authentically connect with people when they’re preparing for a run in the future. It may not happen that year or even in the next 2 years so trying to connect with a lot of people without a lot of breadth can seem very shallow. This article really accentuates the pure aspect of connecting with people. It talks about the “hunted” and in my world, this means donors and influencers to networks who can broaden your scope as a candidate. It’s so important to do a bit of research of your prospect because you need to understand why it makes a good fit for them. Learn these techniques and you’ll build a network that will respond to your requests vs a list of names who won’t be bothered. This is a MUST READ and a terrific reference that you can continue to use throughout your career.
Connecting with people also works in job interviews. Hiring managers already know that there are a number of qualified people for the jobs they need to fill. How do they filter out applicants? By determining if their 1st round of picks have the kind of personality and work ethic that will fit in with the company culture and make for a more productive team. Who wants to have a team member who slows everyone’s progress? It’s important to show personality outside from the standard questions because well prepared applicants will know what they need to say to get into the next round, but how does that make them the best applicants? By connecting with the people who are interviewing them and actively listening for cues where they can find an opening to connect. via Fast Company