August Reads

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I didn’t read too too much this month compared with earlier in the summer due to an unexpectedly busy Labor Day Weekend and just not having the energy some days, but I still finished some good books that I wanted to share on here! My list for September/October is super long, needless to say!

The Alice Network: This book was SO good. I was on the list for it at the library and had to wait forever for it to be my turn, but I persisted because I’d heard so many great things. The book is about a young woman in the 1940s and a female spy during WWI–it switches back and forth between the two perspectives. The young woman meets the spy when she’s older and relies on her to determine what happened to a missing family member, so the book is also part mystery in a way. I’m not normally a big historical fiction reader, but there are so many books in this genre that have gotten amazing reviews, so I’m trying to be better, and this was a great way to start!

Matchmaking for Beginners: I thought I would like this book a bit more than I actually did–the characters were a bit quirkier than I expected, ha! It was still a cute, quick read that follows the journey of a young woman who is recently divorced (after being married for, like, two seconds to a guy who is totally wrong for her) and finds out that her ex’s great aunt has left her a home in Brooklyn and has specific instructions for how she can go and make the most of her life.

The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories: I picked this one up on a whim at the library and it was just ok in my opinion (but the Amazon reviews are super positive!), and while it was supposed to be a love story, I actually liked the parts about friendship more! It centers around Jacey, who discovers that a man she met during a traumatic event but since lost touch with is officiating her friend’s wedding. The two quickly reconnect and fall in love, only for tons of miscommunication to arise. This story made me want to move a small town in the South and be as adorable and kind hearted as (who decides to adopt three orphaned boys on her own at the age of 25!).

Then She Was Gone: Gah, this one was creepy but so good and definitely is one I’d recommend if you like thrillers. When her daughter Ellie goes missing, Laurel spends years wondering what exactly happened, but her curiosity is amplified when she meets and falls in love with a man who may know more about the situation than he lets on. While trying to create a new life with him, Laurel learns some startling truths about what really happened all those years ago, with snippets of the daughter’s perspective tied in, too.

The Ex Wife: This one was also a quick, creepy read (although there have been SO many books about pairs of wives/ex wives lately that the plot line is getting a little eh). The book follows the lives of Jen, the ex wife, and Natasha the current wife (who comes home one day to find that her husband and daughter have left her and has to pick up the pieces). It’s your typical thriller in that you don’t quite know who to trust, but it’s good in that it isn’t 100 percent predictable.

The Queen of Hearts: This book had been in my pile forever, but other things kept taking precedent! If you love a good medical drama, this is a must read. It follows two women who became friends during college, went to med school together, and now are living in Charlotte with their young families while working as doctors. When a man from their med school past moves into town, drama ensues and secrets are revealed that make them question their friendship and how well they truly know each other. The author is actually a doctor herself, which made everything that much more realistic!

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Bar Cart Updates

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For as much as I love to decorate, it’s rare that I change up things like my bar cart super often. Once I find a layout that works, I’ll often just leave it for ages. But the other week, I was inspired to switch things up a bit, since the area had gotten way too full with various glasses, coasters, and accessories. I decided to streamline everything a bit, set out some of my favorite food and drink-related books, and put only my favorite glassware of the moment on display.

My bar cart itself is from Miss Pixie’s, which is right on 14th Street in DC. I’m lucky enough that it’s right in the neighborhood, but it’s also a bit dangerous, because I stop in there way too often! I found this cart when I was coming home from work on day last fall and decided to stop in for a quick look around the store. I saw that the bar cart had just arrived in that day and fell in love with the gold bamboo details. When I realized it was priced at only $70, I knew I had to scoop it up!

As for a little tour of my bar area…

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The Gin & Tonic print is from Society6, which is hands down my favorite place to order wall art. They’re also pretty much always offering promotions of some sort. The gold bamboo frame was actually a Goodwill find, and a lot of my bar accessories (like the pineapples and the shaker) are from TJMaxx. The rest is pretty much all thrifted!

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This glassware is actually displayed on a dresser in our living room, and I love the look. Thrift stores are some of my favorite places to pick up glassware, because you can find so many vintage looking styles, and there actually are usually a decent amount of sets/pairs available.

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Business Cards at Basic Invite

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Does anyone else still experience that “Whoa, I guess I’m a real adult” moment when handing out or being asked for a business card? I definitely do from time to time, though I’ve become a lot more used to collecting and passing out business cards in my current job and try to keep them on me at all times, just in case. At work, I keep them on my desk in an adorable gold scalloped Sugar Paper card holder that I scored at Target for $5.99!

While I work for a large company and am unable to design my own business card for my day job, I’ve thought about getting a separate set for blog/freelance purposes, since it can definitely be difficult to remember names and Instagram handles when networking at larger events (side note: I need to make it a goal to go to more of these types of things this fall–I absolutely love connecting with fellow DC creatives!).

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When Basic Invite reached out to me last week, I was overwhelmed (in a good way!) with all of their options for customizable paper products. If you didn’t already know, Basic Invite is a one-stop shop when it comes to printing needs, whether you’re in the market for business cards or personal greeting/holiday cards (it’s never to soon to start thinking about Merry Christmas cards…my family always tended to push these off until the last minute, and it’s stressful!) Whether you’re in the market for clear plastic business cards or something more vibrant (there are almost unlimited color options), Basic Invite has a ton of different options available at a great price. I had never previously seen clear plastic business cards before, but I think they’re super cool and much more 21st century appropriate than your traditional paper card! (Oh, and speaking of business cards–here’s what I try to do with ones I receive at work!).

Basic Invite is also a great resource for all of you planning weddings, baby showers, and the like! You can actually order a printed preview of your invite before it goes out, which is a great perk (the copyeditor in me definitely appreciates the option!). There are also over 40 different envelope colors available, if you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path.

The best part? Right now, Basic Invite is offering 15% off with coupon code: 15FF51, so it’s the perfect time to stock up on whatever paper products you need, whether you have an event coming up later this fall or just want to treat yourself.

This post is sponsored by Basic Invite, and all opinions are my own. 

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How to *Actually* Read More

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Happy Friday before a three-day weekend! This week was full of fun things and not so fun things–the best part was definitely being handed some super exciting design opportunities (stay tuned!) and going with my mom and sister to see Crazy Rich Asians, which did not disappoint (go see it, now!). The worst part was the AC going out on Tuesday night in 92 degree weather, prompting me to sleep downstairs on the couch and pray that my 9 percent phone battery would make it though the night! This weekend, I have a couple of photo shoots (one at someone else’s place on Saturday for Houzz, and one at my apartment on Monday, which is for one of the design projects that came about, woo!), work at the gym, and then a friend’s cookout on Sunday, which makes me feel more Labor Day Weekend like! In between all of this and running around like a crazy person trying to finish styling my apartment, I’m also hoping to get in a bit of reading, and that brings me to this post!

I’ve written a post about this before, but I thought it would be a fun topic to recirculate given that 1) I’ve been trying to read a lot more the past several months after hitting a bit of a roadblock last fall/winter, and 2) a few other bloggers I follow have posted their own tips!

I have to admit…reading is something that truly brings me a sense of calm and enjoyment. When I was little, I’d look forward to going to the library to pick out more Babysitter’s Little Sister books (anyone else read those?!), and my dad and I read Harry Potter together when it first came out. However, I know reading isn’t truly enjoyable for everyone, and if you’re not a book person, you don’t need to force it! (You’re probably wayyyy more up-to-date on movies and TV shows and other things I’ve cut out a bit more to make time to read!). That said, if you’re not the biggest fan of reading but want to get more into it, just start small. Try an audiobook on your commute (I “read” most of Crazy Rich Asians this way and loved it–even when I was seeing the movie I’d weirdly remember where I was when a certain scene was happening!), or just challenge yourself to read a couple of chapters a week. No biggie!

I definitely go through ruts when I don’t feel as compelled to read at the end of the day, and this is usually when I’m in a busy period at work, have a lot going on personally, or have other things to focus on (I always get really bad about reading for months after a move, for example!). But in general, it comes down to basic prioritization for me. Katie recently said that she used to relax with a TV show and has made a point to unplug with a book instead, and I 100 percent have been trying to do the same. I love being able to finish books and talk about them with you guys on the blog, which provides me with an extra dose of motivation. However, I’m also motivated just by the idea of tackling my  “must read” list. If I don’t ever sit down and just start something, I’ll just feel behind and overwhelmed! If you’re the opposite and have no idea what to read next, visit blogs (a lot of lifestyle bloggers I follow also cover books) or talk with your friends or even just browse through Amazon. Even if I’ve never heard of a particular book but it’s gotten amazing reviews, I’ll be inspired to add it to my cart or wish list. I also have always wanted to write a book one day and am starting to get really close to wanting to sit down and flesh something out, so I also consider reading to be research in a way!

I also love Lauren’s recent post about how she’s made time to read more. I 100 percent agree that getting a library card is a game changer! I have more books than I can count at home but still go to the library all the time–it helps that there’s one near my office. If you want to read more but hate the idea of spending money on something you’ll probably just read through once…well, problem solved! And her point about keeping a book with you wherever you go is also key. I always end up kicking myself when I have to wait for an appointment or am meeting a friend who’s running late and have nothing to read on me. Oh, and always, always bring books with you when traveling, even if you  don’t think you’ll have the downtime. I went on a work trip and read two in a span of a couple of days, simply because we didn’t have a ton of activities in the evening and we had a flight each way. You’ll never regret being too prepared!

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The Problem with “Free Stuff” on Craigslist

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I’ve talked more times than I can count about scoring gems on Craigslist– the best way to approach sellers, what to search, and how to find diamonds in the rough. But I’ll admit that I’ve never succeeded in picking up anything marked as “free,” and after recently getting “stood up” a couple of times, I think I’m best off steering clear of freebies.

Both times, I had been communicating consistently with the sellers, only to get “ghosted” (ha) when it came time to setting up an exact time. I always try to communicate consistently with people interested in my items, even when I need to tell them that someone else offered a higher price/their pickup time won’t work out after all, etc, so I thought it was incredibly rude to just curb all communication. Have some dignity, people!

Aside from the fact that no money involved = less motivation, my only guess is that people realized it was easier to set the free items outside rather than deal with scheduling a pickup time with a stranger, or that they were inspired by my interest and decided hey, maybe this item isn’t worth parting with just yet. Who knows, but the moral of the story is that there is no such thing as a free lunch…or ghost chair…or flat screen.

Have you ever scored anything for free on Craigslist? I have picked up things marked as “curb alert” before, and this is way easier because you don’t have to email anymore, but it also requires being local and speedy.

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Oh, and I’ll leave you with this amazing find in the free section–it wouldn’t have worked out for me to pick up anyway, since I 1) have no more room for something this size after scoring another midcentury dresser last week and 2) live about an hour away from Burke, VA, where the item was located…but how beautiful is this piece?! Things like this normally go for $400+ on CL!

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A Few Room Updates

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After checking in with a little life update yesterday, I figured it was about time for a room update! I’ve been making lots of changes around here but needed to get some photos taken before I could share everything on the blog, and last weekend was the perfect time to do just that.

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I talked about the cane chair DIY I did a few weeks ago but didn’t have great pictures to show at the time. I was able to capture some when the lighting in my room was good, so you can see the (mostly) finished product here. The sunburst mirror on the wall was a recent $8 Craigslist find, and the rattan and bamboo mirror that’s leaning on the vanity table (because it’s SUPER heavy) is something I purchased at Miss Pixie’s back in the fall–for only $45!

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I need to decorate the vanity table a bit more, but to be honest I don’t really sit over here because the lighting in this area isn’t great most of the day, and there isn’t an outlet for me to plug in a lamp. But it’s still a fun little spot to look at, and the table is a great place to toss mail, clothing to donate, etc.

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Oh, and the mirrored end tables (kind of shown in the first picture in this post) are an update, too. I was struggling with what to use as nightstands after selling my IKEA ones (I had originally put the lucite tables from our nook area there, but I wasn’t loving that look, and then I was debating going mismatched but wasn’t sure if I liked that style, either). I stumbled upon these mirrored end tables on Craigslist (honestly, where else) for a good price and took them home. While they don’t provide storage, I like that they don’t take up too much visual–or physical–space but still serve a purpose.

Are you a fan of mirrored furniture? I used to think it was a bit overdone, but I really like how it looks next to exposed brick–it’s such a fun contrast and really provides a bit of a “rustic glam” look!

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Latest Obsession: A Cane Bag from Zara

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Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a nice weekend. I had a big work event on Friday night and didn’t get home until nearly 10 pm, and then I was busy working at the gym Saturday morning. The rest of the weekend was full of food (Jeni’s ice cream being one of the things I consumed–yum! If you haven’t tried the salted peanut butter flavor with chocolate flecks, you need to RUN over there now!), a workout class, and taking some pictures of my apartment to share on here! Today is also my first day of school–something I was pretty sure I wouldn’t say ever again when I completed my masters program a few years ago! I’m doing a certificate program in nonprofit management while I work full time and will just be taking one class per semester, but I still need to ease back in to the writing papers/reading not for pleasure life, haha.

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If you know me, you know that I love anything cane/rattan. And by anything, I truly mean ANYTHING. Yes, I have tons of cane furniture throughout my apartment, but I also love how the design looks on things like bags and shoes. So of course I couldn’t resist when I spotted a cane Zara bag online a few months ago–well, actually I did try to resist at first–I kept my eye on it for weeks as it went in and out of stock, but eventually I knew I had to add it to my collection. (I’m not seeing it available at the moment, sorry!).

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I was able to get some outfit pictures with it over the weekend (yes, I finally did an outfit shoot!). The black pants I’m wearing are my fave pair–they’re from LOFT and are great for work and weekends alike. The black lace top was a lunch break Nordstrom Rack find (there’s a store conveniently close to my office!) that will be perfect for going out, date nights, and the like as the weather gets a bit cooler (not gonna lie, I wasn’t the most comfortable while taking these pictures in the 80-degree heat!).

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I also am thrilled with my new pairs of Jack Rogers and like how these sandals are a little dressier than the usual style. I’ve worn them to work a couple of times and love how versatile the platinum color has been. I’ve definitely been a little more casual with my summer workwear, although I think this style of Jacks is definitely more office appropriate.

Hope everyone has a great start to the week! I finally had time to sit down and queue up a few posts for the coming days, so check back here later this week for lots of new content!

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What I’m Loving So Far This Week

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Long time, no post! I’ve been super busy preparing for a big work event on Friday and combined with after work activities, getting sick for part of the weekend, etc, I haven’t had a ton of time to devote to the blog, oops! However, I did want to pop in with a quick mid-week post to share a few things on my mind:

1) Jack Rogers on sale (again!). You’ve probably heard about the official Jack Rogers summer sale by now, but if you haven’t and are in the market for a new pair of sandals (or booties for fall!), head on over to the site, because there are still lots of good styles left. I have been rotating wearing the four (!) pairs of Jacks I scored on sale earlier this summer and am trying to hold off this time since I’m more than stocked up, but that doesn’t mean you all can’t partake! 😉

2) KIND protein bars. Guys–I picked these up on a whim at Target a few weeks ago because they were on sale (I think 2 boxes of four for $6) and they are a game. changer. They’re not only delicious but are super filling–I’ve been eating a packet before my Saturday morning gym shifts and am usually good for the first three hours…only during the fourth hour do I start to get super hangry, haha. But seriously–I’ve tried more breakfast bars/granola bars than I can count, and these are so delicious (chocolate banana!) and full of fiber/protein, so they’re definitely worth keeping on hand or in a desk drawer for emergencies. I just spotted a few other flavors at CVS and picked them up, too.

3) Our new living room dresser! It feels funny to talk about a “living room dresser,” but this seems to be the trend at the moment, and I’m not opposed. I’ve seen people using dressers as TV consoles, makeshift bar carts, etc. My roommate and I needed more storage, and the console table that we’d had in our living room was also cracked and had seen better days, so we decided to replace it with something that could hold a bit more. I stumbled upon an amazing genuine midcentury piece (it’s American of Martinsville–the brand is going for $$$ on sites like Chairish) on Craigslist for only $30, and we couldn’t say no. I’ve had fun styling it and will hopefully post a picture on here soon (it’s tough to get a good shot downstairs!). I believe that older furniture is just made better than modern replicas, so it’s nice to be able to find a quality piece that not only looks nice but didn’t cost a fortune!

4) El Centro brunch. On Saturday afternoon, a coworker and I grabbed brunch at El Centro on 14th Street and it was an amazing deal (flag this if you’re local!). For only $39, you get unlimited servings off their extensive menu of Mexican food, plus bottomless drinks. We honestly sat upstairs on their balcony for three hours catching up and enjoying our margaritas! I’d highly recommend El Centro for big groups, too–there was a table of about 20 behind us having a blast!

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Exploring the Bloomingdale Neighborhood of Washington, DC

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Happy Wednesday! If you were following along on my Instagram this past weekend, you may have noticed that I ventured over to the Bloomingdale neighborhood of DC to check out their farmer’s market (it’s open seasonally from 9-1) and try the highly recommended Big Bear Cafe. The verdict? I loved both, and everyone local needs to scoot on over there soon if they haven’t already!

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My Sunday was pretty much wide open when I woke up (aside from having plans to head home and see my family–including my new baby cousin–in the afternoon). I sometimes struggle when I don’t have concrete plans set out for the weekend. As much as I cherish my alone time, I sometimes feel “behind” or just boring when I don’t have things lined up to do. However, Sunday was a perfect example of how relaxing it can be to just have a free day to explore someplace new. After using my free birthday spin credit at Zengo Cycle (woohoo!), I decided to Uber Pool on over to Bloomingdale to catch the last half hour of their farmer’s market. Not gonna lie, I was largely tempted because of the adorable photos I’d seen of it on Instagram over the past several weeks!

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The farmer’s market was small and a little Gilmore Girls-like, with a singer, a few different stands, and tons of photo-worthy fruit. I was starving from my workout and had heard great things about Big Bear Cafe, so I decided I’d see what the fuss  was all about. I ordered a breakfast sandwich with delicious runny eggs (perfection!) and an iced coffee, and sat outside and people-watched. Part of my wished I had a book with me, but it was also super calming to just sit at my table and pretend I was at a little cafe in Europe (I was texting pictures of the leafy outdoor space to my mom and sister, and they immediately were jealous!).

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Other than this mini adventure, I honestly hadn’t spent much time in Bloomingdale before, so I’m glad I decided to pop on over. My roommate and I had actually looked at one apartment unit in the area, but I don’t know if we would’ve loved the location in the long run (busy street far away from public transportation). So while I remain biased toward Dupont/Logan Circle in terms of where I’d rather live full time, I absolutely love that DC has so many fun, unique neighborhoods (each with their own strong fan base!).

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Next up, I NEED to finally check out the Red Hen in Bloomingdale. It’s an adorable Italian restaurant with hard-to-snag reservations, and I keep only finding openings at times that don’t work super well for me…however, their pasta looks amazing, so I’ll have to make it a priority soon!

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Finding and Working Part-Time Jobs

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I have had a LOT of jobs over the past several years. A LOT. When I add up all of my post-grad internships, part-time/freelance gigs, and full-time positions, I’ve had (and this is not including internships in grad school) 13 jobs in four different states since finishing undergrad–sorry x 100000 to my poor accountant (dad) for making these past several years an absolute nightmare tax-wise!

How this crazy situation happened…

To clarify, most of these jobs were part-time (I firmly believe in staying in a full-time job at least one year if possible and also believe that one should never choose to leave a full-time position without having something else full-time lined up. As tempting as it may be to peace out of a bad job situation and move home–if that’s even an option available to you–this isn’t the most sustainable decision in the long-run for many reasons!). However, because I did switch industries (I went from PR/magazine journalism to K-12 education to higher ed), I do have plenty of experience starting over in new full-time work settings, which could potentially be a post for down the road!

Growing up, I had a couple of part-time jobs here and there in high school. I worked as a day camp counselor one summer and then at a local bakery the summer before I started college. (Taking home free bread and pastries every day was a dangerous but wonderful perk! I found that job by going door to door to several businesses with my resume until one of them told me I could work there.).

In college, I was fortunate that I had the opportunity to focus on extracurricular activities that were meaningful to me and relevant to my passions. However, during my second year in New York, it came time to search for a part-time job again, this time in a huge city with (thankfully) tons of work opportunities available at any given moment. During my last six-ish months in the city, I worked at a college counseling firm (something I wanted to do prior to beginning my master’s program in higher education). For the first couple of months, the company could only really afford to have me come in three days a week, so I decided to piece together a couple of other things in order to give myself full-time hours and pay, and I’m so glad I did. I spent two other week days working for a former magazine internship supervisor (she was so fun and energetic, and it was great to do something in another industry I love), and at night, I checked students in to media-related night classes a few times a week–this literally just involved sitting outside the classroom and signing people in and setting up A/V equipment. This was actually the perfect setup because once everyone went to class, I could do my own work while sitting at the check-in table, and I managed to work on several of my grad school application essays during this time!

I also really enjoyed the fact that no two days in a row were the same, since I was hopping between tasks and offices rather than sitting at the same desk for the same amount of time each day. While the hours were a little more nontraditional (the evening job would go from about 7 to 10 pm), I still had weekends totally free and got to enjoy having a little bit of daytime flexibility without running from place to place. *As an important caveat, I was fortunate that I could piece together these part-time jobs and still get by due to being under 26 and having parents with health insurance. I really wouldn’t be able to ever make the same arrangement work now without paying hundreds of dollars out of pocket (another thing that’s been drilled into me–don’t ever skimp on health insurance and think you’ll be ok without it, even for a couple of months!).

So, you want a part-time job but don’t know where to look…

I’ve found many of my part-time jobs on Craigslist, including my current one at a gym in my neighborhood in DC and my previous one at an accessories store in Georgetown. In NYC, I found the two part-time jobs through word of mouth and via Media Bistro, a popular website with journalism job postings. I also freelanced a bit, writing pieces for a moving/organization company in the city. In Philadelphia, I worked as a restaurant hostess at a popular tavern-like (and dog-themed!) spot near campus for about a month during the time between graduation and moving back to DC to start my full-time position. I found that job by literally just calling dozens of restaurants in the area and asking them if they needed summer help until a couple of them told me to come in for an interview. Now that I’ve worked at a bunch of different places, I thought I’d share some reflections on part-time work.

What I like: 

It’s super social! If you’re working at a front desk or as a hostess, you’ll be talking to people all the time–coworkers, customers, etc. Working with fun and interesting people makes the time fly, and it’s a great way to get to know new people in your city.

The perks! By working at the front desk of a gym, I not only get paid but now get a free membership there, which is amazing (I didn’t even realize that was one of the benefits when I took the job). I have another friend who works at a yoga studio in NYC in exchange for free classes and loves the arrangement and know other people who work at boutique fitness studios and get similar benefits.

Learning a new skill. It’s definitely comforting to have a “back up” skill that you can use no matter where you go or what happens in your life. Even trying something just for a summer gets you ahead a little bit.

Having multiple sources of income. Obviously the main reason to get a job! It’s definitely nice to have a couple of different paychecks come in each month. It doesn’t need to be glamorous…is my gym job a side hustle? No. But is it a great supplement to my full-time work? For now, yes!

Challenges: 

It can be difficult to find part-time work that’s relevant to your long-term goals. Since I love writing and design, my freelance work with Houzz has been a great way to build my resume in those areas, but I can’t say the same about every position I’ve done.

Finding the time. My schedule can get crazy during the week, so I don’t have time for unlimited shifts and don’t want to overschedule myself. And I maintain that your part-time work shouldn’t deplete your energy at your full-time job. Also, I really value balance and try to find shifts that are manageable and fit in with both my full-time work obligations and personal life. Since I usually see friends Thursday, Friday, or Saturday nights, I try to keep those evenings open but don’t have as much issue with working on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday.

Finding a local place to work. The worst thing is to find a great part-time job and then realize you’ll spend $10 a day getting there. Look for somewhere within walking distance or otherwise super convenient, and you’ll thank yourself later!

 

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