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5 Ways to Turn Unemployment Into a Gift

Originally published at on 12/29/11.

Unemployed and discouraged?  If so, you definitely want to read today’s post from Trisha Ingram, a recent MBA grad and writer of the blog Cali Girl to Cowgirl. Trisha blogs about her experiences moving from California to Tennessee and she is actively seeking a new opportunity in Organizational Development. You can connect with her on Twitter (@trishaingram) or Facebook

It’s been two months since I entered the unemployment market, a first-time experience for me.  Aside from not working during the first semester in college and a 9-month period of living abroad in Brazil, I have held a job since the age of 15.  Needless to say the thought of unemployment initially scared me but I was determined to make the most of it.  Although unemployment can be draining, I am choosing to take advantage of new opportunities and as well as reflect on things I am thankful for. Here is a summary of what unemployment has afforded me so far:

1) Time and space to explore a new career direction. Previously, I was neck deep in a fast-paced lifestyle and forgot to leave room for daydreaming, in other words, envisioning the future and figuring out gifts and talents I could use to maximize my career.  Right now looking for a job is my job. But, because I have also taken time to analyze my strengths and be honest with weaknesses, I have discovered a field of work where I strongly believe I will excel.  Now my job search has become more directed and meaningful.

2) Opportunity to network with new professionals. We’ve all heard the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I personally believe it’s a combination of both, however, right now I have chosen to focus on the ‘who you know’. It lends itself well to my situation because I decided to move to a new city to look for a job, a perfect segue into meeting new people. I have already reached out to a number of professionals in the area and have found that, generally, people do truly want to help. What a source of encouragement especially on days things seem so dry. Classy Career Girl has suggested a guideline format called the 4×4 Networking Challenge that I have incorporated into my networking efforts.  I find it helps me stay targeted and well-rounded when building relationships.

3) New appreciation for finances. I have a greater appreciation for managing finances well. All the advice I have ever applied in the past about saving money, staying out of debt, and keeping a monthly budget has never been more important than now.  It’s easy to think about preparing for the future in regards to wealth, retirement, and buying toys. But preparation for down times and seasons of transition such as unemployment are just as essential. Having worked hard over the past few years to live on less than I make and avoid debt has made unemployment much less stressful.  For a wealth of resources and knowledge check out Dave Ramsey.

4) Motivation to revamp my health. For a couple of years I juggled my day job with full-time business school and, in so doing, lost focus of my health. Now that I am finished with school and have some flexibility, I have recommitted to getting in shape.  A daily routine of preparing meals, working out, and getting proper rest has helped create structure, something that a job doesn’t provide at the moment. I also find that this healthy lifestyle helps me maintain high energy and a positive attitude toward finding a job.

5) Ability to volunteer more. I decided to take up something I was interested in but hadn’t previously had time to devote to.  After considering several activities and hobbies I realized for me it was volunteering.  So I teamed up with friends who are involved in various organizations and offered to help where needed. Volunteering provides a sense of contribution which adds value to our lives, again something a job doesn’t provide at this time. Plus it’s a break from the daily grind of job hunting and a good way to have fun and socialize.

Some of you may wonder why all of this couldn’t also happen when employed. Well it can.  However, I believe a season of unemployment provides a new perspective that makes these things more meaningful. Without a job there is a deeper sense of longing, a broader view of the future, and a greater sense of possibility for what is to come.  All of which are good fuel for personal growth.

I realize that unemployment can be a sensitive subject with a variety of effects on people.  For me it has been a gift.  It has given me a chance to review life, to reset, to brand myself as new again. And I am undoubtedly hopeful of good things to come.

Book Review: Start Something That Matters

Originally published at

Immediately when I saw this book I wanted to read it. Not because I was a huge fan, although that was the end result, but simply because I had seen TOMS shoes in Nordstrom and in a couple surf shops in California this summer and thought they were really cute.

I was aware they gave shoes away, but that's it. I was intrigued to know more about the company's background and how Blake Mycoskie came to start it.

A friend encouraged me to read at minimum the first chapter, The Toms Story. But at the end of Chapter 1, I couldn't put the book down!

Blake's experience compelled me to keep reading. I devoured the rest of the book in about two hours.

The author does a good job of challenging the reader to ask reflective questions to search for what cause one would serve. Then he follows up with encouragement and recommended resources for everyone to use.

He also explains that the foundation of building a company like this is trust. Trust internally with team members as well as externally with customers and the people they are committed to serving.

I believe what we all love about this company is what it does for social justice. TOMS helps make things right in the world.

And giving them our money for shoes helps us feel we are a contributor for change. It empowers us.

I can recall many discussions in my MBA entrepreneurship class last year about the growing trend of social entrepreneurship, or as I like to call it, business with a purpose. Whether it be clean water drinking filters, mosquito nets, food shelters, or any other cause, people are waking up to the fact that what we do makes an impact in the world.

And that it is possible, and respectable, to solve problems and still make a profit. In large part this book resonated with me because I am on my own quest to find a cause(s) that strikes me as much as it did Blake.

Perhaps whichever cause I love will inspire me to start a for profit or not-for-profit business. Regardless, I want to do work I am passionate about. I want to make a difference, leave a legacy for those behind me.

I believe this story of this book is a good example to helps others unlock a desire to make a difference.

Trisha Ingram, MBA is recently new to the blog world and authors Cali Girl to Cowgirl, a blog about her experiences moving from California to Tennessee. She is actively seeking a new opportunity in Organizational Development. Connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.

The Allure of Slow Life

There is something I have always admired about a person that lives slowly. You know what I'm talking about. The person that doesn't seem to have life pulling at them from every direction. The person that appears calm and collected even in hectic situations, that doesn't mind the time it takes to accomplish something.  In a culture where busy is exalted and fast is expected, it's hard to unwind or even fathom a slower-paced lifestyle. 


I chuckled when I came across a response to this fast-paced world by a guy named Christopher Richards who humorously expressed his passion for slow by starting the International Institute of Not Doing Much (IINDM)He wittily warns that Minimal Effort is "an advanced concept and may not be immediately graspable by those new to slowing down." 


I was also inspired by a blog post written by author Stephen Mansfield, ironically posted on the day I arrived in Nashville.  In it he describes a couple instances in which a back injury that forced him to walk slowly through an airport opened up opportunities for him to talk to people he may not have normally had the opportunity to engage with. "All I had done was slow down, but my pace said to her that something was right about my life." He became convinced that "being slow sent signals and allowed connections [he] couldn’t have imagined otherwise."


Well in this season of life I am in search of my own version of slow. Now don't get me wrong, I am a 30-year-old recent MBA grad who feels like I'm about to elevate my career to great heights. My energy level and desire to succeed has never been stronger.  A big part of my personality has been a strong internal propulsion to be excellent in everything I do.  I thrive on drive. However, I am also choosing to take the opportunity in this season of transition to find a balance between the two.  Can I have an active life while still enjoying the space and ability to be like Mr. Richards and not do much?  When this season of unemployment ends will I go back to living a frantic, busy lifestyle as I have been accustomed to for so long in California?  What about when I have children one day, what type of lifestyle will I impart to them? 


In response to this, I am taking the opportunity in a new city to deliberately establish new habits for myself.  It's one of the perks of getting a fresh start and part of the excitement of moving to the South. For me it's new, healthy eating and exercise habits. It's a good night's sleep.  It's a lot of quiet time with God.  It's self reflection at leisure. Right now my life is uncluttered and simple.  There is space.  There is time.  There are little to no distractions. I get to explore my own ideas, thoughts, and dreams.  I like it this way.  The challenge is how to maintain this. I wonder if it's even possible. 

Though I don't have the answer, I choose not to wrap myself up with worry about it either.  All I know is I am incredibly thankful for the season I am in right now. And I'm choosing to enjoy each day as it comes. 

“Always remember to slow down in life; live, breathe, and learn; take a look around you whenever you have time and never forget everything and every person that has the least place within your heart.” 


A Few of My Favorite Things

I am sitting in Starbucks right now doing research on Organizational Effectiveness and Change Management, the industry(ies) I'd like to take my next job in, and Frank Sinatra's version of the famed Christmas song "My Favorite Things" is playing.  I think it was originally a Sound of Music song that it has somehow crossed over.

And by the way, YES, Christmas music is here already and we haven't hit Thanksgiving yet.  For all you early Christmas music haters, sorry. Year after year you are overruled by Consumer America and big corporations that need to be in the black by year's end and believe that cranking the carols will get everyone in the mood to spend big.  I'm in the Christmas spirit a little early this year, perhaps it's because I'm in a new place.  But for whatever reason I don't mind it.

Back to my point. It started me thinking about a few of my own favorite things.  Not regarding Christmas but regarding, well, anything.  Although raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens don't do it for me, here is what does... (And note this is not in rank order, it's simply a conglomeration of preferences.)

32 of my Favorite Things:
1. Chocolate.  Milk. But I dabble on the dark side too.  Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.
2. Water. I drink a lot on a daily basis.
3. Fall. A new favorite since moving to Nashvegas.
4. Coldplay. 
5. WD-40. It's become my Windex.
6. Gift cards. I am picky.
7. Travel. It's how I recharge. International, Domestic, Weekend, Day- I love all trips.
8. Downloading music from Itunes. Yes, I still pay for my music.
9. Music over movies.
10. All things Apple.
11. All things Dave Ramsey. 
12. My closest friends. Engaging, enriching friendships are my fuel.
13. Dogs. I don't have one yet. Don't even know what type I'd like.
14. Celebrating my birthday. I tend to drag it out as long as possible.
15. Being 30. Had a blast in my 20s but ready for this new chapter.
16. Brushing and flossing my teeth. 
17. Business and/or personal growth books. 
18. Asking a lot of questions.
19. Facebook as my current social medium of choice.
20. Going to church.
21. Watching Football.
22. Watching the Real Housewives of (any city).
23. Starbucks. Hot drinks with a straw.
24. The treadmill these days.
25. Green Smoothies.
26. Fox News. But I'd watch Anderson Cooper.
27. Just about any type of cultural cuisine. Japanese, Chinese, Indian, French, Italian, you name it.
28. Taking pictures with my new camera.
29. Keeping my car clean.
30. Eating out of my deep bowls.
31. Collecting magnets from the places I visit.
32. Meeting and talking to new people.

I could list many more but I think this will do for now.

First impressions of Nashville: Fall Colors!

It's been a couple weeks since my last post, I've been distracted taking in all the my new surroundings.  But guess what, I'm experiencing seasons! Hands down the coolest thing about moving here so far has been seeing the colors of the trees and leaves on the ground. This may seem like a simple thing to some of you, but it's entirely new to this Cali girl.

Some trees have various shades of yellow, orange, red, and green all mixed in.  It's quite a lovely sight. Or sometimes I'll drive or walk somewhere and all of a sudden around the bend there will be an avenue of trees rich in various colors.  Here's a sample of what I'm talking about with pics taken in my neighborhood:

PARKS: I have visited 2 outdoor places so far- Edwin Warner Park and Radnor Lake.
Edwin Warner (the smaller brother park to the more popular Percy Warner Park) was really pretty.  Quite lush and full with many trees still holding their leaves.  I felt like I was walking through an enchanted forest and should have been wearing a hood riding on horseback. :)

Radnor Lake was really nice too.  As my friend Samantha described, it indeed "looked like a painting". The lake trail was about 2.5 miles all the way around.  Normally I'd walk that in about 45 minutes, but it took me 1.5 hours because I stopped so often to stare at the lake and take pictures.

Both times I was there I saw photographers taking photos of bands, and one time a model, against the backdrop of the lake.  It's a stunning backdrop for just about any type of shoot.

Weather: Most days have been in the low 70s or 60s.  Not too bad I've gotta say.  However, there have been a couple days it was in the 40s already and in the 30s at night...yikes! I don't think even my warmest clothes will be enough to sustain me through the encroaching winter, which I have to admit I'm slightly nervous about.  Good thing holiday sales are starting soon cuz mama needs a new pair of shoes, and boots, and coats, and gloves, and...well you get the picture. 

Happy Fall Season!

Walmart: I may be changing my ways

I've been here a week now and haven't done much besides get my temporary room set up and learn the general surroundings of the neighborhood like the grocery stores, gas stations, and the local Walmart. Yes, I said it, the Walmart.  Anyone who knows me well knows that if I had a choice I'd stay as far away from Walmart as possible.  It's not that I have anything against saving money, and/or accomplishing almost all my errands in one place, it's just that I have an overall negative impression of the place. The thought of it conjures up images of cheaply/poorly made products and oddly-dressed people of whom candid photos have made a popular website. (If you've never checked it out, then click the link above and click on Photos. Be prepared to be thoroughly entertained.)

I am a Target girl all the way. Even though some products overlap as the same as Walmart but at a higher price point, I just feel better shopping there.  Heck I've even purchased clothes there that fell apart only after a couple wears so I can understand the argument that Target is the same as its competitor. Regardless, the Target marketing department has done its job well in positioning the brand in my mind as the best. 

However, I'd like to report that I have been to Walmart 3 times this week. 3 times! The local Target is farther away and it is not a Super Target, so it has less to offer and doesn't lend itself to my multiple visits.  But with the other place, it is not only the fact that I have made 3 trips that has shocked me, it's the fact that in my mind when I think about needing to buy things that I think of Walmart first!  It's a natural thought, a natural reaction of sorts, an instinct. What is going on?!!

Has Walmart replaced Target as my discount retailer of choice?  If so, when and how did that happen so quickly?  And how can I prevent it from getting worse?!

I guess I'll have to include proximity to Target as one of the neighborhood criteria when looking for my own place.  In the meantime I've already made a mini-list of things I need to get at...Walmart.

The Big D! Highlights of our time in Dallas.

Dallas, dear Dallas. This city used to conjure up thoughts of the old TV series by the same name as well a tumbleweeds, hay barrels, and cowboys.  But now since so many of my close friends have moved there in the past couple years I associate it with friendships and fond memories.  Now I look forward to every chance I can get to visit!

Stephanie and I extended our roadtrip to Nashville a couple days so we could spend the weekend with folks we love.  Here are some pics of who we saw and what we did:

Girls night out with my BFF!
 Delicious chocolate morsels at a chocolate bar called Sublime.

 Sitting by the pond at Watters Creek.

Kids! Played with my friends' children all weekend.  Here are some of the cuties (permission given by all parents to post):

 Gotta love play dates!

Went to a service at Gateway Church, such a great place. Kari Jobe wasn't there leading worship, but it didn't matter. God's presence was there!

Dinners and lunches with more friends.

Thanks for the candy bar Ernie!

My only Dallas complaint: the freeways. Fortunately, or unfortunately, this claim has been confirmed by many friends who say the same. I caution all those planning to visit to watch the signs and drive cautiously so as not to miss your exit. I got lost several times in one weekend.  Interstate 35 goes North, South, East, and West...yikes!
It was a fabulous weekend overall, one I won't forget for a long time to come.  Now I'll just be looking forward to my next trip!


Well I finally arrived in Nashville earlier this week, and our road trip was a blast! California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, and finally Tennessee. Stephanie and I drove over 2500 miles across the span of our 7 day trip!

Here are some highlights:
Day 1: Drove through Sedona, AZ and stayed the night in Flagstaff, AZ. Sedona is stunning, and anyone who hasn't been there ought to think about planning a weekend trip to visit.
 Stephanie and the beautiful Sedona red rocks.
The colorful foliage of Sedona, AZ.

Day 2: We spent the morning at the Grand Canyon. I hadn't been here since I was about 14 yrs old, and Stephanie had never been.  Words can't describe the magnitude or beauty of this crater.
 Notice how small the people are atop the lookout. That highlights the grandeur of this place!
  Gotta sport my Nashville shirt. :-)

Day 3: We stayed the night in Albuquerque, NM and went to the Sandia Tramway in the morning to see the sweeping vistas of New Mexico. It's supposedly the longest tramway in the world.  Some who know me know that I love high-point views when I go to places, so this was one of my favorite moments of the trip.

 I didn't know it would be 25 degrees and WINDY at the top of the mountain.  Needless to say my little black cardigan was not enough to keep me warm!

The same afternoon we passed through Amarillo, TX and stopped by Cadillac Ranch to see Carhenge, a spinoff of England's Stonehenge but with brightly-painted Cadillacs.
 Stephanie in her Caddy.

Day 4-6: We spent 3 full days in Dallas hanging out with several close friends of ours. More pics and info to come in my next post.

Day 7: Drove from Dallas to Nashville, a 10-hr drive.

Here's a few more fun pics I took on the road.

 Ah, the open road!
 View of a Texas sunset out the back window of the car.

And finally, an ode to our official road trip song: Viva la Vida by Coldplay.  Why this song?  Because it's simply fun, upbeat, and translates to "Live the Life!"