Month: March 2014

Trailblazer Tuesdays: Allison Orr

Welcome to week two of “Trailblazer Tuesdays!” This is where we feature outstanding entry-level employees who are making a huge impact in their field.


Name: Allison Orr

Age: 23

College/University Attended: Columbia College Chicago

Degree: BA in Arts, Entertainment, and Media Management, concentration in Performing Arts Management

Graduation Year: 2012

Current Occupation: Event Manager, Jam Theatricals


Q: Where do you currently work?

A: I currently work for Jam Theatricals. We present and produce Broadway series across the country. We also dabble in special event concerts like Straight No Chaser, Sarah Brightman, Harry Connick, Jr., etc.

Q: Tell me about your job. What do you do?

A: I oversee roughly half of our markets across the country, and work in conjunction with the Broadway tours that come through. Our seasons generally run from November to May, so during that time I focus on advancing, working with our on-site representatives, and settling shows; between January and March, we’re making building all of the upcoming seasons for each market. This means routing dates with agents, creating offers, mapping out seasons, and overseeing ticket builds for each show. I also oversee all of our Straight No Chaser shows throughout all markets.

Q: What interested you about this job?

A: The ability to work with multiple venues on various shows definitely attracted me to this job. We have our office in Chicago, but impact cities across the country.

Q: What do you find most challenging about this job?

A: Haha, ironically, “working with multiple venues on various shows”. It’s a lot to keep track of, and definitely takes serious organization and follow-through.

Q: Did you intern with any companies? If so, which ones?

A: I actually started my career apprenticing (as opposed to interning) at a small theater when I was 14. I continued to work there for about seven years afterwards, including a summer as an intern for the Executive Director. Additionally, I interned at Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Broadway in Chicago.

Q: Tell me about the types of internships you’ve had. What did your responsibilities entail?

A: Steppenwolf and Broadway in Chicago were wonderful experiences, in very different ways.

Steppenwolf has an acclaimed internship program, and I was honored to take part. My intern class consisted of a student who traveled to Chicago from Ireland for the internship, a student from Harvard, and students from University of Chicago, NYU, etc. The structure of the program was great. Each department had one intern; I was the theater management intern and reported to the General Manager, Director of Finance, and Company Manager. We had weekly luncheons with different departments where they would talk about their careers, history of Steppenwolf, explain their daily responsibilities, and allow for questions. It was a true internship experience (and there aren’t many like this out there…)

Broadway In Chicago was completely opposite, but still great. It was a true work experience. This was my first peek into commercial theater, and I loved it. I had more operational responsibilities that I loved, like weekly safety checks of each venue, and also entry-level office duties like refilling the copier, fridge, etc. that no one really likes, but everyone must do at some point.

Q: Tell me about a challenging situation you encountered in one of your internships.

A: During one of my internships, a prop cell phone from a show disappeared, and we needed to replace it. The Director of Operations said, “go find one”. That was it… just “find one”. Within seven minutes I was at the Verizon store picking up a display-dummy smart phone. This was a challenge, but also a chance to prove myself.

Q: What advice would you give to those currently participating in an internship program?

A: There’s nothing wrong with being “the intern” and/or “the youngest one”, but be the most responsible, timely, optimistic, friendly, most-ready-to-learn (…the positive adjectives continue) intern there is- no matter what the circumstance. Shock people when you tell them your age.

Q: At 16, you started your own theatre company and mounted several successful productions. What did you learn from this experience?

A: I definitely learned about hard work, but also about serious reward. The challenge was huge, as the company was completely student-run. So many thought it would never work. I really feel like we proved that young people can do anything we put our minds to. We sold out every show!

Q: What was the best advice given to you in college?

A: Use all the resources available to you, especially professors, other students, student opportunities, workshops, networking events… oh, and those student discounts!

Q: What do you think is the best way to bridge the gap between college and entry level work?

A: Don’t have a gap. This industry is so competitive. In order to even get a (good, paid, full-time, etc.) job after graduation, you better already be working in the field.

Q: Do you have a mantra?

A: Make it work.


Favorite Food?

A: Definitely seafood! Especially sushi and raw oysters.

Favorite Leisure Activity?

A: Spending time with family and friends.

Favorite Movie?

A: That’s a hard one! I love comedies and suspense/thrillers…. I just saw Non-Stop with Liam Neeson, and it was great.

Favorite Song?

A: Hmm… it’s ever-changing 🙂

Favorite Quote:

A: “To love another person is to see the face of God”

Dream Vacation?

A: We’re currently planning our honeymoon to the Bahamas; I’m pretty excited about it!


The Joneses Aren’t Keeping Up With Anyone

We are saturated. There are twelve different ways to watch TV, four mediums that allow you to receive emails, and push notifications to make sure you don’t miss a single “look what I cooked tonight” picture from the Twitterverse and Instagramers.

Admittedly, the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is check my phone (despite advice to the contrary – highly recommend this article: Call it a vice. Call it a knee-jerk reaction. Whatever it is, it sets the tone for the rest of my day – that, of which I’m keenly aware. I justify it by telling myself that I want to be prepared for the type of day I think I’m going to have. Ten emails from work detailing a mini-crisis that occurred at 4am tells me a I better have an extra bowl of Wheaties. Waking up to news that Taye and Idina split…. not sure how that’s going to affect my day, but I did grab an extra kleenex.

Whether this habit is good or bad isn’t really my point. I do it. So, after waking up and combing through my phone to make sure Kimye is still in tact, I proceed to get ready and hop on a train to the city. At this point, I have a no-cell phone rule. It is (and this is not an exaggeration) the one time of the day where I force myself to stay off my phone. I don’t text; I don’t tweet; I don’t answer emails. Why I’ll do it first thing in the morning but not on the train, I can’t say. But this is the boundary I’ve established for myself. I know that I’m taking the train into SaturationVille, and considering I work in media, the impact is ten-fold. I don’t allow myself to be saturated on the train.

So my technology-less hour ends, and that’s it – we’re off to the races. From the moment my workday starts, I’m inundated with mass messaging – literally. Our television is on all day. I’m fielding emails. I’m watching Twitter (believe it or not, this helps me do my job better). I’m texting and calling. I’m awash in sales pitches in the form of commercials and sponsored Tweets and media messages coded in top ten lists and best dressed pics. I’m not complaining – I love it. I work in an exciting, fast-paced, high-energy, albeit sometimes volatile industry. It thrills me. I learn something new everyday because I’m forced to stay on top of what’s happening in the world – politically and fashionably.

I’m saturated. So what’s the issue? I’m learning. I’m having a great time. I’m setting my own (perhaps puny) boundaries. It’s working. The issue is not that we’re saturated – this is the world we live in and I’m not suggesting anyone try to change it. There’s a lot to be gleaned from it. The issue is when this saturation stops making us aware and starts making us compare.

I think it’s an exciting time to be alive. Technology is advancing and some guy just invented the cronut. The world has become so much smaller since the 1950’s. My mom recounts stories of expensive long distance phone calls from Michigan to Illinois. Today, I can actually video-chat with my dad while he’s working in Saudi Arabia – thanks, Steve Jobs. It’s incredible when you think about it. But this access is only good until we start letting it make us insecure.

Celebrities used to be far away mythical creatures that you got to see a few times a year in his or her latest film. Now, thanks to cable, social media, and Kanye’s new music video, I’m seeing more of Kim Kardashian than I should probably see in an entire lifetime.

My family comes from the Christian part of Lebanon. However, many of our Lebanese friends are Muslim. They’ve explained their personal reasoning behind women wearing hijabs – you don’t desire what you don’t see.

I can’t speak to the truth of this specific rationale because as I said, I’m not Muslim. But it’s an interesting thought: you don’t desire what you don’t see. If you don’t know it exists, do you desire it? If you didn’t know that Kanye gave Kim 1,000 roses for V-Day (which, I definitely, obviously don’t know), would you desire it? If you didn’t hear the mass messaging that florals and pastels are in for spring, would you be inclined to rush out and buy them?

Social media allows us to create our ideal selves. It allows mass messaging of what’s cool, what happening, what’s exciting, and what’s not. We’re saturated – and it’s okay, until we start comparing. Because once we start comparing, we get off track. We lose ourselves. We stop trying to be what we’re meant to be and we start trying to fit into a mold. That old saying, “you’re trying to keep up with the Joneses” – the Joneses being some wildly successful couple who lets the world know it by Instagramming and Tweeting their every move. Let me tell you something: the Joneses – they’re not trying to keep up with anyone.

The reason the Joneses got to be the Joneses is because they used their awareness of the world and themselves to create their own success. They weren’t trying to imitate or copy. They didn’t replicate. They may not have even seen Glamour magazine’s Spring 2014 Most Wearable Fashion trends. They’re the original, authentic Joneses.

We’re saturated. And it’s not a bad thing. There is something to be learned everyday. Social media – I look at it as a wellspring of inspiration. We have the ability to share our ideas and findings globally – that’s exciting. But we need to use these tools to grow each other – not measure each other. That’s when we stop using them well. When we start keeping up with the Kardashians instead of ourselves – that’s when we’re headed for trouble. Media is there to create awareness. We can’t let it allow us to compare ourselves, or we will lose ourselves in hot and not lists and forget what we’re really after.

Trailblazer Tuesdays: Sajan Patel


Name: Sajan Patel

Age: 22

University Attended: Boston University

Degree: B.S. Business Administration, Concentration: Finance, Accounting, International Management

Graduation Year: 2013

Current Occupation: Treasury Sales Analyst


Q: Tell me about your job. What do you do?

A: The treasury department handles clients’ cash management needs and aims to maximize their liquidity.  As a sales analyst, I support the treasury sales officers in acquiring new business as well as expanding existing business. The product analysts assist in developing our products to fit our clients changing needs.

Q: What interested you about this job?

A: The fast paced environment of treasury and the opportunity to work with a variety of different clients interested me the most about my job.

Q: What do you find most difficult about this job/profession?

A: The hardest part about treasury is learning about our vast product offering in order to have an appropriate discussion with our clients.

Q: Did you intern with this company?

A: Yes.

Q: Tell me about the types of internships you’ve had.

A: I’ve worked with a pharmaceutical company and a venture capital firm prior to my internship in my current role.

Q: What advice would you give to those currently participating in an internship program?

A: Definitely network with as many people as you can.  Upper management is always willing to speak with interns and entry-level employees.  It is a great way to learn about their experiences and they may be able to help you when you encounter hurdles.

Q: What was the best advice given to you in college?

A: Don’t skip class. You pay too much money for each class.

Q: What do you think is the best way to bridge the gap between college and entry level work?

A: Internships are a great way to test out a job and get relevant experience before starting any full-time job. Do as many as you can when you have the opportunity.

Q: Do you have a mantra?

A: Try and create a personal connection with everyone that you work with.  It’ll make it easier to get work done and it will create friendly environment.


Favorite Food?

A: Drunken Noodles

Favorite Leisure Activity?

A: Traveling

Favorite Movie?

A: Harry Potter Series

Favorite Song?

A: Currently “Drunk in Love” by Beyonce

Any Odd Habits?

A: A horrible habit of shaking my leg.

Dream Vacation?

A: Ocean villa in the Maldives.

If you think you or someone you know is an entry-level Trailblazer, please send an email to!

5 Ways to Make the Most of a Disappointing Internship

We’ve all been there. That job where you’re watching the clock. The job where five o’clock never comes and nine am comes too soon. It’s never a fun feeling. It’s even more disappointing when you started out with extremely high hopes of the experiences to come. No one applies for a job or an internship with the intention of wishing each day away, but it happens.

I’ve been there. I’ve done the internship that made scraping popcorn paint off of a wall sound fun and running a mile sound painless. The upside to a disappointing internship is that internships typically have a set duration. You’re never truly “stuck” in any situation, but internships are especially temporary.

So you’re there. You’ve applied for the program, made it past the rigorous interview process, and been accepted to…well… definitely not do what you thought you’d be doing. Maybe it’s the setup of the program. Maybe it’s the people. There’s no challenge. The atmosphere is hostile. The tasks are mundane. Not even the savviest coach is going to be able to make these “responsibilities” look moderately impressive on your resume. Stay calm – experiences are what you make of them. Yes, there are limitations to this, but they might be broader than you’d expect.

5 Ways to Make the Most of a Disappointing Internship:

Make Friends

Don’t make the mistake of ignoring the people in your internship program. Once you realize that the experience isn’t shaping up to be what you wanted it to be, it can be very easy to slide into your own anti-social vacuum. Fight the temptation. The people you’re interning with are going to be your network – don’t neglect them. Invest in those relationships. This is your community – chances are, their journey is similar to yours. Help each other out. Share experiences. Make allies. One day, they might be able to put in a good word for you somewhere, just as you might be able to do for them. When I was a performance major, an alum from my program shared an interesting story – someone in her graduating class dropped out of the performance industry…and wound up in casting. You just never know. Plain and simple – be nice and make friends.

Find “The One”

During each of my internships, I managed to find one person at the company with whom I was able to bond. I’m here to tell you – one is all you need. Offer your services to everyone. If they all seem too busy to care, find the ONE person who seems semi-interested in your help. Blow that task out of the water. Speaking from experience (the experience of both BEING an intern and HAVING an intern) it only takes one task. If you do it thoroughly and with care, I guarantee you that person is going to lean on you again. The more work you do for that person, the deeper and more thoughtful their perception of you becomes. Yes – the ideal situation is to get to know the entire staff and have a sack full of references and new friends. But if it’s apparent that there’s very little room and interest for staff/intern bonding, it only takes one. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work your butt of for everyone, but make it a point to foster at least one strong relationship. Because flash forward a year or two or ten, when you’re applying to jobs, you will have at least one person from that company who knows you’re capable of more than fetching coffee and whose reference for you will be deeper than the fill-in-the-blank form letter tucked away in the depths of their external hard drive.

Show Interest

Here’s my take – full time staff get annoyed with interns for two reasons:

1. They’re under pressure and they want you to read their minds.

2. They perceive a lack of investment on the part of the intern.

Alright. That being said – perhaps neither of these reasons is fair, but I’d wager my favorite pen that they’re true. Have you ever been in a situation where someone snapped at you because you didn’t know what to do? You may have messed something up because hey – it’s day two and yeah, you don’t have protocol memorized yet. Not your fault. Chances are, that person is wrong for snapping and he/she knows it, but the problem is that a) you’re getting lumped into a general category of people and b) you can’t really snap back. The generalization is this unfair assumption that interns aren’t invested and don’t care. I think this is, for the most part, wrong. I think what happens is that interns are actually nervous and don’t want to mess up. So instead of confronting the issue when they do mess up, they slink back and hope the error disappears. This is perceived as not caring. If you mess up – and even if you don’t – take the time to ask how people want things done. Ask them how you can help make their job easier. Tell them you want to do the best possible job. If you mess up, sit down with someone and talk it through. I promise – they’ll be impressed that you cared enough to want to better yourself. Even for the three months you’re there.

Take Meetings

Once you build a certain level of trust with your coworkers, ask to take meetings. I would suggest doing this towards the end of your internship. Tell them that you’d love to learn a little bit more about what they do and the path they’ve taken to get there. Ask to steal just five minutes of their time – I guarantee they’ll give you more than five. Have your questions ready. Ask them where they went to college? What was their first job? How did they wind up with this lovely company that you’re not enjoying? (omit the last half of that question). And what does their job entail? Remember – these people were once interns too. They are probably very willing to help. You just have to ask. Show interest and show commitment. Remember that individually, people are not the company whose internship program you don’t like. They have insight and experiences they can offer, too.

Stay Positive

Look. This is a temporary situation. Yes, the internship might have not been everything you’d hoped it would be, but the good news is you do not have a contract with this company. Once you get through your twelve week stint, you don’t ever have to look back. Do what you need to do in the privacy of your own home to get through it (within reason…!). Complain to your roommate, draw huge red “x’s” on the calendar to celebrate the end of each day – whatever. But leave that at home – don’t bring it into work. When you’re at work, stay positive. Try to make the most of each day. Disinterested and distant co-workers might not have anything good to say about you, but definitely don’t give them anything bad to say. Be eager to help – even if it’s constantly refused. When you look back on this experience, you’re going to want to have no regrets. Allow the future you to rest assured knowing that you did what you could to make this the best experience possible. At the end of the day, it’s a credit on your resume and another opportunity to learn – even if it’s not in the areas you initially expected.

The Power of No

Tonight, I got mad. Like, can’t focus on a conversation mad. Like pacing my house mad. Like consuming copious amounts of chocolate mad. Alright, so I look for pretty much any excuse to consume copious amounts of chocolate, but that’s beside the point.

I recently completed a writing project I’ve been working on for roughly six months. It’s something of a passion project of mine, and to finally finish it was extremely exciting. But, given that it’s a passion project, I know that I’m too close to the material to objectively criticize it. And, given that it’s a passion project, I want to achieve the best end product possible.

This winter, I took a writing course. I took this course knowing that I wanted to hone my skills and hopefully meet someone who would be willing to coach me through this personal project. During the course, I was advised against using this project as my main class project. I was told that it would be better if I work on a less personal project in order to learn structure and make mistakes. Okay, fine. So I picked a different project and began putting it in motion.

Once the class was finished, we were asked to submit goals. I shared that my goals were to apply what I’ve learned to my project in order to shape and complete it. I then asked if this instructor would consider coaching me privately. The response was yes – but that I should really consider pursing the project I started in class. Completing this project would really help develop my skills as a writer. I was assured that this teacher only works with students with the drive and talent to complete their projects (cue flattery, hand over money).

So time out. I have no formal writing credentials. My mom forced journaling on me when I was a kid, and, while I hated it then, I will be the first to credit her for the joy it brings me now. But, given that I have no formal training, I put my confidence in this instructor and believed this advice was coming from a genuine place.

I agreed to develop the other project, but couldn’t get my passion project out of my head. After an insanely busy January, I made no progress on either project. But, by mid-February, something was made very clear to me. I wanted to work on MY project. On the project I’d already started and that meant a great deal to me. So, I emailed the teacher and made it known that this is the direction I’d be taking, and would the teacher be willing to coach me on this project.

After ignoring the issue for several weeks, I received a response informing me that the teacher felt it would be too-time consuming of a project in which to get involved. Declined.

At this point, you’re thinking “Okay, chill out. So this teacher didn’t want to work with you? Find another teacher.” To which I’ll respond, “Oh, I already have another teacher lined up.”

But I was mad. Really mad. Fast-forward to the lack of focus, pacing, and chocolate eating. I was mad because I don’t like being told no. I was mad because I felt that I’d been manipulated, and I’d almost let myself continue to be manipulated. I wanted so badly to find a well-meaning mentor that I let myself accept direction and advice blindly. Moreover, I tried to ignore my gut.

So I’m pacing my house, feeling short-changed and angry. And then, I just stopped. I stopped because I realized something. I realized I was allowing this teacher’s limits to influence the limits I was placing upon myself. The “no” from this teacher gave me an unexpected jolt of energy – only I was channeling it in all of the wrong ways. I was angry and anxious and worried that the teacher I’d already lined up would also turn me down.

As I was pacing my kitchen trying cursing my luck, it suddenly dawned on me what I needed to do with this pent up energy. I realized that this experience and the subsequent feelings would be wasted if they weren’t shared constructively. If I could harness this energy and use it to someone else’s benefit, this experience wouldn’t be in vain. So I decided to jot down the lessons I learned in hopes that someone else won’t make the same mistakes.

3 Lessons Learned from Natalie’s Writing Coach Tragedy:

Self-Deprecation Only Works for Your Mom and Chris Rock

I was very quick to let this teacher know that this was my first writing class. That I was very grateful for the direction. That I was a little uncertain. Despite my inexperience, I wanted to be taken seriously. I wanted someone to see my desire to learn and I wanted to excite someone to teach me. In the best case scenario, this would have played out fine. Instead, my self-deprecating speak caused the teacher to see me as weak and caused me to start believing the words I was saying. I left myself open for manipulation. Complaining to your mother that you’re “fat” and waiting for her to tell you that you look skinnier than ever is one thing. Self-deprecate your skinny little butt away. The professional world is different. Your word will be taken at face value. Speak kindly of yourself. I’m not saying to boast – I’m saying be your own advocate. No one else will be.

Your Gut is for More Than Storing Beer:

Here’s the thing. All along, I wanted to work on this project. I was actually pretty far into this project when I signed up for this class. I set a goal for myself, and I was almost persuaded against fulfilling it (at least for now). I kept trying to tell myself that the advice this professional writer was offering me was sound. That it had my best interests as a student in mind. I kept trying to force myself to believe that this is what was best for me. In this situation, the effects of this behavior were minimal. I would have done some extra writing and potentially wasted some money. Big deal. But deigning to ignore your gut instincts is risky business.

Feelings of Passion are Human Fuel

I consider myself to be a sensitive person, so when I saw an article on HuffPost entitled “16 Habits of Highly Sensitive People,” I thought “Hey! I should read that and confirm that I’m a sensitive person!” So I read it, and I can report that I do, in fact, suffer from extreme sensitivity. #tear. But one of the traits listed in the article stated that we sensitive people, we’re more emotionally reactive. We experience higher levels of anger, empathy, excitement, etc. Perhaps this is true. Perhaps the anger I experienced tonight was inflated by my extremely sensitive nature. But here’s what I learned – emotions are our body telling us we need to express something in some way. Stagnant emotion, to quote Dr. Brene Brown, is not benign. It metastasizes. The trick is finding a way to express it. And not just express it, but express it productively. Feeling angry? Fight for a change. Feeling excited? Spread the joy. Channel the emotion and release it productively. Make your feelings make a difference for you or someone else.