My Mission- To Empower Women in Business

Hi, I’m Sophie!

When I graduated from the University of Miami in 2013, I thought I wanted to go to medical school. Through a series of events, I ended up working at a startup clean-energy company and then a small-business consulting company. This was how I discovered my true passion lay in empowering women in business. 

Me in 2013, reppin’ the U.

In 2017, I set two new goals for myself. 

One: Obtain a Masters in Accounting, so I could learn more about business to change the current “norms,” and

Two: Start a personal finance and career-focused blog as a way to immediately share digestible, how-to knowledge with friends and family.

Which “current norms” in business did I want to change? Let me throw some facts at you. Did you know:

  • Men hold 62% of manager-level positions, while women hold just 38% (Source: Women in the Workplace). 
  • Women earn 82 cents for every $1 earned by white men (Source: Center for American Progress). 
  • And the statistics related to Black women and women of color are even more staggering. For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 58 Black women were promoted. (Source: Women in the Workplace).

My mission is to effect change from both the inside and out.

My “Inside” Job: Currently, I work at Grant Thornton, a large public accounting firm, as an audit senior associate. My role has evolved from creating spreadsheets to managing teams, projects, and clients. My favorite part of the job is the ability to shape careers and inspire others through recruiting and teaching. 

I have worked very hard to strive to be at the top of my performance and have been taught by some amazing female coaches. By my third year, I knew I stood out from the crowd. I was chosen to sit on a local and national council to help shape the firm’s culture and help our people grow. I take these roles very seriously and use my privilege to do everything I can to address the challenges that women face in the business world. I am grateful for this opportunity!

My Outside Mission: Although I have achieved a great reputation at work, I consider my biggest personal success to be this blog. Sophie Explains has been my passion project since 2017. I have been able to express my enthusiasm for empowering women in a tangible and real way. My dream goal is to grow this blog into a community of women that support and encourage each other to follow their dreams through smart, attainable steps. 

As many of you may already know, I absolutely love Japanese culture. I recently learned the Japanese word “ikigai,” which means life-purpose. I truly believe my ikigai is to help women achieve their personal and professional goals!

Me in Kyoto, Japan in 2017

How can I help you?

If you are…

  • Considering a career change (such as medicine to business)
  • Looking for ways to improve your finances (through budgeting or starting a side-hustle)
  • Aiming for a promotion within the next year (and need guidance on how to set yourself up for success)
  • Stuck or frustrated with your current career path (and want to talk with someone who has overcome this struggle)
  • Applying for jobs in accounting (such as audit)

Let me know!

The fastest way to reach me is through a private message on Instagram (@sophieexplains). Send me your questions or concerns, and I’ll help however I can. Whether it’s giving you advice from my own experience or referring you to a helpful resource, I got you!

Thanks so much, and I hope to hear from you soon!!

-Sophie

What I’ve Learned from Creating a Collaborative Bookstagram

What is a bookstagram? Good question. A bookstagram is an Instagram dedicated to books! 

In May 2020, I reached out to two of my best friends with an idea: “Let’s create a collaborative Instagram account dedicated to sharing our favorite books.” The goal would be to create a diverse, virtual library to inspire each other and our followers to pick up a new book or try a new author! 

In June 2020, our bookstagram, @quotethisbook was born!

Co-founders, Carina (bookitbabe.com), Danielle (bibliotrips.com), and I have always been passionate about reading. Even if we don’t always share the same taste in book genres, we often discuss our current reads and recommend new books to each other. I wanted to take this amazing mini community to the next level. Since then, our bookstagram has evolved into such a fun and creative part of each of our lives. I’m so grateful for their friendship and our mutual love of reading!

Photo credit: Danielle Befeler

Here are the top five things I’ve learned through starting a bookstagram: 

  1. It’s so fun to collaborate creatively with your friends! 
    • The key is to find friends with similar drive and passions. Each of you may have different strengths: maybe one person is always on top of the posting schedule and keeping everything organized, and someone else is more creative and thinking of new ways to engage your audience, but the most important part is that you are all aligned with the same end goals.
    • Tip: Even though the three of us chat almost daily, we set up monthly facetime calls to go over the bigger picture items and ideas. These are some questions we’ve gone over in the past: Do we allow guest posts? What kind of Instagram story engagement methods do we want to try? How often will we post? Discussing these key questions helps us manage expectations. It’s also super fun brainstorming new ideas and having an excuse to chat with my besties and catch up!
  2. Simple is better.
    • I made it clear when I proposed the idea that I wanted the bookstagram to be super low-effort, with room for it to get more involved in the future if we chose. The three of us work busy, full-time jobs, and we’ve agreed to never force ourselves to post if we don’t have time or energy. Luckily, since there are three of us, usually one person is able to pick up the slack when the others get busier. It’s really worked out great so far!
    • Tip: Don’t overcomplicate things. A lot of times, people never follow through with their ideas because they get overwhelmed in the details. What color scheme should my account have? What font should I use? How should I standardize my captions and hashtags? These are such minor questions and concerns!! It’s more important to just start with something simple and manageable and over time you can tweak and improve it to be exactly what you want it to be. Any creative project is a work-in-progress. Just start somewhere!
  3. We’ve learned a LOT about content creation and social media: 
    • None of us knew much about graphic design or the intricacies of Instagram. Now, Canva is our new best friend, and we’ve connected with our audience on Instagram through polls, bingo, and interactive stories. We had to learn it all as we went along! Luckily, there is a how-to guide for everything on the internet. Don’t be afraid to do your research and learn something new. It can be fun! Recently, we even had a complete stranger reach out to us with a new opportunity because of our professional account. It’s been so rewarding to learn a new skill.
    • Tip: Canva is an easy-to-use graphic design app that makes it easy to draft up quick and attractive posts. It’s free too!! 
  4. Working together is SO inspiring.
    • Since we’ve begun our bookstagram, the three of us have been extra motivated to pursue our own personal goals. 
      1. Carina, who had a book blog long before our bookstagram, was inspired to completely revamp her website, bookitbabe.com. She was also the first of our group to take Canva graphic designs to the next level by making us a Quote this Book gif and custom book bingo that we shared with our followers. How cool is that?
      2. Danielle launched her own personal blog, bibliotrips.com, which has been her dream for years. Our bookstagram gave her that extra nudge to show her how rewarding it is to share your passions with friends and family. She also applied for a writing fellowship. Give it another year or so and you’ll see us posting about her first novel on our own bookstagram! You go, girl!
      3. I (Sophie), was inspired to get back into my own blogging endeavors with this blog! I even created a companion Sophie Explains Instagram account. I’m so excited to reach an even wider audience and create a community of goal-driven individuals. 
    • Tip: If you ever need a nudge to push your creative pursuits to the next level, reach out to your like-minded, passionate friends and create a group chat to discuss your goals, hold each-other accountable, and inspire each other! I promise it works!
  5. Reading is the best! 
    • It just is. End of story.
    • Tip: Check out my post on How to Rediscover Your Love of Reading. Now is the perfect time to dive into a good book, learn something new, gain understanding of someone different than yourself, or escape to a far-away land!

For AMAZING book recommendations check out: Quote this Book

Photo Credit: Sophie

Please also support some awesome, creative ladies:

Find Carina at bookitbabe.com

Find Danielle at bibliotrips.com

And follow Sophie Explains on Instagram and Facebook for more content.

Thank you!

-Sophie

Three Easy Home Organization Tips

I love finding new ways to stay organized in my home. Especially now that a lot of us, myself included, are working from home due to COVID, creating a clean and tidy space helps us stay focused on work.

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Here are three easy home organization tips I’ve used in the past few weeks that have made a big impact on my apartment’s appearance and helped me stay productive while I am at ‘work.’

  1. Scan Loose Papers
    1. Pull out all of those old car documents, receipts, and utility bills that are sitting in an unused drawer and sort them into two piles.
      1. To Keep – Important documents like signed apartment leases, job contracts, certificates, etc.
      2. To Toss – Three-year-old receipts for items you will not be returning, utility bills that you’ve already paid, out-dated documents, etc.
    2. Recycle and/or shred all the items you can toss.
    3. For the Keep pile do the following:
      1. Scan all the import documents and save to your Google Drive or Dropbox.
        1. If you do not own a scanner, an easy alternative is to download a free phone scanning app such as CamScanner or just take photos using your phone. You can then save them directly onto Google Drive, or you can first email them to your Gmail account.
        2. Tip: Make sure to name each document something easy to remember. Eg. <2020 Signed Apartment Lease> so that you can use the search function in Google Drive effectively when you need to find these documents.
      2. For things like utility bills that you get monthly, log-into your online utility account and set up paperless billing and automatic payments.
    4. When everything is saved and organized, get rid of the paper copies!!
      1. Tip: There are some documents we need to keep (i.e. birth certificates, documents with wet signatures, etc.), be sure to keep and store these in a secure location.
    5. Going forward, try to minimize the amount of paper you keep. As soon as you get a receipt or document you want to keep, take a photo right there with your phone, save it, and get rid of the document.
  2. Use Thin Fabric Clothing Hangers
    1. Recently I replaced all of my old plastic, college-era hangers with uniform, slim hangers. The ones I bought were on super sale at a department store, but these Amazon hangers are similar. It is great to upgrade your hangers for the following reasons:
      1. Uniformity: Especially if you have an external closet, it looks so much more professional to have all the same hangers and puts the focus on the clothes.
      2. Space: The thin hangers save a lot more space than the thicker plastic versions.
      3. Quality: Using high-quality hangers will help keep your clothes looking their best and not sag in the wrong places. This is important for keeping blazers and suits wrinkle-free!
  3. Clear Containers for Kitchen Storage
    1. Our apartment has very little built-in kitchen storage, so we purchased affordable, external shelving units to store our non-perishable pantry items. Recently, I re-homed some of our commonly used foods into uniform, clear plastic or glass containers.
      1. Suggestions of items to store in clear, sealed containers:
        1. Grains – Oatmeal, rice, pasta
        2. Non-perishable Toppings – Dried cranberries, nuts, croutons
        3. Snacks – Pretzels, trail-mix, crackers
      2. Benefits to clear containers:
        1. Easy to See – When making weekly grocery lists, or deciding on a meal, the clear containers make it easy to see what you have at your disposal and what you need to purchase.
        2. Uniform Look – The plastic containers look much more uniform than a bunch of plastic bags and boxes.
        3. Easy Access – I even started unboxing all my eggs from their cartons and putting them into one large tupperware in my fridge. This easy access and visibility in the fridge has been really useful!
        4. Freshness – A good clear, sealed container will keep your snacks fresher than with a bag-clip.

I hope that some of these simple tips inspire you to create a more organized home. When your home is organized and tidy it helps keep your focus on more important things!

Let me know if you have any simple organization tips that you felt made a huge impact on your home! You can find me on Facebook and Instagram.

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An Alternative to Video Happy Hours at Work: Interest-Related Chat Groups

The Problem: Video call burn-out.

Are you as burnt out as I am with video happy hours at work? I love my coworkers and miss them, but at times I have been suffering from video call fatigue when the end-of-day conversation revolves around how we are dealing with the effects of the pandemic and discussions of client issues. I have been searching for a promising alternative that involves engaging with my coworkers and meets the following requirements:

The Requirements: 

  1. Encouragement of bonding between employees who don’t work together frequently; 
  2. No restrictive “meeting time,” which allows participants to contribute at any time that works best with their schedule;
  3. A written component so that the quieter participants can have a voice since they may often be spoken over in video calls; and
  4. A low-maintenance, ongoing solution that can stay in place indefinitely, even post-pandemic.

The Solution: Interest-related breakout chat groups for any and all hobbies. I discovered this idea on this blog post. Thank you, Trello!

Imagine this: Separate Microsoft Teams or Slack chat groups for various interests such as pets, yoga, books, etc. Anyone in the office can create a group and/or join a group. A listing is kept of all the groups so that when the new employees start, they can easily identify groups they’d be interested in joining (or starting, if there is not one already). 

These low-maintenance open-to-all chats will motivate bonding among employees, allow the group-members to contribute whenever they want, and give a voice to all. 

The Benefits: 

  1. Encouragement for team members to share their full selves at work; 
  2. Comfortability for participants to contribute because of a clear center to the discussion; 
  3. Trust-building across levels, which leads to: 
    1. Informal mentorship opportunities,
    2. New employees feeling comfortable bringing fresh, creative ideas to management, and
    3. Friendships outside of work;
  4. A selling point for recruiting employees and future intern classes; and
  5. An easy, low-commitment way to bond remotely.

If you want to suggest this idea at your company to encourage team-building while we work remotely, please feel free to share this post and let me know how it goes! What groups would you be interested in starting?

In my office, I can already envision groups forming for the following hobbies that my co-workers are passionate about:

  • Pets – Sharing adorable pet videos or social media accounts.
  • Golfing – Discussing the best courses on which to play and sharing photos of their golf swings.
  • Video Games – Setting up Call of Duty sessions or discussing Animal Crossing turnip prices.
  • Fine Liquor – Sharing Total Wine discounts and recipes for favorite cocktails.
  • Netflix – Suggesting the latest and greatest shows and movies on streaming subscriptions.
  • Accounting Memes – No explanation needed – a given in public accounting!

I would definitely join the pets group, even though I don’t have a pet myself…yet. Puppy videos and photos are the best! I cannot wait to see how these groups evolve over time and what new hobbies are introduced. I feel these groups would be a great way to connect during and after pandemic times without coworkers having to rely on work-centered discussions!

To reach me directly and for more content, follow me on Instagram and Facebook (@sophieexplains), and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

How I Found a Job!

When my first post-college job moved their headquarters from Miami Beach to Amherst, Massachusetts, I decided to move along with it, even though I knew the move was temporary. I wanted to gain new job experience and live in a new place. After nine months of living in Massachusetts, I started to put feelers out for new job opportunities back in South Florida. This blog post is an abridged version of my job-hunting process and how I found my second post-college job! 

A little background. My approach to job-hunting stemmed from what I learned in the book, “What Color is your Parachute?”. A new version of this book comes out yearly; I read the 2015 edition. The biggest lesson I learned from this book is to connect your skills and passions to a job-opportunity. Don’t be afraid to research thoroughly and reach out to companies, even if they are not currently hiring. If you do this, it shows the company that you have a special interest in them! Instead of stating that you are a ‘go-getter’ in your resume, this is a tangible way to show an employer that you know how to take initiative.lisa-fotios-9SnCcsIchOQ-unsplash

Here is the step-by-step approach that landed me a small-business consulting job.

  1. First, I identified my skills and passions:
    • My first job out of college was as a customer service representative at a start-up clean-energy company. Due to the start-up nature, I was able to rise through the ranks to Director of Operations within just one year. I knew after this experience that I was passionate about business operations, and I had a skill for helping make business processes more efficient. Skills and passions- check!
  2. Second, I narrowed down my job search to my ideal careers:
    • Specifically, I wanted to work for a small-business consulting company. I wanted the company to be less than 50 people and to be based in South Florida. I wanted the opportunity to learn and develop quickly. These factors helped narrow down the search.
  3. Third, I utilized the LinkedIn search function:
    • LinkedIn has a great, detailed search function where you can narrow down companies by location, services, number of employees, etc. Even more search capabilities are unlocked if you upgrade your LinkedIn account. When I searched in 2015, I did not upgrade the search function, but it may be helpful to do so now! Using the tool, I compiled a list of 25 ‘ideal’ companies.
  4. Fourth, I created a Google Spreadsheet to track my progress:
    • On a spreadsheet I listed the 25 companies, their websites, phone numbers, key emails, and other notes I found during my research. I located the emails from the company website or from LinkedIn. I also created columns for “First Contact Date,” “Follow-up Date,” and “Company’s Response,” so I could keep track of progress. It’s definitely important to stay organized while applying for jobs, as the process can require multiple follow-ups before any response.
  5. Fifth, I cold-called each company via email and phone:
    • I first sent a targeted email (See the email template below!) with my resume, in PDF format, attached, then within the hour I called to see if they received my email and if they had any questions, or if I should forward the email on to another employee.
    • These were the initial responses I received:
      1. 18 out of 25 companies- No response via email or phone. I followed up with these companies a week later, and got a few more responses then! The tracker from Step #4 was useful here.
      2. 4 out of 25 companies – Upon phone call, the company clearly stated they were not hiring and asked me not to email or call again. One was quite rude, but that was a good sign I did not want to work for that company!
      3. 3 out of 25 companies – Responded positively, but stated they had no current openings. Here is one of their responses: “I wanted to acknowledge receipt of your resume and let you know that at the present moment we don’t have any opportunities I can share with you.  Rest assured that I will keep your information and should we come across any positions we will contact you.” I marked these emails for follow up in my calendar for a month later.
    • Remember, I reached out to companies even if they were not currently hiring! These responses are to be expected. This can be an exhausting process, but you can do it!
  6. Finally, get an interview!
    • One of the three companies that had initially responded saying they appreciated the email but had no opportunities, actually emailed me back two weeks later asking to set up an interview. After seeing my email they started thinking about how I could be an asset to the current team and re-evaluated their initial response. I ended up getting the job and worked for that amazing company for almost two years before I went back to school for accounting! 

I know there are a million ways to find a new job, and above is just one idea. This method may also become trickier when the company is bigger. I understand that many large companies are more formal and rigid in their hiring processes and may not be as open to cold-calls (or emails). Despite the limitations, I still think Steps #1 and 2 are invaluable for everyone. Being able to link your passions and skills with a job-opportunity is a great way to find an amazing life-long career!

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To give you a few other job-hunting ideas: concurrently with Steps #1-5, I also did the following to expand my search:

    • I used my college’s career portal to make another list of companies that were  currently hiring and sent in my applications. This is how I found my first job out of college! It’s important to use all resources at your disposal, and college career centers are a great resource.
    • I reached out to family and friends with my resume and the type of job I was looking for. I emailed uncles, teachers, third-cousins, literally nothing was off-limits! Just be sure to be extra, extra respectful and grateful if they offer to help on your behalf. Connections are your biggest asset when it comes to job-hunting, but I want to empower you to not see a lack of connections as a setback to finding the perfect job for you.  
    • One thing I did not get a chance to do, but I will definitely do in the future, is informational interviews. Use LinkedIn to see if you have a connection with someone at a company in a field you are interested in. Maybe they went to the same school as you or grew up in the same hometown. Reach out to them and ask if they would be willing to chat with you about their job and come prepared to the meeting or phone-call with thoughtful questions showing that you took time to learn about them and their industry. This may not lead to a job opportunity directly, but it will help you decide if that industry is for you!

My hope is that this post may inspire or help someone who is currently looking for a career change or trying to find a new job due to COVID. If you try this method and it works, please let me know so I can share any tips or tricks you found as well!  I am also happy to talk one-on-one if you have any specific job-hunting or resume questions as well! Please feel free to reach out to me on social media (Facebook or Instagram). 

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See below for the email template I used in Step #5. It works best if you tailor as closely as possible to the person and company, but I hope it gives you an idea of where to start!

Example Cold-Call Email Template

Dear [THEIR NAME],

I firmly believe that I would be an asset to your consulting firm because of my experience successfully working my way through a number of jobs at a start-up company to become Director of Operations.  I have a strong passion for operations improvement, superior customer service, managing change, and motivating staff. Consulting combines these passions with the added excitement of travel and meeting new people, which I love. 

[COMPANY NAME] is also passionate about transforming companies and organizations to produce better results through leadership and culture development, talent acquisition and more. A quick phone call would help convince you that I could be a very valuable addition to your consulting firm. Attached is my resume.

Thank you in advance for your time.

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME]

[Also attach your PDF resume!]

Side Note: I am currently working at my third post-college job (public accounting), and I love it! I am not personally looking for a job right now. I would love to share more about accounting as a career in future posts. Stay tuned!

How to Rediscover Your Love of Reading

I have always loved reading. Even so, I’ve had some years when I have prioritized my time doing less important things – like scrolling through Instagram for hours. Since quarantine, I have been making reading a much larger priority in my life. Reading can be a great escape from reality, but it can also be a wonderful way to learn something new and gain insight and perspective into a life different from your own.

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In order to prioritize reading, I have learned a few tricks which can make books easier to access, and I want to share these ideas with you!

  1. Library Apps – I love the app “Libby,” which connects to your local library using your library card number and gives you the ability to seamlessly borrow digital books and audio books (for free of course!). In Miami-Dade County, Libby has a ginormous selection and is so easy to use. With Libby, you can have 10 books on hold and 10 books on loan at a time. My favorite feature is when a hold book is ready for you to borrow, but you aren’t yet ready to read it, you can choose “deliver later.” For example, “deliver after 7 days” effectively puts you next in line, so you don’t have to wait all over again. I primarily use Libby for digital books that I “check out” to my Kindle App.
    1. Libby, an easy-to-use library app: https://www.overdrive.com/apps/libby/
    2. Tip: A lot of libraries will allow you to register for a new library card virtually due to COVID! Check out your library’s website for more information.
  2. Kindle App – So I have a physical Kindle eReader and use it when I read outside, but recently I’ve fallen in love with the iPhone Kindle app. Why? I realized I had a habit of scrolling through social media first thing when I wake up and right before bed. Instead of immediately opening Instagram and scrolling through fluff, I decided I would try scrolling through an ebook using the Kindle app. It has definitely helped to lessen my time on social media. The Kindle app is useful because you can click on a word to pull up its definition and Wikipedia page. You can also easily highlight and bookmark sections of the book to save for future reference. It also links directly to your Goodreads account (if you have one) so you can easily keep track of books you’ve read. 
    1. Kindle App for your phone: https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/fd/kcp
    2. Tip: You do not need an actual Kindle device to use the Kindle app on your phone or computer!
  3. Audiobooks – Like I mentioned above, the library also offers audio books! You can easily listen directly on the Libby app. I usually listen to these during my long commutes, but since quarantine means working from home, now I enjoy listening to audiobooks while I do chores! Cleaning, cooking, and laundry all become more appealing when you’ve got a great book with you. Another cool thing I found out recently -if you have a book on Audible (an Audible subscription makes a great present for booklovers), and you have the same book on Kindle (purchased or borrowed the library), you can sync them so that you can read the digital book and then listen to the audiobook exactly where you left off on Kindle!! How cool is that?
    1. Audible, a great gift for book-lovers: https://www.audible.com/ep/giftcenter
    2. Tip: Your library has free audiobooks collections too!

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Having a free and easy way to read (and listen to) books means you have no excuse not to get started! Reading is a great way to learn something new, and develop your personal and professional skills. 

If you need a recommendation, this is a perfect time to shamelessly plug a new Bookstagram (yes, an instagram account dedicated to books) that a few girlfriends and I have collectively started called Quote This Book. The goal of this account is to share book recommendations through quotes, to challenge ourselves to read new genres outside our comfort zones, and to continue to learn and grow, which is something this blog, Sophie Explains, definitely encourages! 

Check it out! https://www.instagram.com/quotethisbook/

 

Starting a New Job: 5 Essential Qualities

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I’m back! The last three months have been non-stop craziness at work, including traveling to Austin for three weeks, learning to adapt to a new schedule, and building the endurance needed to survive (and thrive in!) 60+ hour workweeks.

I can confidently say that I have learned a lot about myself, my new company, and the business world as a whole. I am so grateful for the experience. As a close friend reminded me, “Experiences, whether good or bad, are always important.” This sentiment helped me get through a few of the tough weeks in the middle of busy season when there seemed to be no end in sight. Looking back on those tough weeks, I learned invaluable lessons.

Today, I want to share with you some of these lessons from the past few months. Whether you work in a team or with customers, focusing on developing these qualities can help you create and cultivate strong bonds with co-workers and clients. I hope that this list will inspire you to find little ways to improve both professionally and personally!

5 Essential Characteristics For Starting a New Job

  1. Willingness to learn: When starting a job, new hires are not expected to master industry skills or company culture day one, but willingness to learn and absorb as much as possible is appreciated and valued. This shows the company that you have the drive to become a value-adding employee from the very beginning. Willingness to learn includes staying curious about your job and company and asking questions, but it also means taking responsibility for, and learning from, mistakes.
    • Reflect: How did you react the last time someone pointed out your mistake? Did you get defensive or upset? Although it may feel like a blow to your ego at the time, accepting responsibility for your mistakes and finding ways to learn and grow from them will help you gain respect from your peers and show your willingness to improve.
  2. Patience: All jobs come with the expectation of a learning curve. Whether it’s learning a new trade, the company culture, or essential soft skills, practicing patience with others and, more importantly, yourself is important. So often we have such high expectations for ourselves that when we don’t succeed on our first attempt, we can easily become discouraged. Just remember learning can take time. Before you know it, you’ll be the new expert!
    • Reflect: Think back to that last mistake you made. Did you get upset at yourself? Did your ego berate you for your failure? Now think about how it would feel if you instead cut yourself some slack. Think about how you would feel if someone else had made the mistake? You probably would not have been as hard on them as you were on yourself. Yes, making mistakes sucks, but while you are new – take risks, make mistakes, and, most importantly, learn from them.
  3. Attitude: Especially when working closely with others or in a team setting, attitude and emotions are contagious. Embodying a positive attitude will cause others to want to work with you, and positive emotions can also improve your productivity! Sometimes you might struggle to keep a happy demeanor, especially if you’re feeling exhausted or overwhelmed. I found it helpful in those moments to excuse yourself for 5-10 minutes and take a quick walk around the block, listen to some good music, and remember that you are doing your best! Another strategy is to write down what you were happy about that day and what you are excited about tomorrow each night to help maintain a positive attitude.
    • Reflect: How did it feel when your teammates were disagreeing with each other? Was the vibe in the room caustic, negative, abrasive? A quick attitude check can turn a negative argument into a friendly debate. When you take time to listen to your coworkers before refuting their ideas, it can generate better ideas, make people happier, and increase efficiency.
  4. Adaptability: A new job means working with a new set of people. In public accounting, associates rotate teams every few weeks. Being able to adapt to a new boss, coworkers, and clients is essential for success. Take some time when you start on a new team to listen and learn. Once you are familiar with the habits, stressors, and communication-styles of your teammates, it becomes easier to meet their expectations.
    • Reflect: How long does it take you to understand how your coworkers think and work? For me, it is usually a month or two, but at my new job, I found that this time is dramatically reduced through open feedback, communication, and honesty (and maybe all of our hours together!).
  5. Self-reflection: Asking your coworkers and boss for honest and constructive feedback is just as important as taking time to evaluate your own progress. Again, as you evaluate your progress, remember to focus on areas within your control, such as your communication style and attitude. Be sure to practice patience in areas that you are still learning, such as a new computer system or industry skill. Self-reflection not only helps us improve but also keeps us humble and honest. I find it to be a great motivator as well!
    • Reflect: When is the last time you took 5-10 minutes to review your performance on a project or within a team? If you have received criticism or compliments, did you agree with them? If you felt you performed poorly, why did you feel this way? Was it a lack of resources, a negative team environment, or something within your control? Take time to think about past self-reviews when beginning a new project, and you will see a dramatic improvement in your performance and feedback.

What are some other traits that you find essential when starting a new job? What qualities do you look for in hiring a new employee? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to comment in this blog post, and please follow Sophie Explains on Facebook for new posts and updates!

Thank you again for being so patient these past few months during the mini-hiatus. Stay tuned for more soon!

Ready for Success: Starting a New Job

Starting January 2nd, I will begin my new job as an auditor for a large public accounting firm in Miami. Yay!

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Most people assume I will be crunching numbers at my new job, but I will actually be doing investigative-type work. As an auditor, I work directly at client offices and spend weeks or months learning everything about their industry, the organization, and their daily processes. My main goal is to make sure their financials are free from errors so that investors can rely on them, but another part of public auditing is understanding if a company runs efficiently and if not, how to make this happen. Being an auditor is a great way to get a larger understanding of the business world because our clients range from financial entities to hospitals to non-profits, even companies like Disney are audited!

To stay on track with my long-term goals regarding work, I want to make sure I am in the best position to get a head start at my new job. Whether you are beginning a new job soon or not, I hope this list helps you consider some aspects of setting goals you hadn’t considered before!

Before Starting

  • Ask questions ahead of time:
    • From what to wear to what to bring (documents, laptop, etc.), asking questions beforehand can be helpful in making sure you show up ready to get to work. If you forget your laptop at home or didn’t get the dress code memo, you could be distracted from important first-day meetings and run the risk of continuing a negative cycle of giving the impression you are not prepared.
    • Email HR or your future boss to give them a heads-up before your first day if you already have a trip planned in the first few months on the job. Many people plan events in advance, and sometimes this overlaps with starting a new job. As long as you give your boss a heads-up they should be understanding. On the other hand, if you wait until the week before starting your job to tell them, it may reflect poorly on you work-ethic because it seems as if you are a last-minute planner and do not have high regards for your work schedule.
    • For the overachievers: Ask HR for material to read before your first day. This may span from benefit plans to employee handbooks, and will help you get an overall understanding of the basics of your job and allow you to ask the more important clarifying questions in person on the first day.
  • Do your research:
    • Do you have a friend who works (or has worked) at the company? Send them a short email with a few specific questions about the day-to-day lifestyle, the organization’s culture, and names of staff members that you should know. Stay away from vague questions like, “What should I know about Company X?”, “Any advice for a newbie?”, etc. Vague questions turn into vague answers and also make it seem like you are not fully invested.
    • If you work for a big company, you can often find important information online. News articles will give you a bigger picture of the company’s strategy regarding improving stock prices, future mergers, and new CEOs. Online forums can give you an idea of the day-to-day lifestyle from employees. Be sure to take those comments with a grain of salt, though! It is common for disgruntled employees to write negative reviews even when their experiences are very unique!

Your First Day

  • Get there early:
    • To make a great impression on your first day, be sure to get there at least 15 minutes early. Google Maps can help you estimate traffic beforehand, but if you live in a busy city like LA or Miami, be sure to give yourself even more time for those too-common car accidents that can turn highways to parking lots. If you are commuting via public transportation, be aware of any construction delays and plan an option B in case the trains are stopped. Maybe even consider a less convenient or more expensive commute option on the first day just to make sure you get there early!
  • Dress to impress:
    • Be sure to wear your best-fitting, most professional outfit on the first day. Anything too tight or too baggy will make you stand out (in a negative way) or make you look younger and less experienced than you are. Be aware of the dress code as well. If you have any doubt, it is better to dress up than dress down!
  • Make friends:
    • Plan to go to lunch with coworkers on the first day, or bring a lunch to eat in the kitchen if that is part of the office culture. Take advantage of this time to form friendships, especially if there are a lot of new people starting on the first day. Making friends, whether with other new employees or friendly experienced employees your age, will help you later on when you have simple questions you do not want to ask your boss.
  • Prepare an elevator pitch:
    • Plan a brief introduction about yourself and how you fit into the company for other employees and people you meet on your first day.
  • Take notes:
    • Carry around a notebook to write down and remember all of the new names and small, but important, details like your new computer login information. You should also write down any questions you plan on asking your boss or the HR.
  • Stay positive:
    • Smiling, listening, and paying attention will help show that you are excited to be there and ready to learn.
  • Act confident:
    • Even if you are feeling nervous, which is completely normal, remember that you worked hard to get to this point and that you deserve the new position! It is expected that you will make mistakes as a new employee, so be sure to take criticisms gracefully and learn from them for the future.

Your First Week

  • Absorb the culture:
    • An organization’s culture cannot be learned from any employee handbook. Be sure to listen and pay attention during your first few weeks on a new job to see how your managers present themselves and interact with clients and other employees.
    • Do employees communicate via messenger, calling, or face-to-face? Are there sports teams or volunteer organizations to join? Do employees often go out to happy hour? Be on the look-out to see how you can get involved and stand out.
  • Know the goals:
    • What are your goals in regards to your job description, and just as important, what are the company’s goals? Knowing the company’s mission and organizational goals will help you align yourself quickly and meet expectations quicker.
    • Sometimes jobs start off slow. Be patient and use your time wisely. You may reread the HR materials or do background research on tasks you will soon be assigned. This will help you do your best work when it is finally assigned.
    • On the other hand, if you seem to finish all your work at once, ask your manager what you should be completing in your first week, month, and quarter. Understand their expectations of you in order to stay on track or ahead.
    • Try to figure out the biggest priorities or challenges of your new team so you may organize your work accordingly. Be on the look-out for solutions to these challenges, but be cautious about making new suggestions your first week or you may come across as critical of the work culture.
  • Learn how you will be evaluated
    • Will you have performance meetings quarterly or yearly? Do these align with raises or promotions? What criteria will be tested? Will you have to complete a personal evaluation? Being prepared and understanding these possibilities will make you a stronger candidate for promotions in the long-run.

A new year and a new job, let’s work towards achieving our goals together! Please connect with Sophie Explains on Facebook and feel free to send any questions or comments via the Contact Page. Thank you for your support, and have a Happy New Year!!

Staying on Budget During a Vacation

Next week I take one last trip abroad before I start working full time in January. Starting a new job means I will be working extra hard to show my excitement, motivation, and willingness to be part of my new team. This also means not taking time off for six months! Traveling is one of my strongest passions, so I want to enjoy my last few weeks of freedom by going to Switzerland and London for the first time!

Since I am not working yet and my savings are dwindling, you can bet I am trying to keep my trip as affordable (but fun!) as possible. I am so grateful that one of my closest friends is hosting me in Switzerland, which cuts down on hotel costs immensely.

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To plan my initial budget I followed the steps mentioned in the Realistic Savings Goal: Travel Edition post. Now I have finished planning the trip and have a pretty good idea of how much it will cost, I need to focus on staying on budget while on the vacation.

Keeping to the budget while adventuring is one of the troublesome parts of traveling. I know I can easily get carried away by fun spur-of-the-moment activities or buying things I cannot get at home! This post will share tips and tricks to remaining aware of your spending throughout the trip while also getting the most out of your vacation.

4 Budgeting Tips: Before the Vacation

  1. Plan your vacation goals:
    1. This one sounds silly, but determining ahead of time what you want most out of your trip can help you make money-saving decisions later on, especially if you are on the fence on whether or not to spend for a certain experience or thing.
    2. Ideas for Vacation Goals
      1. Exploring the local cuisine
      2. Engaging in a new culture
      3. Relaxing
      4. Learning something new
      5. Experiencing nature
      6. Taking the best photographs
      7. Trying out extreme sports
      8. Etc!
  2. Plan your food options:
    1. Food can be the most expensive parts of a vacation. If you research beforehand the most affordable and tastiest restaurants around your area for a specific day, you can be sure to not only choose the best option, but take out the stress of last-minute disappointing meals!
    2. Packing easy snacks like nuts or granola bars will help to keep your energy high when you start to get hungry, which allows you more time to find the best food option instead of hangrily (hungry/angry) choosing the closest, and probably not cheapest, restaurant.
    3. Going to the local grocery stores can also be a fun way to learn about local culture and save on food costs. You can buy snacks like mentioned above, or also cook your own meals depending on where you are staying.
    4. Eating larger lunches and taking advantage of lunch specials is also a great way to spend less on the expensive dinner options.
    5. If you are traveling with someone, meeting new people at a hostel, or staying with foreign friends, consider offering to cook meals together or splitting meals. This is a great way to learn more about different foods while expanding your options to try!
  3. Plan your time carefully (or be flexible):
    1. Having to rush from one location to the next can cost you five to ten times the amount you were going to spend on transportation. Planning beforehand can be the difference between a $3 subway ride or a $30 taxi ride. Consider this when choosing hotel check in/outs, timed tours, and meal reservations.
    2. Plan your activities each day in similar areas to give yourself an opportunity to walk from location to location and save money. This way you can get a feel for the city and find things off the beaten path.
  4. Plan your suitcase carefully:
    1. Forgetting clothes or hygiene products can add up, especially in a foreign country. If you are leaving on a long trip or to a distant location, think about building a list of items you want to pack a week in advance so that you will not forget in the pre-trip packing stress. Be sure to check the weather, and don’t forget to pack your toothbrush!
    2. Deciding not to check a bag into your flight can save you money. Having a lighter bag will also allow you to walk or take public transportation stress-free instead of making you consider calling a taxi to lug around your heavy suitcase. Even for month-long trips in cold weather, trust me, you can fit everything in a carry-on.

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4 Budgeting Tricks: During the Vacation

  1. Make friends:
    1. Meeting locals or fellow travelers can be a great way to learn about those hidden cheap restaurants, free sights, and must-do experiences that are worth spending your money.
    2. More people also means more people to pitch in! Some sights have group deals and you can order family-style at restaurants instead of paying for your food individually. Also, you are more likely to enjoy spending time picnicking in a free park or cooking together, which will save you cash!
  2. Keep a journal to record daily spending:
    1. Making a note in your phone or small notebook each time you spend money is an easy way to record your costs throughout the day. This also makes you stop and think on whether or not you should spend money on this particular item or experience.
    2. Every night, add up the totals to see if you are on track. If you happen to splurge, maybe be more cautious the next day.
    3. Keep in mind international credit card fees and exchange rates when calculating the total.
  3. Think twice before buying souvenirs:
    1. I truly believe new experiences are more valuable than souvenirs.
    2. An alternative to souvenirs, and a great present for family and friends, is a hard copy of your travel photos. I use chatbooks.com which links directly to my Instagram account and costs about $15 for a 60 page, 6×6 inch book of my photos. Hard copies of photographs are personalized and unique, but still have the feel of a traditional souvenir. You also don’t have to fit it in your suitcase!
    3. If you do like souvenirs and have the time, pop into a few stores in the area to see where you can get the best price and the best selection. If you are in a rush or are unsure, just consider: “Will I regret it if I leave without this?”
  4. On the other hand, you should also never be afraid to “Treat Yo’ Self”:
    1. You may not get the opportunity to return to that location in the future so please give yourself leeway to buy and try new things. If you do happen to go over budget, just be sure to keep that in mind when you return home and cut back on going out to eat and shopping for a few weeks. The experiences are worth it!

I hope you have a wonderful (and on-budget) vacation!! Please share your tips and tricks to staying on budget by reaching out via my Contact Form or joining the Sophie Explains community on Facebook. Thank you!!

Setting Long-Term Goals: Birthday Edition

This week I turn 26. My career goals have changed a crazy amount in the last five years! Back then, I was in my last year of college and on track to apply to medical schools…that did not happen. (I promise to tell you more about that in a future post!) A year ago while working, I realized I really wanted to learn more about bookkeeping and auditing, so I made the decision to pursue accounting as a career. I chose to go back to school full-time for a Masters in Accounting even though I had never taken a business class before.

Jump forward to today: I have finally completed school, am currently taking the CPA licensing exams, and have a full-time accounting position set for January 2018. My 21-year-old self would have never guessed where I would end up!

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It is my wholehearted belief that it is never too late to change your life. Whether it is your attitude, lifestyle choices, or career path, you should always be true to yourself and figure out how you can achieve your goals.

Birthdays, similar to the new year, are a great time for reflection. I like to annually re-evaluate my long-term goals to make sure I am fighting for the right ones and not just comfortably stuck on the path I set for myself years ago.

“The hardest part of getting what you want is figuring out what you want in the first place.” – Nicole Lapin

I understand some people do not like discussing or even thinking about their long-term goals. This can be overwhelming and scary, especially if you feel like you are not where you wanted to be at this point in time. What helps me is separating my goals to make them more manageable. The goals you set do not have to be career or finance oriented. Your goals can be about family (buying a home or getting married), artistic endeavors or hobbies (taking painting classes or joining a community orchestra), travel (planning a big trip or a weekend getaway), health (mental or physical), or anything you can imagine. What are you passionate about? What makes you excited for the future?

Take 10 minutes right now to read the goal setting prompts below and really think about your answers. I encourage you to think extreme with these goals. Your ideas should seem ambitious because your goals should be ambitious!

Goal Setting Prompts

  • What is your ideal lifestyle, and what financial position will enable you to live it? Consider:
    • Do you want to eat at five-star restaurants regularly, own condos in multiple cities, and/or lease high-end cars?
    • Do you want to be able to buy nice clothes regularly, eat out often, and/or take trips whenever you want?
    • Do you want to have multiple children and send them to private or religious schools? How about college?
    • Do you have loans you have to pay off? Make a timeline of by when you’d like to have these paid off. (We will discuss this in a future post!)
    • Can you live comfortably with only the basic necessities, and do you prefer it?
  • What do you want out of your career? Consider:
    • Are you looking for a stable job?
    • Do you want substantial income?
    • Are you thinking of starting your own business?
  • What are your goals in regards to family? Consider:
    • Do you see yourself getting married and having kids? If so, what is your desired timeline?
    • Do you prefer a lifestyle without children?
  • Where do you see your ideal home? Consider:
    • Do you want to settle down in a house?
    • Do you prefer the flexibility of living in apartments?
    • Where do you want to live: suburbs, city, rural? Maybe in a different country?
  • How do you want to spend your free time? Consider:
    • Is your main goal to travel as much as possible?
    • What creative hobbies do you want to pursue?
    • Is spending time with family and friends imperative in my day-to-day life?
  • How do you want to give back to the community? Consider:
    • Are you interested in starting a charity, mentoring, or volunteering?
    • Would you like to become a board member of an existing organization?

Really take some time to consider your answers. Brainstorm on a piece of paper or Google document. Documenting your goals is a lot of fun because you can look at them later and see how far you are towards reaching them, or you can see how much they have changed.

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You have to go beyond writing down your goals, though. Next, break them into smaller, attainable steps. For example, where do you want to be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years? To give you a better idea of what I am talking about, here is an example of one of my goal strategies:

Sophie’s Long-Term Career Goal

  • 1-Year Goal: Begin job at a large accounting firm to gain experience with how businesses in a variety of industries are run.
  • 3-Year Goal: Continue working hard in the accounting firm to earn promotions and gain more relevant experience managing a team and dealing with clients.
  • 5-Year Goal: Continue to move up in the accounting firm while making great connections and starting to learn about the sales aspect of business.
  • 7-Year Goal: Continue saving up a hearty financial safety net and consider when to make the leap into starting my own company. Write a business plan, mission statement, and develop other financial details.
  • 10-Year Goal: Run my own company that provides business and accounting advice to small businesses, artists, and other organizations.

This goal is one of my passions, but I imagine over the course of the next year, it will change after I get some real experience in the accounting world. Maybe I will decide I want to become a partner in the firm, or maybe I will want to take a few years off to start a family or travel the world. Your initial goal may get a bit derailed, but the point of this exercise is to encourage you to strive for your ideal situation in the current moment and not get you stuck doing something that makes you unhappy.

Sometimes reaching for your goals means making a little sacrifice today. Going back to school to get a degree in a new field is not the most fun or cost-effective plan in the short term, but in the long term you can start a job in a field you truly enjoy.

I hope this post has given you something to think about and reminded you that you can change your current path and strive for something that inspires, motivates, and encourages you to be the best version of yourself at any point in your life. Feel free to reach out to me and let me know what your goals are! Sharing your goals with friends is a good way to build a supportive community and help you stay on track. Have fun with it, think big, and get creative!

Time to go eat cake!