Survival: Post-Wedding, Post-Graduation

I’m used to racing along with multiple professional and personal projects in the works, juggling many super-fun balls in the air, while working hard to breathe once in a  while. The lull between graduation/wedding month and full time employment has been an interesting experiment.

Tool profiles:

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LinkedIn:

LinkedIn has been a great connecting tool this month, and I’ve had great success contacting alumni with interesting, relevant sounding work in the Twin Cities area. This has also led to becoming more involved in the Minneapolis creative community. Sending introductory emails linking to my profile has lent some credibility.

With a 100% response rate, I must be doing something right. My InMails always include:

  • An up-front ask. “I’d love to talk with you about your experiences in this company, as well as …”
  • How I found them. “I also graduated from this college and found your profile through the alumni page.”
  • My relevant background. “I recently graduated with my MBA and have relocated to the Twin Cities, and am interested in these fields which is what your experience is in, etc.”
  • My objective. “I am currently looking to build a network of mentors while searching for the next great professional opportunity.”

Lynda.com

Although school is out, there’s no reason to stop learning! (Especially while you still get free access to services!) I’m happiest when I’m learning, so taking a few classes on Lynda.com has been useful. The best courses are in programs or topics that I know virtually nothing about, so the slow pace works well.

Some tips for getting the most out of Lynda:

  • Close all other tabs when working on a Lynda course
  • Take copious notes. (I use Evernote)
  • Stop and start the video to try things out as they talk about them
  • Make an effort to use the exercise files

Part Time Work

Following graduation, my venture partner and I got an opportunity to work with a pre-launch start-up in San Francisco doing user experience strategy. It has been invaluable to continue working on an interesting, challenging project with a great team while stretching my user experience design skills. Regular meetings and tight deadlines, even at 13-17 hours a week, are enough to keep me feeling involved.

Making a part-time, remote, contract gig work:

  • Transparently track your hours
  • Check in with the client and team members regularly
  • Share files and progress when appropriate
  • Ask for what you want

Baking

How often do you have time to make pizza with homemade ricotta, homemade pizza dough, homemade buffalo tofu, and fresh sauce? In normal life, probably never. Taking advantage of the time I have to try baking experiments and make delicious food has been a joy. Each project ends with something to show/eat for it, even if not everything turns out perfectly.

Inspiration in a Digital Age + A Digression

While sources for creative inspiration on the web abound, recently I’ve been blown away by in-person, real-life inspiring experiences. In the mad crush of grad school, moving, and planning a wedding, I’d almost forgotten how incredible art exhibits, live music, leisurely meals, and time spent quietly in nature can be.

Most adult Americans spend about 8.5 hours daily in front of screens. An additional 8 hours are spent sleeping. The remaining 7.5 hours of the day are often taken up by meetings, meals, grooming, commuting, household maintenance, and maintaining relationships. There is no natural space for a non-digital inspirational experience.

Despite this seeming death sentence for non-digital experiences, restaurants, museums, and concerts are alive and well. What if we’ve reached saturation in terms of digital interaction? What if our usage time starts to dwindle? What if it doesn’t?

Ernest Cline poses one fascinating optional reality in his novel Ready Player One, set in a world where life is lived almost entirely online. We’re not far away from having the technology to enable that type of life. In Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, he asserts that “what you see is all there is.” Our beliefs, our inspiration, and our perception of the world is based on the information we have. We cannot know what we don’t know. If all we see are carefully selected, flattering, and sometimes photoshopped images and Pinterest-perfect meals, how long will it take before the altered overtakes the actual in “what we know?” If our primary mode of existence is digital, will it matter if perception skews toward the altered version of reality?

In designing experiences, digital and non-digital, we strive to evoke visceral, non-digital meaning. We ask ourselves “what does our brand smell like? what would it have for lunch?” Human centered design, a rising trend, holds fast to the humanity of the user, striving to understand the real over the rational. Inspiration from tactile experiences is embraced and encouraged. Brands like Aerie, Dove, and Debenhams are rejecting airbrushed imagery. Other services, like Meetup and Mosey, facilitate non-digital experiences. These trends indicate that digital reality hasn’t yet won.

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For now, I will continue to luxuriate in the smell and taste of delicious meals, the texture of interesting fabrics and old books, and all the sounds of live music. I will be inspired by heady discussions over wine with my friends, classmates, and my partner, living in analog.

Wordly Intoxication

This summer has been full of travel, moving, and relationships for me. There has been much to marvel at. (See below.) Two books have significantly added to my understanding and recognition of sensual experiences throughout the summer months. One was recommended by my mother, the other purchased for my upcoming Experience Design Course. The first was My Life in France by Julia Child, and the second A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman.

Incredible Mosiac work displayed in a Toledo museum.

Incredible mosiac work displayed in a Toledo museum.

These two women write enthusiastic and generous descriptions of scent, sound, tastes, and visual and tactile experiences. Not only do they describe experiences vividly, they take time to dwell on them in a personal way. The upshot of reading these books is that I am reminded to take a moment and notice how experiences travel through the senses. What does it feel and smell like to be at Iceland’s Blue Lagoon? What did the paella in Spain taste and look like?

Provence, France.

Provence, France. Full of scent, texture, and visual pleasure.

Although I don’t consider myself an especially acute “sensor,” it’s astounding how many sensual observations even I can make about experiences as mundane as washing dishes to exceptional experiences like a particularly fine meal. The key is to pay attention, especially to smells, tastes, and textures. While the Ackerman provides a history of senses and is packed with personal antidotes as well as a Bill Bryson-esque exploration, the Child provided a zest for life and learning through bubbling descriptions that was easy to get behind. Both are absorbing, and it is easy to loose oneself in their prose.

The next step: building specific sensual experiences for others.

“Our senses define the edge of consciousness, and because we are born explorers and questors after the unknown, we spend a lot of our lives pacing that windswept perimeter.”   -Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses