The Tweet That Changed My Life

Crafting a masterpiece in 140-characters or less is a challenge. Toss in the pressures of winning a $10 thousand grand prize and the opportunity to launch your public relations career at age 20, and you’ve crafted the perfect environment for panic.

In February 2013, I received an invitation via Klout to enter Tic-Tac’s Shake It Up Pledge Contest. Followers were asked to describe how they pledge to “shake things up” in their life and attach an appropriate photo. With my heart set on moving to New York City for the summer, I took this opportunity as a chance to make the promise to myself:

“I pledge to shake things up by becoming the first in my family to move over 1,000 miles away on my own. #SIUPledge”

As this message made its way around cyberspace I kicked my internship-search to full speed. After weeks of interviews, compliments and rejections, I received the golden e-mail: “On behalf of The Hartman Group Public Relations, we want to officially invite you to become a summer intern.” The Hartman Group Public Relations is a high-profile firm in New York City focusing on Broadway and entertainment media relations. Remembering my pledge, I immediately said, “yes!”

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I have two days until I move to the city.

If you’ve ever experienced the New York City realty hunt, bless your soul. Turning to couch surfing, I immersed myself into a beautiful cultural experience. My host had couch surfers from all over the world in her quaint apartment located in the heart of Washington Heights. From a Parisian photographer to a Korean adventurer to a Brazilian model, I have stories for decades. Shortly after this experience, and eight moves later, I settled with an old colleague at an extended stay hotel in the Upper West Side.

What about my family?

As I pledged, I was making this move entirely on my own. Unfortunately, this meant leaving my family behind. Early in my trip, my father suffered from kidney failure, which later brought severe health complications, ending with a heart attack. More than a thousand miles away, I had to make it clear that I was there for my family and needed to prepare myself for the worst.

How was I going to afford it?

With my father’s medical bills climbing quickly through the roof, I knew it was entirely up to me to financially make this trip possible. Determined to stay the whole summer, I sought out a part-time job with BCBG Max Azria as a stylist. Because of this opportunity, I was reminded of how much I appreciate fashion and styling. It’s not about luxury, it’s about self-expression and using clothes as a vehicle for making people feel great about themselves.

With all this ‘bad,’ a ton of ‘good’ is sure to follow.

After the trials and tribulations of the first part of my New York City experience, I began to receive a windfall of epic proportions

Cue the plot twist.

It’s a Summer Friday in New York City and I open what seemed like another “one of those promotional mailers I’ll never use.” The letter reads, “Congratulations! Your tweet has been selected as Tic-Tac’s Shake It Up Contest winner. The Grand Prize? $10,000.” Forget about the hefty check, this quickly shifted my appreciation for this experience and work ethic.

This windfall of good luck, started with a tweet. I knew that Public Relations and communicating with, and for, others is the path my life will take. Soon after this news, The Zimmerman Agency asked me to execute a morning segment on FOX & Friends from start to finish for their Aruba client. I oversaw the set and made sure it reflected Aruba, worked with CEO of Aruba Tourism Authority Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes through her talking points, coordinated day-of-tasks with the producers at FOX, kept the Account Executives in Tallahassee, Fla. updated with happenings on set and maximized the publicity Aruba received during the show. Taking my experiences back to Florida, I jumped from promotion to promotion. I spent some time as the Regional Brand Manager for a local restaurant group, Campaign Manager for a student government political party and a press associate in the Florida Senate.

Most importantly, this tweet taught me how to inspire others and jump through fire to achieve great things. My peers and colleagues now see me as a leader in my communities, seeking advice on their personal social media matters and developing projects. Today, I am looking at open doors waiting to find out where my ‘shaken’ path takes me next.

Taking it back to the Twitter pledge, seconds of courage turned into endless minutes of opportunity and hours of experiences in the field I was passionate about. I quickly learned it doesn’t matter what state I am in, what matters is my state of mind.

December 21, 2013

One year ago, we were told our world would cease to exist on this day.

The world is still breathing.

What was most interesting, to me, is that one year ago people across the globe started “living life to the fullest,” loving their neighbor unconditionally and finally making the most out of the seconds we may or may not have had left.

I’m certain that’s where the beauty of 2013 comes from.

I hear it time and time and again, “2013 was my year.” 2013 was the year people felt most grateful for their accomplishments, company and selves. I’m certain that this is because life was almost “taken away” from us. But, why are we waiting for someone to tell us we’re going to die to start living?

‘Cause you only need the light when it’s burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow

Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low
Only hate the road when you’re missin’ home

My challenge to you: take these simple steps toward making 2014 just as magical as 2013. Don’t wait for the next conspiracy theorists to do it for you.

Be Grateful

Take inventory of all the beautiful things in your life. One year ago, my mother was diagnosed with a very dangerous cancer. It wasn’t until this dark moment that I started to appreciate her for the endless hours of love and support that she provided me with. This brought us closer together, and I will never again let an illness remind me how important she is.

An activity I’ve adopted, credit due to my SpeechWriting professor, is writing a ‘thank you’ card every week to someone. Write it to a friend, a family member, a classmate, a teammate, a mentor, a stranger, someone who you are thankful for in the universe. If opening up and communicating with others is too difficult for you, keep a journal and write down one thing you’re grateful for when you wake up, and one thing you appreciate from your day before you hit the sack.

Be Positive

Despite all the hardships you and I have been through, it’s the power of positivity that keeps us moving forward. Countless obstacles this year had the power to hold me back from reaching my fullest potential. Adopting gratefulness and clinging to all the good that exists, I very easily pushed through.

The law of attraction tells us that “if you think it, it shall happen.” But, the trick is to really embrace the power of positivity to attract all that you wish and need for your personal life. The power of positivity is difficult to explain in short, but learning to harness it benefits your mental and physical health. And most importantly, improves your quality of living. Next time the universe drops a bomb on your lap, slap a smile on and pick yourself right up!

Be Purposeful

Finding your purpose in life will be the most important step to living a fulfilling life. No, I’m not talking about declaring a major and writing a plan for what the next 10 years will look like. I’m asking you to find what you’re passionate about, find what makes you happy and find the things that launch you forward in the most enjoyable way. Putting these thoughts together help determine your purpose.

Discovering your purpose helps guide you in the right direction. How do we really know if we’re making the right decision when presented with a tricky opportunity? Make sure it aligns with that purpose. Mine? Building bridges for people and finding ‘the good.’ I discovered, this year, that my place on this planet is to help place people on this planet. Using public relations as a vehicle, I help people and brands find what’s positive about them and I reveal this to the world, hopefully building a bridge between the two.

Be a Dreamer

It’s important to set goals and accomplish them to feel as though you’re successful. But, just as important, dream about the insurmountable potential inside you and the multiple directions your life could take. Eventually, these dreams start to become your reality and before you know it, you’re at the center. Bonus points if you get risky: by challenging yourself, you’ll find that you land in far more satisfying places. Besides, what better way to lift yourself out of a slump than doing something extraordinary?

At the start of the year, I dreamt about all the places I could go this summer and complete my internship requirement. The most feasible option was right at home, at the agency I already worked at. But, the dream? New York City. Publicity. Fashion. Broadway. I got it all. I didn’t get it because I was lucky. I got it because as this became my reality, there was no way I was going to let it slip away. I sent tons of resumes and cover letters out, interviewed for days, and then selected the most incredible internship experience I could have for myself.

Now, as you jot down New Year Resolutions, my hope is that you stray from shedding pounds and head toward establishing more fulfilling days of your lives. Don’t let sunsets remind you of all the things you didn’t do during the day. Don’t let a cold breeze remind you of all the warmth you let go in your life.

Start living today, because we don’t know how much time we really have on this earth.

"We Can't Stop, And We Won't Stop"

By now you’re probably wondering how Miley Cyrus’s new song has any relevance to my personal and professional growth. But, I’m going to (one-time-only) argue in her favor when she says:

And we can’t stop
And we won’t stop
We run things, things don’t run we
We don’t take nothing from nobody

If we look at her new song through rose-colored glasses, the message is one I’ve tried to convey in the past: You control your own destiny. The decisions you make alter the course of your life. Don’t let anyone make you doubt that power.

And with that thought, I’ll answer the pressing question: 

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How did you get an internship in New York City?

I grew up in the suburbs of Miami in a middle-class Hispanic family. I graduated from one of the top high schools in the area, but never was there indication that my career would take off at age 20. Except for the fact that I had been planning it since I was 16. I took “planning ahead” no another level in this case but I was not willing to take “no” for answer.

Step 1: Write (yes, literally on a piece of paper using this thing called a pen) down your goals for the month, year, next 5 years, next 10 years.

Toward the end of high school I was sure I waned to be in Public Relations — I was lucky. It takes someone, usually, up until their junior year in college to figure out what the “want to be when they grow up.” I do not recommend this. Selecting your major isn’t as important as it seems so that can wait but by the time you hit year two in college, you should have an idea of what you want your life to look like. You need to have an idea of what makes you passionate enough to work. In high school, I didn’t know what public relations was. But I knew I loved being a part of multiple activities so I could “look well-rounded.” I loved Student Government because I could be a part of a team that “makes the school look good.” I loved to represent. I loved to write. I loved journalism (3 years as editor-in-chief). Everything fell into place later.

Start asking yourself these questions. Start seeking your purpose. Soon.

Step 2: Research like a good PR PRO (or science major…)

I spent my first year of college researching agencies that seemed like they were “on top.” Eventually, it lead to creating a spreadsheet of fashion, corporate and entertainment PR agencies that seemed like a good fit for my resume. As the year went on, I filled it with names, phone numbers and e-mails I collected at networking events or through extensive google digging. I made phone calls when I needed and asked about their internship programs and who the prime contact would be (no, don’t send e-mails to info@interagencynamehere.com). Even more so, I began to research the leaders and PR practitioners I wanted to learn from and what agencies they belonged to.

By the time Winter 2012/2013 came along, I had an Excel spreadsheet full of every little thing I needed to know about the agencies I was applying for — from deadlines to compensation to their company culture. It might be specific to my field, but I knew that researching an “audience” was something I needed to do. This was essential as I would soon be “pitching” why they should hire me. And for other fields, hey, employers are mostly impressed by those that took the time to learn about the company and found ways to put their foot in the door.

Step 3: Become a “pusher,” Cady.

So you’ve got the contacts, you’ve got the interview… but are people listening? The most crucial part of getting the internship is standing out. News flash: your resume probably looks just like the other 50 aspiring interns. Whether it’s through a creative cover letter, a “care” package to an employer (be wary of the line between creativity and bribery), or an out-of-the-box way of introducing yourself, you need to do something to show your employer that you and your three years of experience are better than the girl next door’s three years of experience. The following are tips relevant to the PR business:

  • Write a creative news release about yourself being on the job hunt
  • Create a video campaign on yourself and why you should be hired — simultaneously displaying your iMovie skills
  • Start a revolving social media hashtag on why you should be hired. Example: #hireLC2013
  • Send them a lightbulb in the mail with an attached note that reads: “I’ve got some bright ideas!”

Step 4: Make backups for your back up. And when you’re done, make a back up.

So, you got the magical e-mail that reads “We’d love to add you to our team.” Now what? Learn how to budget, find housing options, arrange school credit, make a list of things to do in a new city, find a means of transporting all your stuff and make arrangements for the days you’ll be away. Wait, what did I say the hard part was? Luckily, this isn’t as difficult as it sounds. If you make a solid plan — consulting a friend or someone who’s done it already is crucial — then you’ve got nothing to worry about while you’re away. Creating a solid back up plan means when the inevitable happens, you’ll be ready for it. This step is crucial because the less time you spent planning and worrying while you’re actually interning, the more time you have for learning. Note that there are options for everything: look for grants or a part time job is you know money is an issue, call friends and ask about housing contacts, talk to your advisor about credit specifications, etc.

Step 5: Love and enjoy the journey.

I’m not going to lie and say it was easy, but appreciating each hiccup was key.  Recognize that this is a learning experience and soak up every moment like a sponge. You have to make it so looking back on your experience brings light into your eyes. With all the work you put into getting your dream internship, you’re deserving of golden memories.

 I challenge you to go out there and run things, don’t let them run you.  Don’t stop.

I Hope You Never Lose Your Sense of Wonder

Often times we become easily complacent, or almost bored, with our current situation and lifestyle. I know what you’re thinking: You live in New York City and have a fabulous life as a PR superstar, shut up. And I’m here to tell you that after seven weeks in the city, New York started to lose its sparkle.

Alright, that’s an exaggeration. Simply, I’ve become immune to the Times Square glisten and breathtaking skyline portrait of the city because it became a part of my daily routine.

Wake up in the Lower East Side, walk through Times Square to the office, eat lunch by the window with a view, watch the sunset as it sets during my Central Park run, catch a celebrity at the same venue I’m in, wake up and do it again. 

This seemingly black and white lifestyle affected the way I worked because I became less motivated to be that “incredible version of myself.” So, I began to reflect. What if, the glamour of this city is all in our perception of it? What if, this career magic I kept experiencing was all streaming from my actions to move forward? Why am I blaming the city for losing its sparkle when, in reality, I’ve lost my sparkle? I realized that I dug myself into a little nook within my mind and caused myself to slow down the progress I was steadily making. My next move: reignite the flame between myself, New York City and the public relations world.

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Step One: Myself

Remember the saying: “You have to learn to love yourself before you can love anyone else.” It’s important to disconnect for a bit and venture out to a place that allows for self reflection. I started by running the usual Central Park Reservoir and decided to venture off into the greens of Central Park to find quiet thinking spots. Among my favorite, I really enjoyed stumbling on Turtle Pond. It’s a man-made body of water known for its high volume of turtles and other small wildlife. The great thing about this is that, aside from being beautiful, it is a “quiet zone.” This allows for the perfect scenario for self-reflection. I realigned myself with my career goals, personal goals and brainstormed on ways to grow.  An occasional breath of fresh air, and fresh perspective, are essential.

Step Two: New York City

Well, since I’ve decided that I will spend at least the next decade of my life in this city, I decided to reconnect with it. As you might’ve thought, this wasn’t too hard. New York City is filled with thousands, maybe millions, of things to do, places to go, plates to eat and people to meet. After dubbing myself a “rookie New Yorker,” I’ve gotten pretty fantastic at giving friends recommended things to add on their itinerary. So, I decided I could reconnect by visiting some of these places myself. Even better, I’ve scheduled to visit far parts of other boroughs and attend events (stoked for Cony Island’s Mermaid Parade) that ignite my passion for discovery and learning. 

Step Three: Public Relations World

When I was a child, I wanted to grow up to become an astronaut. Now that I’m an adult, I know I want to become someone’s publicist. Hundreds of press releases, social media accounts and media events later, everything started to blend in the same sphere. Luckily, The Zimmerman Agency in Tallahassee, Fla., the place I sadly put on hold as I’m in New York City, asked me to do an interesting project for them. They asked me to execute a morning segment on FOX & Friends for the Aruba account. WOW! seems to be everyone, including myself’s, reaction. As Z’s president, Carrie Zimmerman, mentioned, this was my first national morning show segment and I couldn’t have been prouder of the work I accomplished. This definitely reignited my need to become a key player in this field. 

Now, I wake up in the morning smiling like the first time I landed in the city. I know my potential, I seek out opportunities for growth, I let my sense of curiosity and wonder take me to new places and New York City glistens again.

It doesn’t matter what state you’re in, what matters is your state of mind. Everyone needs a little sparkle, don’t let yourself lose yours.