by Borderstan.com May 21, 2013 at 10:00 am 0

From Lauren Levine. Email her at lauren[AT]borderstan.com.

"Books"

What will you read? Tenth of December by George Sounders. (Courtesy Ramdom House)

There’s a trend happening in young professional social circles across the country. 20-something professionals are coming together and forming clubs with the purpose of reading books. Yes – you read that correctly.

After leaving four plus years of higher learning, my fellow young professionals are deciding that this reading business which Kunta Kinte LeVar Burton talked about so much is actually fun. Plus if Oprah does it, it must be cool (that woman is timeless).

But a book club doesn’t just run itself. You must cultivate it. But how? Here are some guiding principles to keep up with the trend and start your own book club.

The More, the Merrier

Has Oprah ever disallowed someone to join her book club? Of course not! She’s way too classy for that kind of shenanigan. There are three values to take away from kindergarten: share with others, reading is cool, and don’t kill the class hamster (whoops) – and having an exclusive book club breaks two of those rules.

It’s a Book Club, Not a Book Tyranny

You may have started the club, but you certainly don’t get to pick all the books. Choosing books that everyone will enjoy, or at least appreciate, is fundamental to book club success. Take turns choosing or vote during get-togethers. And whatever you do, don’t start with The Casual Vacancy (I learned that one the hard way).

Keep it Boozy and Delicious

Whether its wine and cheese or mimosas and brunch, no one wants to talk about a book in their free time without some serious refreshments. Maybe you can rotate book club locations at people’s homes and make it potluck, or follow along with Bitches who Brunch with a standing brunch book club. Or find a nice outdoor patio for book club happy hour. Just keep the drinks and noshes coming.

Pick a Set Date

Gosh it sucks trying to find free time amongst a whole group of professionals. You can Doodle the heck out of your calendars, but you’ll never have any success unless you just pick a standing date (like the first Sunday of every month). You may have to go on without someone every once in a while, but at least it will work!

Have Fun With It

You may have been an English major, but this isn’t your dissertation. Don’t get upset if someone didn’t like your pick or if they didn’t see the same symbolism that you did in Gone Girl. If you take it too seriously, your book club may just go rogue and pull a Gone Girl on you.

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by Borderstan.com May 8, 2013 at 11:00 am 1 Comment

From Cara Scharf. Email her at cara[AT]borderstan.com.

"young professional"

DC young professional ranked 3rd as the happiest in the country . (Luis Gomez Photos)

No one will dispute that DC is full of young professionals, and many might say DC’s young professionals are overworked and over committed. A recent ranking from CareerBliss.com paints our city’s young professionals in a different light: as the third happiest in the country.

CareerBliss.com compiled the list with information from the past 12 months. They define young professionals as people who have been working full-time for less than 10 years, and factors surveyed include work-life balance, boss and co-worker relationships, compensation, growth opportunities, and company culture. Rounding out the top three cities are San Francisco in the second spot and San Jose in the first spot.

Before you start doubting the math, I’d like to share some reasons why I agree that DC is bringing good tidings of comfort and joy to us young professionals.

Myriad of Networking Opportunities

DC’s young professionals are driven, and while that’s sometimes an annoyance, it also means that you can take advantage of every encounter as a networking opportunity. I’ve found that DC is a hotbed of professional development and networking groups.

As a young arts professional, I’m engaged with Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of DC and Emerging Arts Leaders of DC, both of which host happy hours, workshops, and conferences.

Social Activities

Kickball. Bocce. Running. Trivia. Even a competitive karaoke league and a drunken spelling bee. DC’s young professionals play as hard as they work, so no matter what your interest, you can find a group that is combining your activity of choice with drinks and social interaction.

You’re in the “Center” of the Country

DC is an important city, which makes it an exciting place to be. In just one week, I volunteered inside the World Bank and attended a congressional briefing in the Capital Building. Where else in the country can you go to so many important places, places that people all over the world are reading about and may never be able to visit?

And as bothersome as a motorcade might be, how many other young professionals get to say that they were “this close” to the President?

Young professional readers: does your experience validate or go against the rankings?

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by Borderstan.com May 7, 2013 at 10:00 am 0

From Lauren Levine. Email her at lauren[AT]borderstan.com.

"Love"

Choose the site that works for you. (Luis Gomez Photos)

While the percentage of people who meet their spouse in college has been on the decline for a while now, it sure isn’t getting any easier to meet that special someone. Even Harry met Sally in college. And though it worked out for Ben Stone and Alison Scott, most 20-somethings no longer meet someone special at a bar — at least someone who is special for more than one night.

If you’re single and looking, it’s time to take a page from Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly: Go online.

I’m Not That Desperate Yet…

As I sit and listen to my friends complain about their love lives — the men who didn’t call back, the women who won’t give them the time of day, or that someone who just moved to 3,000 miles for law school — I always suggest they go ahead and make an online dating profile. Yet I am often met with surprising resistance. “It’s so awkward.” “I don’t have time for that.” “I’m not desperate enough to need an online boyfriend/girlfriend.”

People: you found your apartment on Craigslist. You do all your banking virtually. Your only form of communication with 90% of every friend you’ve ever had is on Facebook.

You are not better than online dating. It’s okay to admit that it is very hard to meet new people these days who have the potential to be your spouse.

Where Do I Start?

Find a site! There are so many to choose from.

  • OKCupid is free and great for 20-somethings unwilling to dish out cash to supplement a not-yet-totally-desperate love life.
  • Match.com is a little more serious, since you have to pay. As a result, the average age is slightly older. I recommend it for 30/40-somethings.
  • Niche websites — whether it’s JDate or ChristianMingle, or perhaps more importantly in this town, RedStateDate or BlueStateDate — might help you find someone without as much screening for that trait you need in your #1.
  • Start-up sites like DC’s own Hinge, “it’s all about the date itself” HowAboutWe, strength in numbers via Grouper, or let’s GPS this date using Tinder, can be really fun if nothing else.

It’s Not Working

Here’s a few things you could do to revamp, or as I like to say, optimize, your online dating profile:

  • Have a friend read your bio. You didn’t send your college admissions essay off without at least one second opinion. This is being judged far more harshly.
  • Headshot? Try full body. The sad truth is that people want to see the full package. You are who you are and they’re going to find out sooner or later.
  • Go on one new date a week. People tend to go overboard and line up three to five dates in a single week (especially those who like to make their date pay — but that’s a different story). People fall into the online dating fallacy of thinking that there’s infinite fish in the digital sea. There’s not. Give each date some respect. Similarly, if you’re only doing one date a month, you could probably be a little more aggressive.

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by Borderstan.com April 23, 2013 at 8:00 am 1,673 4 Comments

From Lauren Levine. Email her at lauren[AT]borderstan.com

"Foodie"

Are you truly a foodie? (Borderstan collage)

How often have you read an “about me” for a 20-something and seen “food” or “restaurants” or “being a foodie” listed? “I can’t wait to try that new Mike Isabella restaurant,” they say, “I’m a self-described foodie.”

It’s no secret that food has taken over our country. And as a young professional, you could be struggling with defining your identity, and wind up calling yourself a “foodie.”

As someone who derives great pleasure from food but is certainly no expert and not a foodie, I’m here to guide you through deciding whether you are, or more likely, are not, a foodie.

Do you like going out to eat?

If yes, you are exactly the same as every other person in America. When given the option to cook for ourselves or have someone else cook for us, of course we are all going to choose the latter.

If no, you are most definitely, absolutely not a foodie.

Do you prefer going to restaurants that may be considered “fine dining”?

If yes, that simply makes you well-off, not a foodie. If you are a young professional, and self-described foodie, and you talk a lot about trying fancy new restaurants (and not in the context of restaurant week), then you’re kind of a dick. The rest of us are happy if we can pay rent in DC and maybe get sushi once a week.

If no, you may still be a foodie. Don’t be discouraged.

Do you like to cook?

If you answered yes to the previous questions, but no to this question, you are most definitely not a foodie. You are just lazy.

If yes, you may still be a foodie. Continue on.

Do you make up your recipes?

If no, and you still like to cook, you’re just a normal person. You may own a Joy of Cooking or worse yet, anything by Rachel Ray. But you are certainly not foodie.

If yes, you very well might be a foodie. I’m impressed.

Do you have a food blog?

If you do not make up your own recipes but you have a food blog, you are just a food scrapbooker, not a foodie. You may make my Google searches for “easy healthy turkey burger recipe” slightly easier, but you’re no Jose Andres.

If yes, and you make up your own recipes, you are probably a foodie. Congratulations!

Have you ever thought about food theory?

Can you name different spice palettes? Is food chemistry second nature to you? Can you explain the difference between julienne and chiffonade or hollandaise vs. béarnaise? You’re a foodie.

If not, just give it up. You simply like food, just like the rest of us.

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by Borderstan.com April 9, 2013 at 9:00 am 0

From Lauren Levine. Email her at lauren[AT]borderstan.com

"Students"

Students at American University.                  (Luis Gomez Photos)

As a young professional, you’re inevitably friends with a person or two who is currently attending graduate school. In DC, we’re surrounded by many fine institutions of higher learning and the odds of being acquaintances, friends or even dating a graduate student increases greatly.

But I’m going to go ahead and put this out there — grad students can be tough to be around. Some are certainly better than others. So, without further ado, the five types of grad students from best to worst.

The Academic

They’ve resigned themselves to a life of elbow pads and tweed, and you have to respect them for it. They’re following that niche passion of theirs, be it classical architecture or Japanese poetry, and know that they probably won’t make a lot of money or get much notoriety.

They just love to soak up knowledge, and you have to love them for it. It’s inspiring.

The Part-Time Professional

You may have one of these guys or gals in your office — the student who is also working part- or full-time.

Because of the forced interaction with professionals who, you know, get up at the same time every day and sit at desks and stuff, they manage to maintain a good grasp of what’s happening in the world and when it is or is not an acceptable time to talk about how much debt they are going to have to pay off.

The Med School Student

Yes, some of them manage the stress better than others, and the ones who don’t do it well can be a doozy to be around. But for the most part I’m always impressed with a med school student’s ability to leave that hospital and party like they weren’t just wrist-deep in a cadaver.

Plus, how much better is it to ask your friend about your embarrassing symptom than asking WebMD ?

The Practical Degree

This is extremely common in DC in particular: the person getting a degree in something practical like international affairs, business, public policy or public health. I get it — you need that “MA” on your resume to get your dream job. But please stop talking about your debt, your thesis or how busy you are.

The best of these people are the ones who also work part time. The worst are the ones who have multiple masters. Are you trying to one-up Van Wilder? Are you aware that the goal of these degrees is usually this “job” thing? What are you really searching for?

The Law School Student

You knew it was coming — law school students are the absolute worst. I understand that the freakishly competitive and close-knit environment of law school makes you revert back to your high school behaviors, that after a hard exam it’s like you’re drinking alcohol for the very first time, that your study group is essentially your social universe right now and that you have probably entered into a massive amount of debt without any promise of an actual career after you’re done.

But, please, listen:  you chose this. You saw all those Times articles about how we do not need any more lawyers, but you persevered. “No,” you said, “I am really good at arguing — I always get my way.” Ugh, Elle Woods, that’s the worst argument in favor of going to law school I’ve ever heard. Best of luck in the next few years — I’ll meet you at your bar exam party.

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by Borderstan.com March 26, 2013 at 11:30 am 0

From Lauren Levine. Email her at lauren[AT]borderstan.com

"Date"

Get out and date. (Luis Gomez Photos).

Believe it or not, in just a few weeks thousands of tourists will descend upon our city to witness the return to life of our cherished cherry blossoms. And with it will come spring romance.

Yes, it’s freaking adorable to stroll around the tidal basin hand-in-hand with your special someone rather than just a Starbucks iced latte (though both is ideal). So if cold winter nights got you down but watching other people coupled up in the sun sharing a picnic in the Circle makes it worse, here’s a few ideas to find the Portia to your Ellen.

Get Out There!

It’s finally almost nice out – which means that all the good looking people who have been hiding in their gorgeous Logan Circle apartments reading the New Yorker and watching House of Cards are finally venturing outside. Wait in line at some of DC’s public tennis courts for four hours and you’ll be sure to bond with strangers –or in line for brunch at Open City, for that matter. Hit up a rooftop bar, or get a group together for a hike on the Billy Goat Trail and have everyone bring a new friend.

Stop Being So Intimidating

Yes, you. I’m talking to you. If you’re trying to pick someone up, or get noticed, you probably don’t want to surround yourself with nine friends who act like they’re the Justice League. Even if you manage to get a table at American Ice Company on a beautiful day, you’re not more special than everyone else. Try to give off a welcoming vibe — a foreign concept to many serious and ambitious DC young professionals.

Don’t Get Wasted

There are a lot of drinks to be consumed in our lovely and stressed out city. After a 70 hour week, I understand that you want to let loose at a Nats game, the Pride Parade or Jack Rose. But we all know that the sexiest person in the room is not the one with horrible beer breath, slurring their speech as they try to invite you to brunch at Mintwood Place. We’re now in the era of “tipsy,” and “sloppy” should be reserved for special occasions.

Be Brave

I’ve observed that your best love potentials are the people right there in front of you. If you’ve got a crush, or if we’re trying to be grown up about it, a hunch that someone might be right for you, you’ve got to go for it. Let’s be clear – this goes for males and females. If the concept of “date night” scares you away, then take advantage of some of DC’s awesome activities – like a museum, the cherry blossoms, the drum circle at Meridian Hill Park, Eastern or Union Market – to create a date that is unique, less stressful, and fun!

The Internet is Not Going Away

Let’s face it, people. If you’re not internet dating yet, and you want to find someone, you probably should. You trusted the internet to find your apartment and file your taxes, so take one month to try out an internet dating website. The worst thing that happens is you get a good story and you’re in the same place you are right now.

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by Borderstan.com March 12, 2013 at 11:00 am 3 Comments

From Lauren Levine. Email her at lauren[AT]borderstan.com

"Friendwork"

Kayaking with a friend. (Luis Gomez Photos)

It’s no secret that DC is a transient city. You’ve probably been here less than three years and probably plan to move within three years, resulting in a lot of social turbulence. Friends must be made and friends must be replaced.

When I first moved here, I was in need of friends. But making friends isn’t easy. I can’t just walk up to a girl with a “Free John Bates” tote bag at the farmer’s market and tell her that she would be my perfect new best friend and would she like to drink wine with me and talk about Jennifer Lawrence? Even though my freckles and dimples are very disarming, she’d probably think I was a creep.

That’s where “friendworking” comes in — meeting friends through mutual friends. Friendworking is networking’s friendlier and more attractive older brother, yet less serious than matchmaking.

Friendworking is More Important than Networking

Networking might get you a new job with more responsibility, a higher pay check and maybe even your own intern. But at the end of the day, will that new job sit with you while you catch up on Breaking Bad? Will your new job take you rock climbing for the first time?

In these early years of our ambitious climb out of entry-level positions, it’s easy to lose sight of what will bring you long-term happiness. Countless studies show that a wide circle of friends and close relationships are the key to happiness.

How to Friendwork

Unlike dating, friendworking in the 21st Century can actually happen outside of OkCupid. You can do it at work, at a happy hour, at a party or at your entertainment venue of choice. Potential friends are everywhere.

  • Stop asking everyone “what do you do?” the second you meet them. It’s no way to start off a friendship. Keep that question for networking events only.
  • The best way to friendwork is to be open to every new person you meet. They could end up as your best friend, your golf buddy, your foreign film watching companion or your free ride to the nearest Costco. They might be a perfect rebound for your recently dumped best friend, or they may be able to teach you how to make jam (which I know you’ve been dying to learn).
  • Be inviting. If you sense that someone in your life could use some new social connections, be a pal and invite them along. Oprah’s book club isn’t exclusive and yours shouldn’t be either.

There are so many things that a new friend could offer you (in a non-professional way), and you’ll never know until you give them a chance!

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by Borderstan.com February 26, 2013 at 10:00 am 9 Comments

"Money"

Working to eat? (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Lauren Levine. Email her at lauren[AT]borderstan.com

You’re a young professional, and you live in the District. Your “save the world” job makes you feel good, but it only puts Shake Shack on the table and you’re looking for some Birch & Barley. Our generation loves food (for proof, check Instagram). Yet food has us counting more than just calories. Here are a few suggestions for making the most delicious and cost effective decisions.

Lunch

I don’t even want to count how much I’ve spent in 2013 on Sweetgreen salads (damn you February seasonal salad for being so delicious). Buying lunch out five days a week will add up before you can even figure out how to pronounce Pret a Manger. The minimum $6 you spend for lunch will add up to nearly $1,500 over the course of a year.

Obviously, you can bring lunch. I aim for compromise by telling myself that I can only eat lunch out Monday and Friday, but must bring lunch Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. If not bringing, try finding your local cheap eats. Food trucks and mom-and-pop type shops usually have more affordable prices than your DC-wide lunch staples. Also, skip the drink and chips. Nantucket Nectars is delicious and expensive.

Brunch

I used to fear those “birthday dinner” invitations – you know when your friend makes everyone go to a fancy restaurant because suddenly drinking excessively for someone’s birthday isn’t enough? Well that still sucks, but I’m more scared by brunch. Do I want to go to brunch with you? Hell yeah. I love me a bloody mary and some crab cake Eggs Benedict. But it is expensive to go to brunch in DC these days!

I have a “one brunch per week” rule. For the other days, bagels are an excellent solution to any breakfast problem. You can buy a dozen and invite friends over, probably for cheaper than brunch, and you can ask your friends to bring the mimosas. For a romantic bagel brunch, walk to Bethesda Bagel and bring your bagel to Dupont Circle. Too trendy for bagels? Wander the farmers market with friends, grab some goodies and sit down then and there to share and enjoy.

Groceries

I don’t need to elaborate here – groceries in the district are prohibitively expensive, even compared to other cities.

Have you met my friend Joe? He’s a trader, and while his produce is terrible, his prices are right. Thankfully there’s another one opening up at 14th and U. It can be hard to be an extreme couponer when you don’t live in the middle of Nebraska with a shed devoted to stock piling groceries, but you gotta work the deals to save some cash. If there’s a 2-for-1 sale on couscous, eat couscous all week! Learn how to freeze extras.

Or, the next time you find yourself outside of the District, hit a grocery store there and I guarantee you’ll save money.

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by Borderstan.com February 12, 2013 at 12:00 pm 0

From Lauren Levine. Email her at lauren[AT]borderstan.com

"happy hour"

The Happy Hour quandary. (Luis Gomez Photos)

It’s 5:30 pm, and you’re about to hit send on your last email of the day. What are you going to do with your five hours before bedtime?

Every Monday through Friday, young professionals are presented with the same quandary over and over – should I go to happy hour today? So then why does it often feel like we have to physically drag ourselves to the treasured DC tradition that is happy hour?

Maximizing the Happy

Here are some tips for maximizing the “happy” in your hour(s):

  • Do what you want. If you’re fantasizing about that sushi delivery guy and West Wing on Netflix more than that friend you’re going to meet, simply don’t go! We have enough obligations as it — reschedule it for a time when you’ll be more psyched to dish on your non-existent love life or work frustrations. Plus, your friend will appreciate your honesty if you just say, “I’ve had a rough day and want to give you my full attention. Can we do this next week?”
  • Bring a late afternoon snack to work that day. Is it just me, or do you feel gross when you leave a happy hour? You drink three beers before the specials end at 7 pm, and then you wolf down some cheesy fries… and a quesadilla… and those 30-cent buffalo wings were too good to pass up. A pre-happy hour snack at your desk will leave you full enough to save the munchies for when you get home to real food.
  • Don’t let work dominate a work happy hour. So your coworker managed to rally the office to the bar, and now you all spend 3 hours talking about your least favorite client or how frustrated you are with the other side of the aisle. Gosh, you just worked for eight to 10 hours — the least you could do to actually take the edge off is talk about Game of Thrones or the Caps or something. Plus it’s nice to know your coworkers as real people.
  • Really talk to new people. You know when you’re looking forward to some big happy hour so you can meet new people, but then you find someone you know and stand in the corner and talk to them the whole time? It can be hard to muster the energy to start from scratch with someone after a long day, so pump yourself up for it with some iTunes jams on the walk over. It could save you from an awkward OKCupid date later on. Plus, there’s a sweet deal going on if you wanna buy someone a drink, you stud, you.

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