5 Career Lessons it Took me 3 Years to Learn

by Marian Schembari on December 26, 2012

My inbox floods in waves. Every May and every December I get a few dozen emails from recent graduates who are frantically trying to figure out what the hell to do with their lives. For some reason they think I have an answer on how to get a job. I don’t.

But over the past few years I have learned a thing or to about work and my career and what I want out of work and my career. And there’s a list a mile long of the things I wish I had known after graduating college, things that only come from experience and making stupid mistakes.

Lesson 1: Get over your fear of falling.

It’s been 3 years now since I graduated Davidson College and if I knew right off the bat that I didn’t have to get a ‘safe’ job and the only way to be happy is to do what your gut tells you that you really love than I would have done things differently. I wouldn’t have settled for a boring office job, but I’m glad I quit when I did and traveled when I did.

Lesson 2: Get published.

If I had known how valuable this blog would be three years down the line, I would have started in college. Even if your job doesn’t involve writing, WRITE. Not a great writer? Learn. Seriously, the ability to have people from all industries in all countries to be able to see your work/thoughts/skills is worth the few hours you’d spend a week writing. And it doesn’t have to be a blog. This can be your school newspaper, someone else’s blog, your local paper, a community leaflet, whatever. It doesn’t matter. Point is, people will want to see that you’ve gone the extra mile and have ideas worth listening to. Plus, I can’t remember the last time someone asked me what my degree was.

Lesson 3: Start small.

When I was looking at jobs for the big publishers, they wanted other publishing experience, even though I was only 21. So take publishing for example: find boutique, weird, quirky or niche publishing houses (or websites!) and start there. That’s not to say you can’t go big, but in terms of being “realistic”, small is good. Plus, I LOVE working for small companies. You get heaps more experience and – surprisingly – the pay is often better for newbies.


Emailing strangers is a good place to start, but won’t be enough. Join MeetUp groups, email every industry leader in your area, join a professional organization, shell out for conferences, read top blogs and contact the contributors. Then connect with them on LinkedIn. You do have LinkedIn, right? These are the people who are going to help you get jobs and vouch for you. If any of them are near your school, invite them for a coffee. Meeting in person is ALWAYS better than email. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS.

Lesson 5: Hire a resume writer.

I used social media to get a job and I’ve been using it since. But don’t underestimate the power of a good resume. I hired Jenny Foss of and had the guys at Loft design it. They both blew my mind. My resume is the best thing since sliced bread and every job I’ve applied for has at least asked me in for an interview since then. My newest job in San Francisco called me for an interview within 12 hours of sending my resume. I was offered the gig less than 2 weeks later.

While I want to say that I would have saved myself a lot of grief by following these lessons three years ago instead of now, sometimes you just gotta make mistakes to really drive a lesson home. What was the dumbest career mistake you ever made?



The Blogger’s Guilt No One Talks About

by Marian Schembari on September 25, 2012

I recently wrote a post for Brazen Careerist about how neglecting my blog helped me accomplish some big life goals. The content of this post is so important – so near and dear to my heart – that I need to re-mention it.

Go here to read the full post. In it, I discuss what prompted a two month hiatus on this site, despite having worked so hard to get it to a certain point, as well as the life goals I’ve accomplished because I haven’t had to worry about posting every day.

What I don’t talk about is the guilt.

I’m at work by 8am every day and stay until 5 or 6. I rush home, then hop into class, where I stay until 8 or 9pm. I rush home again, then frantically shower and make dinner. Which is a bloody mission because I’ve had a slew of health problems recently, meaning my diet is severely limited and every meal is this major stress. Then it’s 10pm and if I want any sort of sanity I need five fucking seconds to myself before collapsing into – thankfully – a dreamless sleep.

But every day I want to blog. There is so much in my brain you have no idea. I love the online community and I love everything writing has opened up for me. So I wanted to keep it going. But with finally getting my yoga teaching certification (squeal!), work, couchsurfing and my health, there was never enough time for it.

So I let it go. But I never did it officially. I never gave myself permission to let it go, even for a while. Every day I wanted to be the kind of person who could fit in a post during her lunch break or whip something up first thing in the morning before work.

But I see so many other bloggers who just had babies sharing updates the day after they gave birth. And apparently if you sleep at night you’re doing it wrong because apparently to be successful you can’t ever rest because if you’re not working you have to be working on a side project.

Maybe I’ve been in New Zealand too long, but the thought of working when I get home from work AND teaching makes me want to kill myself. I want a life. I love blogging, but I love going out into the world more. I love taking epic walks on the beach in the Coromandel or flying to Australia for the weekend to visit my childhood best friend.

When I DO get time to myself I love going home and curling up in bed with a fantastic book more than I love reviewing that book. (And on that note, I really do owe you a dozen book reviews.)

My point isn’t that I want to abandon this site. I couldn’t. What I do want is an understanding of how people do it! Is it even possible?


How One Writer’s Social Hestitations Led to Something Great

by Marian Schembari on September 6, 2012

I’ve known Khaled Allen for a long time. Our moms are besties for life and since moving to NZ, Khaled and I have stayed in touch, keeping it real in the blogging world. When he told me about his book launch and social hesitations, I told him to write about them here. When I read this, I couldn’t have been prouder.

Twitter scares me.

There I said it. Facebook seems intrusive. I don’t understand what Google+ is for. The idea of a comment thread or a user-review seemed pointless. So how on earth would I even be heard on the online mob shouting match that is Twitter?

Social media, to put it succinctly, was not my cup of tea.

Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, except I am a writer and the hardest part of writing is getting read. I was content to write in obscurity for a while, but I just finished my first big writing project and after several months of hard work, I didn’t want to put it into the world with no reception. I owed it to the book, so for the sake of my baby, I braved the tumultuous, roaring seas of social media.

A Fish Out of Water

I’ve had a Twitter account since 2009, which I treated like an unwatered plant. I kept to myself. Reading my early tweets, I gag at how insincere and desperate I sounded. I phrased my words in ways I thought would get the most attention because I was afraid to speak with my own voice. In the sea of opinions, I worried I’d never be heard unless I went with the flow.

So I wrote it off as pointless. I never felt I could add anything valuable to conversations. While others seemed able to use it for promotion, I certainly had no clue. With no reason to expect my latest attempt to be any better than before, I turned to Marian, a family friend. Our mom’s were buddies, and I had heard a lot about her social media savvy. [Marian’s note: I swear to sweet baby Jesus I didn’t make him say this.]

Laying Things Out

I didn’t know what promotion meant in terms of social media, and Marian cleared that up for me right away: I needed to write guest posts. To do that, I needed establish that I was a contributing member of the community by following people interested in health and fitness – reading blogs, commenting, sharing, and overall trying to be helpful and friendly. I would have to face my fears of speaking up in public comments and tweets.

This seems like a lot to juggle, but Marian had a system which she explained in an article of hers. She explained how to keep things straight and how to make sure I was noticed.

I followed her advice to the letter, and immediately started to see results. Bloggers would thank me for my retweets and shares, leading some of their followers to start following me. Because I was sharing other content that was already tailored to be useful to my target audience, people started retweeting me, which led to more followers.

The Breakthrough

But I still felt phony. In order to fit in and avoid offending people, I found myself espousing ideas I didn’t entirely believe in. I was afraid my particular take on fitness was too niche to be of any interest. (Stupid in retrospect. The whole point of the internet is that is allows niche communities to connect).

I finally confessed to a friend that I didn’t feel I was being authentic and that these online communities just seemed to be parroting the same mainstream fitness nonsense I was so opposed to. He had also used social media to successfully promote his decidedly niche ice cream parlor, and his advice was to say what I felt, to be sincere, and not to modify my message to suit anyone. Revel in my weirdness.

That was when things started to take off.

I started sharing my ideas and blog posts without trying to spin them. Instead of finding myself isolated, I found like-minded people who actually started conversations with me. Through them, I found blogs that were better suited to my particular views. It was also easier (dare I say, fun) to comment on and share blogs I agreed with wholeheartedly. I applied Marian’s advice to my authentic niche and voice, creating Twitter and subscription lists to monitor my chosen community. Every morning, I’d find a new follower notification in my inbox. I was ecstatic to find that a lot of people actually enjoyed reading about my unique take on life, and my writing improved with the increased feedback. Things were going very well indeed.

When it Rains…

I e-mailed Marian a few weeks back to let her know about my success. I mentioned how things were going really well, but also how exhausting it all was. I still hadn’t landed any guest posts, which was frustrating since the book was soon to be released.

The very next day, I got an invitation to guest post on a huge fitness blog. I literally jumped up and down. and I’ve since landed four other guest posts, all set to go around the same time my book is published. As the book is released, I’m confident it’s going into the world with at least a few people watching.

Even better, I’m now part of an online community that will help me grow and develop my ideas, beyond the time-frame of my book.

Khaled writes about integrity and personal growth, as well as value-driven health and fitness at Warrior Spirit and has just launched his first book, Principles of Holistic Health Handbook. You can also follow his newly revitalized tweets @khaledcallen.


6 Obnoxious Questions You Should Never Ask a Blogger

by Marian Schembari on March 12, 2012

While every blogger worth his or her salt is grateful for their readers every damn day (it’s what makes the blogging world go round), there are a handful of questions you get asked so often that you get suddenly and dangerously stabby. Questions that give you the burning and all-encompassing desire to break the internet.

These are those questions.

Please. Don’t be that person.

I think your readers would be interested in…

No, I don’t think they would be interested in that infographic you made in Microsoft Paint about the top 10 online universities in Northern Iowa.

Have you ever written a post about…?

It’s called a search box. Learn how to use it.

Can you please write me a 12 page email about how exactly you started your blog, got readers and give me a step-by-step plan to get people reading my blog? I’m going to read it, not respond or say thank you and then make sure to never take your advice.

If I had a fucking nickle for the number of emails I get that include some version of this I could yacht my way to Fiji. If I had another nickle for every time I responded anyway, expecting some sort of different outcome, well, the movie Titanic might never have been made

You should change your blog header/tagline/URL/posting frequency/Twitter handle/name/social security number. I don’t like it because x, y and z reason that has everything to do with one personal experience I had that applies to every single one of your readers.

You should try running a blog that pleases everyone. And no, I’ve never heard that specific piece of advice before. Thanks for the hugely insightful brilliance that comes out of your digital mouth.

I have a blog too! It’s about my cat. We should link to each other!

No. No we shouldn’t.

Hey, you blog! I read this article on Mashable I figured you’d never read before and thought you’d like it. I don’t know if you know this, but RSS feeds are the next big thing.

Honest question: Do you think people who send really, really, really obvious links through on a regular basis are trying to help or show off that they know what Mashable is?



What Actually Happens When a Celebrity Retweets You

by Marian Schembari on February 23, 2012

Okay. Whew! That was interesting.

Let’s just jump right into it, shall we?

First, this happened: I wrote a post about Stephen Fry and the broadband issues in New Zealand.

Then, this happened: Stephen Fry saw the post, READ IT (God bless that beautiful man) and retweeted it out to his followers. (Then had the gentlemenly quality to thank me.)

Because of that, this happened:

Yes. You read that correctly. That would be over 70,000 clicks in 24 hours.

But because that happened, this happened:

Gotta love, Bluehost, huh?

I almost started hyperventilating. Every blogger dreams of getting their writing found – to have something go at least a little viral. Well, not only did things NOT go as planned (hellllo Database Error!) but I had no idea this would be the post that finally “made it”. I wrote it on a whim at midnight because I was so infuriated by New Zealand’s reaction to Fry’s tweets about our broadband. It wasn’t – how shall we say – the nicest, most non-stereotypically American post I’ve ever written.

Thankfully, reader response was surprisingly positive. I was impressed at the lack of trolls and angry Kiwis. It was pretty awesome seeing so many people agree with what I thought was a privileged-American-girl (or British celebrity) problem.

An since most of you regular readers are also bloggers, I thought I’d take you through a tour of this blog’s undercarriage so you can see exactly what goes down when something so stunning happens.

Exactly What Happens When an Actor with 4 Million Twitter Followers Shares Your Post

Number one: Clicks. Obviously. Lots of them. As of right now there are 295 retweets and counting. The majority of clicks obviously came from Fry’s 4 million followers, and this totaled to around 70,000 clicks on the first day.

Number two: Traffic. Unfortunately, my site crashed (or, as the internets like to call it, my site got “Fryed”). My host was in no way prepared for the influx of traffic and my site continues to have issues and keeps crashing on me. On the first day I received 13,238 visitors. The second day, 15,497. See below for a screenshot of my Analytics. The 300-700 views per day I was getting before? Insignificant compared to what Fry did in seconds.

Number three: Revenue. (Sort of.) I made a whopping $18.06 from Adsense during the past two days. For someone who averages out around $0.20 on a good day, $18 is pretty damn impressive. Now what shall I spend it on…?

Number four: Subscribers. Even with tens of thousands of new visitors, my subscribers only went up by 31. Because people tend to subscribe only when they’ve been to a blog a few times, I’m not hugely surprised, but it’s definitely an interesting non-development.

Number five: Twitter followers. I received 127 new followers in the past two days. It usually takes about 1-2 weeks for me to accumulate that much “organically”.

Number six: Klout. My score went up by eleven points after Fry shared the post.

What They Don’t Tell You

It’s been pretty cool to see all my traffic and stats go up. HOWEVER. The bounce rate on my site is now beyond high. time spent has decreased by over a minute so it’s now it’s at an average (average!) of 30 seconds. Clearly I’m not immediately impressing people with my charm and dashing good looks.

Basically, it was a nice bump in traffic that’s done wonders for my ego, but the lesson here is that just because you get mentioned by an “a-lister” (or Stephen-fucking-Fry in this case) doesn’t mean it will help your site long term.

There’s no real moral to this story other than: here’s a look into what really happens when someone awesome links to you. Pretty interesting, huh?

p.s. Mr Stephen Fry, you’re my new hero. A hat tip to you, kind sir.