Never Stop Dreaming. Never Lose Hope.

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When I was working in D.C., my boss had a framed newspaper article on a wall in her office. She pitched a story to The New York Times and it was printed on the front page, column one. Now that’s a slam dunk. As she told me that story, I remember thinking, “someday when I get my first piece of significant news coverage all on my own, I will frame it.”

It happened this week. An article that was published online last week came out in print on the front page of The Oregonian featuring the university I work for. A series of three emotions rolled in.

Shock. I heard the rumor and I called the reporter. She confirmed that it was indeed on the front page. I grabbed my keys and ran to the store and sure enough, right there above the fold was the story I pitched. In print. In the most widely-read newspaper in my state.

Elation! “Take my picture holding it!” I exclaimed to my friend and co-worker who I’d brought with me. As I began to smile, I suddenly couldn’t stop. I kept looking at it. It was beautiful. It was gratifying. I did it. All by myself.

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Gratitude. As I drove home from work this evening, I was overcome with gratitude. Just two years ago I was laying in bed in chronic pain on pain medication with no answers, no diagnosis and no hope. I remember my family and friends telling me that things would get better. That someday I’d go back to work and reach new heights. I thought they were just trying to cheer me up. I didn’t believe them. If you had told me then that in two years I’d earn media coverage on the front page of The Oregonian and that it would also be for a small Christian university in religiously cynical Portland, I wouldn’t have believed you. I’m so grateful for where I am today, for my job and for the privilege of representing such an amazing university.

I fulfilled my promise to myself on my way home from work. I stopped in at my local framing store with a copy of the article. I picked out a beautiful mat and frame and placed the order.

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I’ll pick it up next week and I’ll hang it next to my UO diploma on a wall in my office.

It will stand as a reminder: Never stop dreaming. Never lose hope.

October Reading List

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WeeklyReadingWorkbook: Artsy’s LARA BJÖRK Models 5 Perfect Office Outfits
How-to dress for work is an ongoing, ever relevant conversation among professionals, especially young professionals. Alia, blogger and correspondent for ELLE has a wonderful new series on the 9-to-5 style of professional women around the world. This outfit series is a particular favorite.

How-To Start A Professional Wardrobe in College
For my dear readers who are still in college, I realize that the prospect of building a professional wardrobe can be daunting. This article by LEVO League outlines some great first steps. The real secret is that it takes time. I’m still in the process of building my wardrobe and weeding out items from my college days. Every now and then I find something in my dresser from college and wonder why I still have it when I obviously haven’t needed it since then. Once you’re out of college, you’ll find that it’s important to buy pieces that can do double-duty, meaning buy a shirt that you can wear with a pencil skirt or a pair of jeans.

Pro Tips: Makeup For Your Next Big Event
These tips from Emily are fantastic. I used the concealer tip this morning in fact and let me tell you, it worked! I’ve always dreamed of having my makeup done by a professional, so I totally loved this insight from someone who’s had her makeup done professionally many times.

Legendary ‘Washington Post’ Editor Ben Bradlee Has Died
We lost a good one this week. A legend. A groundbreaking journalist and American. Ben Bradley made The Washington Post the institution that it is. This is largely because he was the managing editor during the Watergate Scandal which (of course) led to the resignation of President Nixon. He was a remarkable professional and a true trailblazer. I heard this story on NPR on my morning commute this week and learned so much! Just had to share it with you.

 

Bring Your A Game

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Every now and then, you need to bring your A game. Last week, the university I work for held an inauguration for its fifth president. So I surveyed my closet and picked out the best of the best.

I sat on the planning committee for this event and finally, after months of planning, the day came. This outfit was perfect for the event. It’s professional, feminine and polished. Most importantly, it helped me feel confident as I left the house, off to talk with key constituents of the university.

As hard as it may be to believe, I finally added a blazer to my closet this summer thanks to J.Crew’s big summer sale. This one is perfect and I can’t wait to incorporate it with other outfits. Now that I have one, even I can’t believe I lived and worked this long without one. A blazer is a must-have.

When dressing for a “very professional” event, keep your accessories simple and minimal. I went with stud earrings, pearl bracelets, a gold bangle and my gold watch. I pulled my hair back and wore nude pumps. Keep it simple. Not too busy or distracting.

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(Photos by Kelly Montgomery)

Blazer: J.Crew
Blouse: Elizabeth McKay (old, but similar one here)
Skirt: J.Crew
Pumps: Cole Haan
Earrings: Kate Spade
Bracelets: gifts from family (similar here)

Go Get ‘Em, Kid

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Photo from "Coffee in the mountains" tumblr

Photo from “Coffee in the mountains” tumblr

Yesterday evening I attended a PR workshop at my friends Allison and Pat’s agency, AM:PM PR. A local TV news reporter was brought in for a discussion on the ever-changing media industry as well as a conversation on how to effectively pitch reporters.

Truth be told, this is something I’ve always struggled with. I’ve been eager for opportunities to learn, to grow and to practice. In my current job, I’ve had loads of practice, but very little success. Being the perfectionist that I am, I’ve struggled with my inability to gain as much media coverage as I’ve wanted at times.

Enter today’s workshop. As the reporter talked about pitching, he brought up so many great ideas I’d never thought of. Tips and strategies, galore!

Suddenly, without really thinking I found myself raising my hand, asking a question and presenting my current struggle. Looking back, I can’t believe I was so honest, so vulnerable. But then, the most glorious thing happened. In a room full of PR pros (some of them my friends) we began unpacking my problems and identifying why I’d previously been unsuccessful. They were so kind and so gracious. It felt like I was wrapped in a box and each person began ripping open the box, allowing light to shine in until all the flaps were open, the packaging peanuts began spilling out and I suddenly realized all I had to do was climb out, one foot at a time.

Real deal–being a young professional is scary. Real scary. There’s a whole lot of “fake it till you make it” going on. When I get in the car at the end of every day and realize I didn’t didn’t screw everything up, I’m both shocked and relieved. I’m more of an insecure young professional than I realized.

Here’s the trick.

Don’t go at it alone.

Find a professional mentor. Join a professional society. Attend workshops. Network. All these things will build you a community that will care and support you along the way. You’ll be surprised by the amount of people who are further along the road than you are who are very willing to come alongside you and help you along the way.

After the workshop, the reporter graciously took time to answer my many follow-up questions and was tremendously encouraging with each piece of advice. As he left, he shook my hand and looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Go get ‘em, kid.”

Monday Motivation

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Dear readers, I had the most lovely weekend. I celebrated the second birthday of my sweet nephew, Rowan and attended the ballet with two dear friends. It was perfection.

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Thanks to my job in education, I have today off. Yippee! So I’m relaxing in jeans and a tee today, headed out to shop and then to lunch with my mom.

Whether you’re behind a desk today or not, I have a feeling you’ll like today’s Monday Motivation.

Go Pink!

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Tonight my Oregon Ducks take on Arizona and as they run out of the tunnel at Auzen Stadium led by Puddles on the Harley, you’ll quickly notice something different about them. It will be their pink uniforms. The Ducks have gained quite the reputation in recent years for their stylin’ uniforms thanks to Nike. Thanks Uncle Phil! Tonight they’ll wear pink in honor of October Breast Cancer Awareness month. Pink and the Ducks. Talk about combining my favorite things!

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As October kicks-off, so do many breast cancer awareness campaigns.  Estee Lauder’s is one of my favorites. The reality is that cancer doesn’t just affect the patient, but the family and friends of that person. This campaign captures that.

I know I for one have had several dear friends who’ve been affected by breast cancer. It’s a gnarly, merciless and horrid disease. This month I not only encourage you to support breast cancer research, but to also make time to hug those who you know who’ve survived breast cancer and tell them how much you love and appreciate them.

 

How-To Dress High & Low

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I am frequently asked, how I shop for professional clothes on a budget. The answer is simple. It takes work. Hard work, folks. It’s a matter of knowing the rules of the game and then learning to play it. It takes practice.

What are the rules? Well, it depends on the season. Fashion rules change constantly. There are some however, that remain true throughout the decades.

For example, when dressing for work, you should dress conservatively. I’m talking closed-toed shoes, no cleavage, no mini-skirts, etc. Hopefully you’re getting the picture.

There are basics that every girl should own. These include: a blazer, a black pencil skirt, black flats, a “grown-up woman’s handbag” and a variety of blouses that can be rotated. What you choose to mix in there is up to you. If animal print is hot one season, incorporate leopard flats in an otherwise conservative outfit.

Now, how to do this on a budget? It’s the “high & low” concept. A successful outfit has both high and low pieces.

Here’s what I mean-Invest in a couple things that will go the distance (leather shoes, leather handbag, pencil skirt, blazer.) For these items I recommend Nordstrom Rack, DSW, Rue La La and Marshalls. If you do go to bigger brand name stores, my favorites are Nordstrom, J.Crew Brooks Brothers and Banana Republic, shop the sales, really shop the sales. I’m taking about waiting until there’s 50 percent off sale items to buy that pencil skirt or those italian leather ballet flats. In between your investment pieces, weave trendy pieces. For these items, I shop at Target, Old Navy and H&M. These are great stores for costume jewelry, blouses, cardigans, tank tops, tees and dresses. A cardigan that’s made of 100 percent cotton is a cotton cardigan whether you buy it at Nordstrom or Old Navy. Look for what the garment is made of.

I do a happy dance when I fool people with my clothes. For example, in the outfit below a friend asked if it was from Nordstrom. Nope. Old Navy, folks. Win! I actually bought it because it really reminded me of Tory Burch.

Read fashion magazines (now that’s cheap to do!) and look for trends and look for what the designers are putting out on a particular season. Then, go try and find that at a fraction of the cost.

I’m beefing up the “Style” section on my blog and starting today you’ll begin to see a steady stream of professional outfits that live out this “high & low” concept.

Hope you enjoy and I hope it’s helpful as you build you own high & low outfits! As I begin this process, let me know how you dress for work and where you find pieces. I want to hear from YOU!

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(Photos by Kelly Montgomery)

Blouse: Old Navy
Skirt: J.Crew
Shoes: Tory Burch
Bag: Kate Spade
Necklace: Banana Republic (old, but similar here)
Watch: Kate Spade

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