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Hello, World.

Well, hello there. I know it’s been a few (5?) months since there has been a new blog post on our site. The absence has been mostly by design, but I’m happy to be back!

So let’s get up to date and reacquainted.

Where I’ve Been

My time offline has been spent accomplishing and experiencing things I set as goals when I decided to go out on my own in July 2010. Here’s a quick recap of what I’ve been doing.

1. I’ve been making money on my own terms and making an impact with clients. This is the number one reason I went out on my own- because I believed that I could make a difference in the world and be self-sufficient doing it. I just finished my 2011 financials and revenue-wise, I brought more money in the door in 2011 than any previous year in my life and 2012 looks to be on par. Of course, the expenses of a start-up cuts my personal take significantly, but it’s still a milestone and I’m proud of it. I’ve been busy driving the economy, thorough the The Opportunities Project’s recruiting work, and supporting others in making good career decisions, and am pretty damn happy about it!

Create Your Own Opportunities available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble2. Oh yeah… I wrote and published a book. In December 2011, I published my first eBook, Create Your Own Opportunities, featuring my most critical insights on how to rock your career and the professional sphere. It’s a short, 25-page eBook available for the awesome price of $3.99 and you can pick it up for the Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble nook, or in PDF format via our store. It will benefit anyone who is thinking about changing his/her perspective on work and make some changes in 2012.

I was grateful to work with Edward Antrobus of SEAM Publishing on this book and I can’t recommend him enough if you are thinking of publishing an eBook of your own. Check him out.

3. I’ve (we’ve) grown. A year ago, The Opportunities Project was me, a consultant who worked a few hours a week to help me with my marketing, and an intern. Today, we are a seven person team (!), working on coaching and recruitment consulting projects across the country… and I’m looking for more people (check the Team page for updates very soon). I’ve made the leap from self-employed freelancer to small business owner… and now have my sights on becoming a true entrepreneur focused on high-growth and scalability and was accepted as a Startup America Rampup firm last month to help me do that. So far, my effort to develop a technology solution around this has been an adventure in standing still, but I’m working on it.

My niece and nephew in Savannah, GA4. I’ve been making some personal changes. A major reason I decided to venture into self-employment is to create space for the things I seemed unable to do when I was beholden to an employer- focus on relationships, family, and personal health. It’s been a long-term wish to explore and expand and after 15 years in NYC, I made that leap in January, renting a beautiful Victorian apartment in Savannah, GA. I’m spending about 60% of my time here so far, with the rest in NYC and with clients nationally (2012 has seen me in MI, OH, IN and PA). Why Savannah? There are lots of reasons, but number one is my niece and nephew live here and I can’t describe the joy they bring to my life. This morning, I woke up to one sitting on my head and the other dancing on my feet and I haven’t laughed that exuberantly in forever.

St Patricks Day in SavannahWhile it’s a work in progress, I’ve been working toward slowing down, watching what I eat, exercising, and integrating my mind with my body… and becoming more playful, with my time and others. Let’s see how it goes.

Where I’m Going

While my journey has been intentional, it’s time to move it forward and focus on some areas I’ve been neglecting.

1. Creating. While a definite goal was to support myself and deliver services at a specific scale, I also started my journey so I could develop and publish my own ideas and share with others in the social space. I’ve been consuming regularly, but not producing. While it took me some time to feel comfortable with blogging, it’s something that I found I enjoy and miss. So I’ve spent the last week clearing out my notes of all the things I’ve wanted to talk about since I took a break and getting it into an editorial calendar. While I’m not ready to commit to a regular publishing schedule quite yet, look to see new content here more regularly, as well as my next book.

Just a reminder if you are someone who cares about education, career trends, and/or the economy and can tolerate the occasional pop culture post (my review on The Hunger Games is coming…), you can also follow me on my Education Rebel at Work Tumblr where I have kept up with posting.

2. Transitioning my services.  After a year of coaching individual clients, I know who I do my best work with now. I can’t help everyone create opportunities in their lives and for me to deliver good services, I need to turn down clients who I know I can’t really serve and even walk away slightly from my original mission of focusing on jobseekers and specifically those just starting out in life. Over the next two months, you’ll see more on the relaunch of my coaching services targeted toward the audience it turns out I work with the best: high-achieving women who want to command their economic game. I’ll also do more group coaching, which I’ve found I’m really, really good at through a contract I had with a private organization.

This transition will also involve a website redesign. We transitioned website support in January, experienced some big-time fails from that. I’m fully aware that we have some functional issues with speed and navigation and we’re in the process of getting the site back on track.

Stay tuned.

The Graduation Project3. New programs and initiatives. We’re starting this month with The Graduation Project, a free, three-part video conference series hosted by me and Lauren Wannermeyer, our social media intern for the last year. We’ll be discussing things new grads should be thinking about as they join the real world- job search skills, workplace etiquette, and making good decisions. We’ll be also launching our second annual scholarship contest (applications will be due May 15), and launching our new group coaching program with our partner, Tanisha Christie soon. And with summer right around the corner, we’ll be doing a new and improved version of our free Avoid a Cruel Summer eCourse again.


I look forward to chatting more.. and drop a comment and let me know how you’ve been!

9/11 and Your Life

One of my favorite books these days is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins where rocking teenage heroine Katniss Everdeen is forced to fight to the death with 23 other kids in an annual event organized by a post-apocalyptic government. After the event, privileged citizens who saw the event on television talk about where they were and who they were with during the games and not about the death and destruction they saw. That scene reminds me of how some of us are reacting to the upcoming anniversary of September 11, 2001 as I see more articles and blog posts that ask “Where were you when you found out that the planes crashed the World Trade Center?” It’s an understandable way to deal with complex emotions about something so horrific that we could never have imagined it before it happened. But it also allows us to escape truly reflecting on a terrible tragedy where thousands of people lost their lives that day and even more were changed irrevocably.

I have definitely been one of those people who have been trying to avoid the upcoming anniversary but have realized this week that I can’t escape it and shouldn’t. On 9/11/01, I was stuck underground at the World Trade Center on the 3 train for almost 30 minutes and had no idea that the planes were crashing into the buildings above me. Later that day, I watched part of WTC 7 collapse from a spot in front of  St. Vincent’s Hospital with hundreds of people who were waiting for survivors that never came and made a decision while I was standing there that has haunted me for the past decade.

Freedom is not free

In August 2001, I had begun work on my plan to leave New York. I had moved to NYC after college because of an opportunity and a boy, but my dream since I was a little girl obsessed with politics was to live in Washington, DC. While I loved the friends I’d made and the work I’d been a part of in New York, it has always felt like owning a fantastic pair of shoes that never fit quite right, become irritable and even painful after walking in them for long periods of time, but you never throw away because they look so great on the shoe rack. After some networking and lots of job applications, I’d been invited to a high level interview for a federal agency in DC on September 13, 2001. Standing with all those people on that corner, I just felt that I could not leave NYC and cancelled my interview the next day. For various reasons, I never pursued employment in DC again even though the desire to live somewhere outside NYC constantly returns. While I try not to have regrets in my life, it’s sometimes hard not to think about all the missed opportunities of a decade based on that emotional decision.

This summer, I traveled to Newark, NJ a few times a week to work on our Teach Newark project through the PATH station next to the World Trade Center site and watched tourists take pictures there as if they were at a theme park, contributing to an increasing level of sadness and anger about that day. I’ve been thinking about all the people who woke up that morning thinking they had a lifetime in front of them and didn’t, and all the people who did make life-changing decisions inspired by the day, whether they are grateful or now regret their impulsive moves. As we approach the anniversary in a few days, I encourage you to make it a day of personal reflection and think about your own life and whether you’re honoring time the way it deserves- personally and professionally- and what you can do to change that in the next year and decade if you’re not. Truly never forget.

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Five Minutes of Memories: Reverb10

There are 4-5 more posts I’d like to do for Reverb10, but I am finally admitting to myself that I won’t finish them in 2010. As the last one that WILL be finished before the new year, I thought the following prompt would be most fitting.


December 15 – 5 Minutes. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010. (Author: Patti Digh)

Oh my. Setting my alarm for five minutes (excluding some quick editing), here is what I came up with for the last 12 months.

January through March

January 2010: Going to a talk on taking risks in your professional life and signing up with my first coach to help me become an entrepreneur.

February 2010: Battling snow to attend classes on how to start and own a business. Telling the first person in my life that I was going to leave my job at the New York City Department of Education to open The Opportunities Project. Buying my domain.

March 2010: Telling my mentor that I was thinking of starting my business and getting his approval. Putting down $1,500 for my first conference as a career coach. Facilitating the worst professional development session of my career. Going on a retreat with a women’s empowerment group and making two amazing friends. Getting my coach certification.

April through June

April 2010: Going to Boston on my last teacher recruitment trip. Wondering about teacher layoffs and how they would impact all the work we’ve done in New York City to improve teacher quality. What would my legacy be? Buying my first Mac.

May 2010: Attending the AERA conference in Denver, my first time in that city. Seeing one of my dearest friends I hadn’t seen in 3 years there. Traveling for my first weekend at my Fire Island house for the summer. Putting up my website and publishing my first blog post.

June 2010: Attending the NACE conference in Orlando, FL and feeling good about it. Appreciating that I had friends from high school that lived all over the country. Turning 35 at a party that was better than Carrie Bradshaw’s. Getting my headshots in Brooklyn Bridge Park. More Fire Island. Coming back to the Teach for America community, thanks to Peter Rider.

July through September

July 2010: Making my debut as a career coach at the Working NYC Event. Getting my LLC and bank account. Experiencing the return of an amazing friend to New York City.

August 2010: Leaving the DOE as Director of Teacher Recruitment- officially and finally. Networking with Brazen Careerist. Spending days on my website and learning how much I didn’t know.

September 2010: Participating in the Fast Trac Entrepreneurship program. Landing my first paying client. Hosting three networking events and conducting two workshops. Getting my company in the press for the first time. Lots of Fire Island.

October through December

October 2010: Handling one of the most stressful months of my life. Dealing with identity theft, non-paying clients, and a very ill pet. Spending three days on a deserted island writing. Visiting my best childhood friend in Savannah.

November 2010: Taking care of my apartment and nursing my cat back to health. Spending lots of time on my computer. Launching a great business partnership with eBranding Me.

December 2010: Deciding to get serious about my business. Setting up meetings with strategic partners. Cutting back on non-coaching work to make them happen. Meditating on my personal goals for myself, including love and health. Doing my first career management workshop for 250 young professionals. Attending multiple fantastic social events with friends.

(Luckily, in August, I started using to journal daily about my life. Sometimes, I briefly write a sentence about my day, but it’s more than I’ve had in years. And it keeps me honest to what I am doing because it sends me back old entries. I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking at my list and determining if they could recite a year in the life in 5 minutes.)

Have a wonderful New Years weekend and I look forward to helping you meet your goals in 2011!

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Letters Between My Future, Present and Past #Reverb10

Here is a great and hard #Reverb10 prompt from Jenny Blake of Life After College.  Unrelated, this was a #genychat topic this week and I liked reading everyone else’s reflections.

December 21 – Future Self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?) (Author: Jenny Blake)

So let’s start talking to my 25 year-old self first. It’s sad that I don’t remember how I spent my New Year’s Eve that far back…

The Present Is Calling…

Hey Past Tracy!

The new year is already upon us so I am going to be concise as possible to you in bullets. I really wish I could go back and give you a hug… and then smack you silly. Here are my notes for you.
– You have a great instinct about people. Trust it and act on it when those moments come.

– Time is not infinite. You will be sad about time you wasted.

– There are many ways to achieve your sense of mission. All of the friends you’re close to now in the year 2000 will take different paths from yours to do that. Pay better attention to their examples.

– You think dignity is overrated. You’re generally right. That being said, be pickier about who you get involved with from the beginning.

– Some girlfriends will last and some will not. Who lasts and who doesn’t will likely surprise you.

– You never know who is going to step into your life. It will always be when you least expect it so don’t shut yourself down when you feel disappointed.

– Don’t cancel your job interview in Washington, DC on September 13, 2001. I am tired of telling people that I regret that.

– You’re so much stronger than you think. I really wish you would know that between the ages 27-30. When your biggest fears come to be real a few years later, you’ll stare them down and never be the same. Better, I think, but definitely not the same.

– Be nicer to your parents. Take care of yourself. Save more money.

– Journal- my memory isn’t as good as it used to be.

Hugs and Smacks,

And Now From 2015…

My Dear Rocking Superstar Tracy,

Congratulations on making big changes in your life the past year. It took a lot of courage to do what you did. I know as you begin 2011, you realize this change was just the beginning and now the fun and hard work starts. The next year is going to exciting and hard. As you meet your goals for your company’s impact. I just have a few bullets of advice as you get going with 2011.

– Your current self told your past self that you have a great instinct. Now your future self (confused yet?) is going to remind you of that. When in doubt, ask yourself how you really feel.

– You were right- there is much more to life than being the New York City single girl. You’ve identified the obstacles and the ways you can overcome them. Just like leaving your old job to start The Opportunities Project, it’s not going to fall in your lap. Schedule those obstacles and get them out of the way.

– Stop reading so much and just do it.

– Start going back to Yankee Stadium. They miss you.

– The mother on How I Met Your Mother turns out to be…. Just kidding. :)

– I know you hate spending so much time at home on your computer right now, but focus and the written word is going to get you closer to your professional and financial goals. You’ll be glad you spent the time.

Life is great here. Be strong and join me,
Future Tracy

If you’re not totally confused, do you relate to my future and past lessons?

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Make: Use Your Artistic Side #Reverb10

With the holiday week upon us, I am spending the week using my blog to reflect and manifest as part of the #Reverb10 initiative. When possible, I’m trying to reflect my posts back to careers, but assessing your current state and setting goals for the future is really about more than just the mechanics of how you spend your day from 9 to 5. I am a firm believer that we have one life, not a “professional life” and a “personal life.” The more we try to separate them, the further we get away from figuring out what we want for an integrated, peaceful and productive existence that we actively design. Your most personal reflections will impact your career.

This post is about increasing professional creativity through using personal time and effort to “make” things.

#Reverb10 Prompt 

December 6 – Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? (Author: Gretchen Rubin)

Searching for My Right Brain

One of my 2010 resolutions was to participate in an artistic activity because I felt out of touch with that side of me. On creativity quizzes, I always score as “whole-brained”- an equal split between being right-brained (creativity) and left-brained (logic). Reflecting on my childhood, this assessment does not surprise me at all. I’ve never been good at drawing, painting, or music, but always loved writing. Growing up, I spent hours creating stories in notebooks and thought I would be the next S.E. Hinton. My sophomore year of high school, I submitted a story to the now defunct ‘TEEN magazine called “Hanging Out With Patrick” about a girl who realized that she was in love with her neighbor. They bought it and eventually published a heavily edited version in December 1992 under the title “More than Friends?” and with all the Portuguese surnames of the characters changed to Smith and Jones. That same year, I won an award from a club at Brown University for creative writing. I remember feeling this unexpected relief after both events, almost like closure. During spring 1993, a few months before I took off for college, I spent a day hidden in my bedroom and wrote a personal sequel to Hanging Out With Patrick/More Than Friends that did not end well for the characters. I picked up creative writing a few times over the years, usually having a great idea but never acting on it. It was as if I made a career change even before I started a career.

Around the same time, I took my SATs and scored very high on the math section, higher than the verbal. Teachers had told me my entire life that I was bad at math so I thought it was a fluke and took them again. Surprisingly it wasn’t a fluke. When I got to college, I enrolled in calculus over a foreign language and then became attracted to the linear and game-like word of policy studies and economics where I found success. Over the years, I stayed in that comfort zone, trying to incorporate creativity and big-picture thinking when I could. I loved writing the website copy at my old job, but I also wondered if I was really good at writing anyway.

Using My Left Brain to Make Things for Success

One of the fears I had about launching my new business was that while the big picture may come easy to me, I would struggle with daily creativity. Much of what I wanted to accomplish was through actively writing- blog posts, eCourses, and eBooks- not just coming up with ideas I wanted to write. I made a very left brained decision to actively place myself in a situation where I was forced to make or create something, hoping it would stimulate the creative parts of me and awaken that child in me that used to have such a great imagination.

In November, my good friend Niki and I took a class through Paint Along NYC. Paint Along NYC is a BYOB (always welcome) painting class where everyone paints a selected print with guidance from the instructor on how to use the colors and tools to make beauty on your canvas. At first, I was afraid it would feel like middle school art class to me and I would be a big failure at creating something presentable. But over some Pinot Noir, and excellent conversation, I created a painting with bright colors and flowers that was mine. I eventually hung my work in my new re-organized bedroom (see upcoming post on healing). The experience prompted me to add other creative projects to my 2011 calendar, including painting The Opportunities Project logo on a makeshift door to my home office. I’ve bought the stencil, canvas and paint and am now just waiting for the perfect January weekend.

I highly recommend Paint Along NYC to anyone looking to explore his or her creative side and I hope to go back and paint something new in spring 2011.  Through December 31, they are having a sale where if you buy three gift certificates for classes, you get one class free. It sounds like a perfect day for four friends with a bottle of wine to “make” something that is theirs and indulge their creativity.

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Believing in Yourself: Wisdom and Letting Go for #Reverb10

I spent most of #snowmageddon writing my posts for the Reverb10 campaign. I’ve done one post so far, but as a recap, Reverb10 is an online initiative to get people to reflect upon what happened in 2010 as part of their effort to manifest the best in 2011. I am all aboard the Reverb10 train personally, and as a career coach, I think everyone else should participate in it, too! As a coach, one of the best gifts I can give is to bring people toward greater self-awareness. Self-awareness can show you how others may perceive you in your career, but more importantly, show you what you really want in life and how to get it. Taking personal time to reflect and write about your experiences and goals is a great way to jumpstart the process.

Because I am late to the game, I am grouping many of the prompts into themes that make sense to me. I am also posting multiple times a day to publish as many as possible before the new year. Today’s first post is about my decision to start my company, and the realization that was a decision to also let something go. Since my company is relatively new, I still run into people in the city who have no idea that I am now a career coach. Usually they ask me “When did you decide you wanted to be a career coach?” or “Why did you leave your job at the New York City Department of Education?” Most people see them as the same question, but one is about adding and the other is about subtracting. Sometimes you need to do both to move forwards. My greatest lesson learned is that these decisions reflected conscious choices and I had abdicated my power to make choices for a very long time. This post also addresses one more reason behind Why I Do What I Do, another blog post series.

#Reverb10 Prompts
December 10 – Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out? (Author: Susannah Conway)

December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?(Author: Alice Bradley)

December 17 – Lesson Learned. What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward? (Author: Tara Weaver)

The Wisdom in Knowing You Want More

My wisest decision in 2010 was a two-part one: (1) to recognize that I had a dream and the talent to become a successful coach, and (2) to act on my belief and start my practice.

The first part took place in very late 2009 when multiple people in my life asked me for my advice on their job search. When I worked with friends and colleagues to review their resumes and help with interviews, I saw my strengths in a new light and recognized how much I enjoyed working with job-seekers. I am not a huge “the universe is speaking to you” person, but I don’t think it’s random that people were coming to me in a moment where I was wondering what I wanted to accomplish in the next year, especially a milestone year since I’d be turning 35. I also had a lifelong dream to be an entrepreneur that I had put on hold countless times. Going back for my PhD in 2006 was part of my plan to become an independent consultant, but I came to realize that I didn’t need my PhD to own a mission-driven business, especially with ten years of experience in recruitment.

In January 2010, I started talking to coaches and attending business classes and knew that I could do it. In March, I started telling people in my life about my plans and asking opinions from people I trusted. By the end of the month, I told my boss on a Friday evening, feeling liberated… but walking out in tears.

Leaving A Role Behind

In the excitement of launching my new vision, I didn’t quite realize that leaving my role as “The Director of Teacher Recruitment” for the New York City public schools would be a separate hard and painful process. I was leaving something that I had poured all of my emotional labor into for almost a decade and the title had become as much a part of my identity as the color of my eyes. Even though time has passed, there is still a part of me that is in mourning for the team that worked with me, and the good things that came from being a member of an established institution and tribe. But ultimately, the role was not serving me anymore. It was not giving me intellectual and personal freedom, room to grow, or space to honor my own feelings about what it takes to improve our nation’s education problems, K-16. By ignoring those feelings, I was giving away control over my life and I had to let it go to grow, even if it meant leaving behind some good things.

As I fight the day-to-day battles of getting things off the ground, I forget the amount of courage and power both of these decisions took. It was easy to stay where I was rewarded with an excellent paycheck and benefits. But I desired to be an entrepreneur and coach and no one was going to start my business for me. The lesson learned is that if we want something enough, we must recognize our power to do it with conscious and deliberate action, and an understanding that success requires risk and at least a moderate tolerance for failure. No matter what happens, that I pursued it is its own accomplishment.

Are you ready to make a conscious choice today to make a difficult decision and/or let something go?

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Why I Teach for America

Last week, I saw on Facebook and Twitter that the first members of the 2011 Teach for America corps had received their offers of admission. I think that’s amazing and congratulate all the new members of the corps!

Teach for AmericaThe Opportunities Project is a supporter of Teach for America (TFA) and its mission to ensure that everyone has the right to an excellent education. Over the last few years, Teach for America has been a force to be reckoned with in college recruiting. Last year, TFA was the largest employer of Yale graduates and 18% of all seniors applied for a slot in the corps. That means powerhouse investment banks and management-consulting firms are competing with a teaching program for the top talent. Why I think that is happening is a topic for another blog post.

If you read my bio, you know I started my career as a TFA corps member, teaching fourth grade and sixth grade in Washington Heights. I had always done well in school, but my high school experience had been very disengaging to me and I had little respect for teachers. When I started college, I was in the film production program at the Newhouse School at Syracuse and was planning my career in media domination. There were lots of little decisions and big experiences during my time at Syracuse that led me from media to the public policy program at Maxwell School and then Teach for America, but the most influential was likely my first semester in college.

Before getting to Syracuse, it never occurred to me that I would have trouble fitting in or that I would feel intimidated. But I struggled my first semester. I wondered if I really deserved to attend a private college with all of these other students- someone who had never been on airplane, someone who had never been to camp, and someone who had never heard the phrase Advanced Placement. But I realized that even though I hadn’t had all those experiences, I had advantages over other students, and they were my fourth grade teacher Mr. Brodeur and my fifth grade teacher Mrs. Desrosiers at the Wood School in Fairhaven, MA. They had taught me work ethic and the belief that I could have dreams and achieve them with focused effort and resilience. Even though my high school had let me down, the marks of the good teachers I had carried forever and I wanted to return the favor to other kids like me.

My experience with Teach for America over the last thirteen years has been up and down. Back when I did the corps, there was a tenth of the support they now offer corps members and I regularly got my ass kicked by my students. (I still talk to many of them now and I love how respectful they are in pretending this wasn’t the case). And in TFA’s efforts to set and meet ambitious goals for their alumni, they established tracks for career success (principalship, teaching, elected officials, etc.) and if you weren’t on one of those narrow tracks, my experience for many years was that I didn’t belong. However, I’ve seen in the last year that’s changing, too. Unresolved issues are my mixed emotions about their expansion in this time of municipal budget cuts and teacher layoffs, and my overwhelming desire to start a Facebook group called Shut. Up. John. Legend. But neither takes away from the benefits for students that wouldn’t happen without TFA, and the power of being part of a network of 20,000 alumni who are doing their part to make things better in this country.

Teach for America is not for everyone, even if you meet their rigorous selection model. But if you think you can make changes for young people through your relentless effort and courage, I encourage you to research the program, whether you are graduating this fall or are a professional. Their next application deadline is December 17th. Any questions for this alum, send them in.

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog