Apartment Searching 101

One of my best friends has been tossing around the idea of moving in to the city for several months now. For a fun, active and single 20 something like her, living in the suburbs, though cheap, meant a long commute for work and for fun. So, for the past couple of months, we’ve been casually checking out places in her desired neighborhood and just last weekend, she signed the papers on her new apartment!

Helping my friend find her dream place brought back a lot of memories, tips and tricks that I learned during my own apartment search nearly two years ago. If you’re in the hunt for a new place or just considering a new location, read on!

1. Narrow in on a neighborhood. Moving to a new city can make finding your desired neighborhood particularly challenging. Before you start viewing apartments spend a weekend exploring neighborhoods you’re interested in, both during the day and at night. Take special notice to things like availability of parking spots, the kinds of people you see, local restaurants and shops and how you feel walking around.

2. Find your price range. If you’ve never lived in the city before, prepare to pay more and get less than in the burbs. Do some research online to see what kinds of places you can get in your favorite neighborhood for what cost per month. Once you can an idea of what rent could cost you, spend a couple of months putting away that amount in a savings account (minus the rent you’re already paying). This will help you narrow in on what you can actually pay per month and avoid getting in to a situation where you’re in over your head.

3. Make a wish list. Is neighborhood a top priority? Or does location not matter as long as you have a washer and dryer? Make a list of what is important to you and take note of the things you’d be willing to give up. For me, living in Northwest Portland was a non-negotiable. From there, it was hardwood floors, a historic building and enough space to be comfortable. You can’t know that you’ve found your perfect apartment unless you know what you’re looking for, so take the time to make a list, but be prepared to not get everything you want.

4. Don’t just rely on the internet. Around here, a majority of the available apartments  aren’t posted on Craigs List or sites like Rent.com. The only way to get in is to walk around and make calls where for rent signs are posted. Saturday afternoons are best for checking out available apartments. Landlords are prepared to show apartments on the weekends and if you’re diligent (and lucky) you can see several apartments in a single weekend.

5. Pay attention to details. When viewing an apartment, don’t forget to check out the little things. Turn on the shower to gauge water pressure, count the number of grounded outlets (trust me, you’ll regret it if you don’t) and ask about on-site laundry. Find out what isn’t covered in your rent (electricity, sewer, water, heat) and determine the terms of the lease. Also, don’t assume you can bring your furry friends with you without checking with your landlord.

6. Don’t discount location. The neighborhood you choose isn’t the only location you need to think about. Keep in mind what floor the apartment is on, what direction its facing and the number of apartments you share a wall with. Top floor apartments tend to be the quietest, since you’re removed from the street and don’t have anyone above you, but if your apartment is without an elevator, prepare to hit the stairs. First floor or garden levels are often a bit darker and are obviously closer to the street, so walkers by may get a view in to your place. Southern facing apartments get the most sun; Eastern facing get the morning sun and Western the evening. It’s easy to overlook, but if you’re a night-owl, you may kick yourself if your South-Eastern facing abode is filled with morning sun when you’re trying to sleep.

Good luck with your search!

March 30, 2010. Tags: , , , . Life-in General. Leave a comment.

Oh Shitl! 10 Things Not to Forget on Your Next Vacation.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve come to realize just how important it is to take a break from work – at least once and a while. Hopefully this means you’ll be traveling somewhere fabulous and tropical (instead of your parent’s house in rural Idaho – wait, is that just me?). Anyway, it seems like no matter how hard I try, I ALWAYS forget to throw in the essentials. So, in an effort to pack flawlessly the next time around, here are my top 10 things you shouldn’t forget on your next vacation.

1. Large bottle of lotion with aloe vera.

2. Sunscreen for face and body.

3. Waterproof mascara.

4. Extra-strength Tylenol.

5. A good conditioner.

6. Extra pair of contact lenses.

7. A comfy sweater and pair of sweats.

8. Nail file and clippers.

9. Workout gear (shorts, sports bra and shoes).

10. Moisturizing lip balm.

Happy travels!

March 28, 2010. Tags: , , , , . Life-in General. Leave a comment.

Dear Body: Prepare to Run

Last spring, after a couple of years of sporadic jogging stints, I decided to take the plunge and run my first 10k. Training was a challenge at first, but by race day, I had really come to enjoy running. As summer turned to fall, the weather became, let’s just say, less jogging friendly, and I didn’t have the guts, really, to continue.

Now, the cherry blossoms are in bloom, and again, I’m getting the itch to hit the road. Today was my first run, and damn did it hurt! Legs, lungs, abs. Everything that could hurt, did. So, in an attempt to preempt these ailments next time and hopefully get back in to fighting shape sooner, here are some tips for half marathon training.

1. Build mental stamina…I’m only laughing because, even with a goal of more than 13 miles, this tip will probably be most challenging for me. This is advice on a lot of peoples’ lists, but music is key for me to keep pushing – I will publish my play list later this week.

2. Get on a schedule. This is one of the most important aspects of my success last year. Having mini goals to reach and time scheduled on my calender was key to me reaching my goal. Here’s the schedule I’m following this year from the same site that I used for the 10k. TIP: for those of you who are often over-scheduled, remember, even if happy hour followed by running seems like a good idea, it’s not. Trust me.

3. Get some good gear. (guy readers, feel free to skip to #4) workout clothes can be a great motivator to get you up and running – literally. Although I’m not usually a fan, Old Navy actually has some amazing running pants that are reasonably priced ($12 on sale!) and super comfortable. You’re going to be needing several pairs and although LuluLemon has some really cute ones, I’m not in love with spending $86 a pop. Good shoes are clearly essential – try a place like Portland Running Company instead of heading down to Nordstrom. Running stores have trained professionals to determine the best shoes for your foot shape and gait. Also, make sure to have a supportive sports bra  to protect the ladies.

Welcome back boys!

4. Take a break. Finally! A legit excuse to watch reruns of ANTM, sorry guys, I mean COPS, after work. Rest is key to recovery and rejuvenation. Without a day off between runs, you could put your body in a tough spot. So just do it.

5. Drink water. Pretty simple. If you’re tempted to try another libation in place of good ole’ H2O, just remember what happened to Tiger after one too many Gatorades… too much endurance. Really, you’ll avoid needless calories and sugar, if you just stick to the clear stuff.

Alright, that’s all I’ve got for now. Keep an eye out for more posts about my adventures in half marathon training.

Got a tip about training I missed? Have a recommendation about great running trails or killer capris? Let me know!

Ps: sorry Tiger. I couldn’t resist.

March 22, 2010. Tags: , , , , , . Life-in General. Leave a comment.

Tips for Boosting Your Energy (when all you want to do is sleep)

tired2In case you didn’t know, I recently got a promotion at work. HORAY! More money, more street cred, more fun, right? Right! But more responsibility and more work means more stress and often less energy.

After chatting with my coworkers about my new-found fatigue, I’ve been convinced that I’m not being plagued by some physical ailment (me: are you sure I don’t have mono?), but instead my body is simply adjusting to the new changes in my environment.

Not one to take my lethargy laying down (though that does sound great right now), I’ve decided to find some tips for how to boost energy. Here they are:

1. Get sleep, duh! 7-9 hours is apparently great, but in times when stress levels are higher than normal, making sure you’re getting 9 full hours a night (maybe 11?) might be exactly what you need.

2. Take time for you. De-stressing from work is key to keeping your energy level high. So, take a walk, read a book, spend time with friends. Even just an hour a day can make a world of a difference for your energy level.

3. Limit caffeine and sugar intake. (Don’t worry, I’m laughing too). In my book, limiting sugar intake is always good. But regarding the caffeine thing, I would just stay away from it after a certain time of the day (around 3pm for me). Consuming caffeine too late in the day can impact sleep patterns and make you even more tired (see #1), so just be mindful.

4. Get some exercise. To be honest, this is great in theory, but the reason we’re all tired is that we work ALOT. Who has time for the gym? Don’t beat yourself up for not having the time or energy to hit the treadmill. Instead, look for ways throughout your day to squeeze in some cardio. Park a little farther away, take the stairs or walk instead of sending that email. The little efforts add up!

5. Acknowledge and wait it out. Being a bit more tired than usual is just what happens during big transitions in life. So, my advice is don’t get frustrated, just accept it. After a couple of months you should be back to normal, and hopefully your friends will forgive you for staying in to sleep all those times instead of going out. Either way, just be patient. It can’t be like this forever.

Still tired? Here are some more tips for boosting energy:

10 Effective Ways to Increase Your Energy Levels, Dumb Little Man

How to Increase Energy Naturally, eHow

August 6, 2009. Tags: , , , , , . Life-in General. Leave a comment.

The Upside of the Downturn

I’m just going to assume you know what’s going on in our country right now. Although it’s an exciting time, on the cusp of the presidential election, it’s also a really hard time for the average American in every aspect. Times are tough, but here are five great reasons why the economic downturn sucks for everyone but us.

1. It’s a smart time to invest in your 401K. With stock prices this low, now is the perfect time to buy because you get more bang for your buck. Check with your company to find out more about the investment options and just get investing.

2. There are tons of choices for your first house. With the housing market taking a dive, it’s a true buyers market. If you’re not in the position to purchase right now, start saving a little each month and keep up your good credit, so in four years (when the economy still sucks) you’ll be in the perfect place to sign on the line for your first home.

3. It’s a great opportunity to find out just how little money you can live on. Remember in college when ate Top Ramen for two weeks after you got tanked and blew your paycheck buying a round of Jagger Bombs for the entire bar ? This recession is kind of like that. Determine what you really need in life, spend your hard earned money on that stuff, and save the rest. It sucks, but hello! we’re in a recession people.

4. Now is the time to learn what differentiates the employee who keeps her job from the one who loses it. Find out how to make yourself an indispensable part of your organization. If you’re a slacker, a winer, a drunk, a hypochondriac, a perv, or just plain annoying to your coworkers, pack up your cube, because you’ll be in the first to go.

5. Times like these are an amazing reason to celebrate! Unlike the majority of Americans, you actually have a job, didn’t lose thousands in the stock market and the only other living thing you’re responsible for is your make-believe cat because your landlord wont let you have a real one. Live it up, and thank your lucky stars that you’re not in your parents’ situation right now.

image from mycrmblog.com

November 2, 2008. Tags: , , , , , . Life-in General. Leave a comment.

Don’t Have a Cow: Managing Your Stress at Work.

Having a career is great, especially in these very troubled times (remember to vote!). But as we make our way up the corporate ladder, our responsibilities hit the top rung with our stress levels not far behind. For those of us new to the 8 to 5 (what I’ve discovered is often the 7:30 to 6:30) managing our stress can be a challenge. However, there are some easy tricks that may help us chill out and minimize stress at work. Here we go:

Take five minutes. No one understands the instant response mentality perpetuated by the email driven workplace more than me. But unless your job consists of preventing world annihilation by pressing a big red button before a nuclear missile hits, you CAN take a couple of minutes to relax.

Let things go. You’re not the only one stressed at work, so if a curt comment or careless act flies your way, don’t let it bother you. Distract yourself and think about something else. If you try hard enough to forget what was said, you will.

Take a lunch. As we all know, some days taking a lunch is a true luxury. But on the average day, when stepping out for an hour is a viable option, do it. Even 30 minutes away from the office, your inbox and the annoying coworker in the cube next door, can give you some much needed perspective and cut down your stress level.

Talk about it. If you’re stressed about something, finding a coworker or friend to confide in can help you recognize what exactly is bothering you, get it off your mind and get over it faster. Just remember, when the tables are turned, you should always return the favor.

Breathe. When we’re stressed, we often fail to breathe properly, which can cause us to feel physically constricted (on top of the emotional) and lead to headaches, which make it even harder to think. Remember to take full and deep breaths throughout your day to prevent your already high stress level from getting worse.

Still stressed out? Well, there’s always happy hour.

image from prweb.com

September 23, 2008. Tags: , , , , . Career Advice, Life-in General. Leave a comment.

Keeping You Apartment Clean: The Last Frontier of Adulthood.

In case you didn’t already know, the vast majority of topics that I choose to cover on PRprep are ripped straight from the headlines of my everyday life. How to turn down a job offer, succeeding in a new career, and financial planning are all issues that I have faced in my post-college, newly adult life.

So, in the interest of continuing to provide you with advice and tips for succeeding at life, I’ve decided to address an issue currently plaguing my life: keeping my apartment clean.

I’m a relatively tidy person normally. But in the midst of my new, busier life as an adult with a job, I’ve found it a little more challenging to, say, pick up my clothes, do my dishes, vacuum my rugs or dust my furniture. Needless to say, advice is imperative.

Clearly procrastination is a huge reason why my apartment remains so utterly unkempt, but I’m already doomed, so let’s get to the advice.

Tip # 1: Stick to a schedule and establish a routine. Making a list of everything that needs to be done and how often you should do it (daily, weekly etc) can help you stay on track. *I plan to stick my list on the fridge.

Tip # 2: Get all the right tools. Having cleaning supplies already avaliable can make it easier to jump into ridding your pad of filth. Although some things depend on the kind of surfaces in your apartment specifically, there are some standbys that everyone needs: a vacuum, rags and brushes, a mop and bucket, glass cleaner, wood polish, disinfectant for kitchen and bathroom counters…and the list goes on…

Tip # 3: Clean regularly. (Herein lies my most illusive foe). Do the dishes as soon as they hit the sink. Put your dirty clothes directly into the hamper. Wipe down the counters after you cook. Taking the extra minute or two to clean things as they happen will save you several hours of cleaning down the road.

In case you need extra help. Here are some more tips from the experts… Good luck!

image from momadvice.com

August 10, 2008. Tags: , , , , , . Life-in General. Leave a comment.

My Adult Life: Week One — The Seven Truths of Starting a New Job.

I’ve decided that contrary to conflicting opinions, real, adult life begins when a person starts at a real job – one at which you work five days a week (or more), where you’re at the absolute bottom (or maybe a just a head above it), and one that is generally remarked by those closest to you as a “career” (i.e., a job that you plan to do for longer than just until you find a better one). This is all very interesting to you, I’m sure, but if you’re wondering where this is going…

This week I started my new “real” job as an almost-bottom-of-the-totem-pole PR girl. And the experience of my first five days has led me to several truths about starting a new job. Although these hard won tips are based from situations in my PR life, I’m sure that they must apply to other industries as well. Here we go…

Number One: You might like the people you meet, but you wont love everyone. It seems like a no-brainer, but really, some people just wont be your favorite flavor. Try to be understanding and patient. Give them a chance, and they might just surprise you.

Number Two: Regardless of how much you sleep, you will be exhausted. (I’ve got my fingers crossed that this extreme fatigue dissipates soon).

Number Three: You might not be where you want to be, either positionally or locationally. So what if your cubicle is next to the men’s bathroom or in the basement next to the office supplies? Everyone starts out at the bottom – you wont be there forever!

Number Four: They want you to look busy. True, you should be asking for something to do if you’re without a task. But if on any given day, you’re boss or team is too busy to babysit you, you should at least look like your working. Researching the company and its competitors, reading your job manual or tracking media coverage with a Google Alert are great ways to keep yourself looking and being busy. Note: If you think I’m telling you to avoid actually working, let me clarify. You’re just starting out and will probably not be very busy at first. Instead of Facebook stalking your friends or standing around looking bored, do something productive.

Number Five: Being yourself may not be the best idea. That is, if being yourself means casually swearing like a drunk truck driver, winking and blowing kisses at every hot guy that walks by or ending all sentences with “fo’ shizzle, my nizzle”, you might want to tone yourself down a bit… at least until your second week.

Number Six: Everyone will know you’re the newby. Whether it’s your overly conservative or way-too-college casual wardrobe, your over-the-top friendly, caked-on smile or your child-lost-at-the-supermarket face, the people in your office will be able to tell you’re new from a dozen cubicles away.

Number Seven: You wont be new forever.

Is there a new job truth you’ve discovered? Let me know.

image from onesourcedevelopment.com

August 9, 2008. Tags: , , , , . Career Advice, Life-in General, PR. Leave a comment.

10 Mistakes All Interns Make, and So Can You!

Top 10 Goofs Interns Make from Business Week highlights the best ways to make your time as an intern utterly unsuccessful. Here you go.

1. The Entitlement Syndrome. Don’t write off your job as “just an internship” and start coming in late or taking two hour lunches. Think of your internship as a summer-long job interview.

2. No Flip-Flopping at the Office. Business casual doesn’t just mean casual. Attire expectations vary depending on location and company, but just be aware: it’s better to dress on the conservative side than expose too much, especially as an intern.

3. Forgetting to Unplug. Even if you don’t think that listening to your Ipod, talking on your cell phone or chatting on IM at work interferes with your responsibilities, your behavior might be interfering with how you’re being assessed as a professional. UPDATE: It depends on your industry, but many companies encourage their employees to use IM to communicate with colleagues at work. If you happened to IM your friends as well, just do it discretely and make sure it isn’t interfering with your work. Also, listening to your iPod may not be the end of the world if you’re finding it hard to concentrate amidst the constant office babble. Just check with your boss first. (update thanks to my coworker, Lexi).

4. Being a Wallflower. Good interpersonal skills are key. Socialize and make the most of company events to meet people and get advice.

5. Ducking the Extracurriculars. A lot of companies arrange informal events for employees to socialize. And while you might think that working through the party will make you look good, you may be missing the point.

6. Grunting About Grunt Work. You’re at the bottom, which means that no task is below you. Getting coffee, filing papers? Just smile and do it.

7. Missing the Big Picture. Don’t just stick to your team or department. Talk to as many people as possible so you get a better understanding of the entire company.

8. Failing to Ask Questions. You don’t know everything (or anything) about your new job and required tasks. Asking intelligent questions reflects your desire to learn.

9. Rejecting Criticism. Think of constructive criticism as a valuable opportunity to learn and improve your skills. Be open to hearing how you can do better.

10. Wasting Time. Being proactive is a huge part of being a successful intern. If you’re waiting to be told what to do, you’re not doing enough.

image from Businessweek.com

July 29, 2008. Tags: , , , , , , . Career Advice. Leave a comment.

Job? Check. Friends? Check. Romance? Um…

This post may seem a little off-course from the usual career, pr and life advice of PRPrep, but part of being successful in your job is spending time away from work. And summertime offers some great options for chillin’ with your sweetie.

So, if you’re tired of your summer dates consisting of siting in front of the air conditioner, Askmen.com has the top ten fun ideas for outdoor dating.

10. Eat at an outdoor restaurant or cafe. An oldie but a goodie.

9. Go to the beach, lake or river. Apparently, just find water.

8. Have fun at carnivals, festivals or outdoor shows. Brewfest anyone?

7. Pick fruits at a farm. Fresh picked romance.

6. Enjoy a boat ride. You too can be king of the world.

5. Play sports. If she can’t catch a frisbee maybe she’s not the girl for you anyway. Only kidding.

4. Visit an amusement park. Cotton candy + roller coasters. Is there a better combination out there? I don’t think so.

3. See a baseball game! (notice the exclamation point). It’s not America’s favorite pastime for nothin’.

2. Prepare a picnic. It sounds cliche, but we still like it.

1. Plan a full-day getaway. It’s not the destination. It’s the journey.

Have fun!

July 21, 2008. Tags: , , , , , , . Life-in General. Leave a comment.

Next Page »