Invest wisely -- Invest in YOU

Feeling stuck? Trapped in a rut? You're certainly not alone. Leaders tend to be an ambitious lot, but it's sometimes difficult to recognize that Rome wasn't built in a day when our sights are set on loftier goals. This week's guest, Alex Makowski, shares her insights and tips for coping with the transition.   


          My name is Alexandra Makowski. I’m 24. I am currently living with my parents. I work at my father’s financial management firm as a Paraplanner (a title I gave to myself), and I’ve never been happier (no, I am not being sarcastic). Now I know this is a blog about leaders giving other leaders advice and wisdom, and it may not seem like I am much of a leader, but the truth is that right out of college it’s hard to feel like a leader when there aren’t many leadership opportunities to be had.

          I love being a part of a group, and I love it even more when I am the leader of that group. When I was younger I ran for every student government position I could. I ended up losing every election until my senior year of high school when I became the Vice President of the Class of 2010. It took me a while to understand why I was losing, always blaming it on other people’s jealousy or vindictiveness (I once had an extremely high opinion of myself), but then I really stopped and thought about why I wanted to be involved in student government. The truth is I wanted to make a difference. I wanted my opinion to matter and I wanted to attend an event or complete a project, and know that I helped make that happen. So I humbled myself a bit, spoke candidly and truthfully to my peers, and finally won my first election!  After winning the VP position, and planning an amazing prom, I headed to Marist wanting to carry over my experience from high school to college, and the idea of being a voice for over 1,000 students in my grade wasn’t a bad perk. I held the position of Marist College Class of 2014 Treasurer for 3 years. My junior year I decided to run for Student Body President with my best friend as my running mate. We ran a full-fledged campaign across campus. Our campaign slogan was “Keep Calm and vote Makowski Baum.” It was plastered everywhere- T-shirts, posters, door hangers, pens. But, we lost. And I was no longer the leader of any major organization. The reason I’m giving this very abridged version of my journey through leadership is because as I reflect over the ups and downs of my “political career” I realize it is not who or what you lead, but how you feel about yourself as a leader.

          There will come a point in time when you’re in a place in your life, career or personal, when you feel stuck. I’m currently at that point. I am living at home but don’t feel it necessary to move out because I work 10 minutes away, and I want to keep saving money. I can’t work on building my client list because I need to finish my certificate program to become a Certified Financial Planner. So what can I do? Many of you may find yourselves in a similar situation after graduation. As leaders we have a tendency to want to take charge and build To-Do lists to get a project done. I am fortunate enough to be given opportunities to lead projects at my company but sometimes I feel like I’m a truck stuck in the mud with my wheels spinning. I know that once I get out of this limbo I’m going to take off.

          Over the past year and half in my position I have seen a lot of people in various stages in life with different stories and levels of wealth. What I realized is that successful people, at least the ones we work with, are humble and kind. They may have different goals but their values are similar; they want to help others, take care of their families, and give back to the communities live in. The best advice I can give to you (and to myself!) is to start investing in yourself. Be a leader to yourself now so you can be in a place to be a Boss in the future.

          I work in the financial planning industry, so of course, to me part of investing in yourself is financially. Start a savings account and put away 10-15% of each pay check. Set financial goals to work towards. For example, I am planning to buy a house in 3-5 years. The idea of that independence is pushing me to make some sacrifices for things I want now so I can save more for the house.

"Be your biggest fan! Believe in yourself and your capabilities. If you don’t believe in you, who else will?"

          Invest in your education. That doesn’t necessarily mean going out and getting a graduate degree. You can invest in your education by buying books about your industry or general leadership. Learn as much as you can. WARNING: some of the books may not be exciting page turners so I like to throw in books I read for fun in between the leadership books.

          Dress for the job you want not the job you have. I know this is a cliché, but it’s true! The days I wake up and throw on an outfit for work that I don’t feel great in are far less productive then the days I wear an outfit I feel powerful in. My go-to power outfit is a dress, heels and a blazer/sweater. I like the femininity of a dress and heels and having a powerful, kick-ass, woman attitude to compliment it. But wear an outfit that makes you want to conquer the world (or at least your cubicle).

          Be your biggest fan! Believe in yourself and your capabilities. If you don’t believe in you, who else will?

          Treat yourself. If you’ve ever seen "Parks and Rec" you know how important a “treat yo self” day is. You work hard and sometimes you deserve to splurge- be it on calories or clothes!

          Always remember each decision you make has a consequence, good or bad. There’s always a give and take in life, that’s the dichotomy of the world. The beautiful thing about life is that most decisions you make can be changed down the road. Be cautious about the decisions that you cannot take back (we’ve all made decisions we wish we could change) but never look at a basic choice in life as life or death. If you’re stressing about what job to accept go with your gut and if it’s not the right fit, you can look for another job. If you want to move to a new city or travel to a new place- go for it! Life is about experiences, positive or negative (there’s that dichotomy), and letting those experiences shape who you are.

         Leaders are inherent dreamers. Keep dreaming and planning for the future but live in the present too. Growing up I kept wishing I was older, always looking towards the next step instead of enjoying the place I was in. If you’re reading this blog you’re on the right path. With a little faith, and a lot of hard work, life will undoubtedly work out for you. Ask questions, keep reading, and always invest in you!

-Alexandra Makowski

Want to learn more about Alex? You can follow her on Linkedin

This post has been edited for grammar. All other content remains the original thoughts & expressions of the author.