How to Best Navigate Your Life After College with NFP Sales Operations & Marketing Coordinator Elena Lewis

Elena Lewis is the Sales Operations & Marketing Coordinator at NFP in Cleveland, OH, and joined the NFP team in 2021. Elena oversees all marketing efforts for the Cleveland office, including PowerPoint creation, email marketing, sales support, special requests, community involvement, public relations, event planning, and sponsorships.

Here is what Elena had to say when we asked her about best practices for navigating life after college:

GenHERation®: What steps can you take to build your community after you graduate from college?

Elena Lewis: College is very different from the working world. Your community is built into your college campus. When you graduate from college, you have to put in work to form a community. If you have a job right out of college, a great place to start to form relationships is to invite your co-workers to do activities outside of work. I was lucky that both companies I worked for right out of college had employee interest groups. Bigger companies across the country typically have similar groups. For example, there are groups for dog lovers at NFP and a women’s resource group. Another way you can start to form a community is through volunteering. This can help you meet people locally who have similar interests. Playing sports or working out are great ways to meet others. You can join a recreation league or a gym. I’m a yoga teacher, and I met a lot of great people through my certification course and at my studio. You can join a book club, a local walking club, or a running club. Think about your passions and look to see what is already available in your area. If something you are looking for is not available, put it out there on social media to meet people! You can utilize local meetups and Facebook groups to help you. 

GenHERation®: When you are new to a company, how can you find a mentor within the organization to help you navigate its ins and outs?

Lewis: The company I worked for right out of college had a program where you were assigned a mentor. You worked with them and then had meetings every so often to check in with each other. See if there is a similar program at your organization. Start researching people at your company or ask friends to connect you with mentors. Find someone who works in your industry that you would like to learn from. Do your research and find a good fit. You can reach out on LinkedIn or ask someone for their email address. More often than not, people look at mentoring as an honor and are excited to share their expertise. 

GenHERation®: After you graduate, how can you maintain the relationships you developed with the classmates, friends, and professors that you had on campus?

Lewis: With social media, there is really no excuse why you cannot stay connected. For friends and classmates especially, staying connected on Instagram and Facebook is huge. I’m a big LinkedIn supporter for developing and maintaining professional relationships. I had an on-campus job during college, and I use social media to stay in contact with my previous managers and co-workers. These types of contacts are important to have when you need professional references during the interview process. Social media is also a great way to stay in touch without taking up a lot of your time. I always try to reach out to friends on LinkedIn when they start a new position or reach a new goal at work. Commenting on posts and sending messages are ways to keep communication open without being on an hour-long call. Lastly, I think email is a great way to stay in touch with professors. You can use email to reach out to them to share updates, tell them how their lessons apply to your current role, or ask how they are doing. Professors love to hear from previous students and see how they made an impact. 

GenHERation®: As a young executive, how do you balance taking on additional opportunities to stand out, while respecting your boundaries?

Lewis: This is a really fine line and the hardest part about transitioning from college to the working world. Balancing work and life is hard. I encourage everyone to be in tune with yourself and evaluate what is on your plate and what you have room for. Ask yourself what your non-negotiables are and set time for those every day. If you like to work out, make time for that. Commit to taking a walk every day. Make time for lunch and family dinner if those are important to you. Work other activities in around your non-negotiables, so you are not sacrificing your mental health. When you are not feeling your best, you will not be able to do your best work. Put yourself first. It is better to be honest than overpromise and commit to something and then have to cancel. 

GenHERation®: What are self-care practices you can engage in to promote and prioritize your wellness?

Lewis: First, I would suggest having some type of morning routine. It does not need to be a super strict or intense routine. Maybe you take a few minutes in the morning to write down a few things you are grateful for, or even just take a few deep breaths. Do something to start your day on a positive note. Wash your face, go for a walk, or work out. Set time aside for you. Another self-care practice I love is going for walks. When I have the time, I like to take a 10-minute walk on my lunch break. During my first job out of college, I was struggling with overworking myself, and I began implementing walks into my day to help with my anxiety. I found the fresh air made a huge difference, especially when I was remote and working from home. Just being in the sunlight and breathing in the fresh air is a beneficial self-care practice for me. Self-care is all about setting time aside for yourself. I know some jobs can make this more difficult than others. When I started my first job, I was addicted to email on my phone and believed that every email required an immediate response. During the night, I did not set work aside. I am now a big believer that once you log off for the day, you should shut off your computer and stop checking emails on your phone if you are able to. If you are constantly stressing about things on your to-do list, you won’t get sleep, you’ll be in a bad mood, and that stress will carry over into the next day. 

GenHERation®: What do you wish you knew the day you graduated from college?

Lewis: I wish I knew so many things! During college, you learn so much, but you can’t really learn about the working world until you are in it. It was kind of a culture shock at first. One thing that I wish I learned was that the job you take right out of college may not be the right fit and that is okay. I think there is this pressure of needing to stay with the company you interned for during college. This pressure can be difficult to avoid because you may see friends posting on LinkedIn about their big job offer after college. If that big job does not work out for you, you may feel pigeonholed or embarrassed. If it is not working out, I encourage you to try something new. Be open minded and look at other opportunities. It is not the end-all be-all. 

I wish I knew more about how to protect my mental health and work-life balance. It is important to make a good impression and to work hard, but put yourself first. Lastly, I think it is important to learn how to politely say no. Understand you can say no if you do not have the bandwidth to take on a responsibility. After college, I was hungry for knowledge and ready to learn, but sometimes that excitement led to me taking on more than I could realistically handle. If those responsibilities harm your mental health, politely turn them down when it is not the right fit. Your career becomes a huge part of your life, but it is important to remember that your job does not define you as a human being.

Elena Lewis is the Sales Operations & Marketing Coordinator at NFP in Cleveland, OH, and joined the NFP team in 2021. Elena oversees all marketing efforts for the Cleveland office, including PowerPoint creation, email marketing, sales support, special requests, community involvement, public relations, event planning, and sponsorships. Elena has a background in marketing and merchandising, and previously worked as an assistant merchant for Aerie at American Eagle Outfitters headquarters in Pittsburgh, PA. Through this role she had the opportunity to work with a multitude of international vendors and was an integral part in opening the company’s first “Offline” store. Outside of work, Elena enjoys working out, reading, and spending time with her family, friends, and fiancé. She is also a certified yoga teacher and teaches at a studio near her hometown and at Malone University. Elena holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Kent State University. 

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