Gina DeLapa’s latest book, Thriving at Work, is a perfect merging of her varied careers, uniting her experience as a writer, speaker and career counselor into a crisp volume of tips for success on the job and beyond.
DeLapa, ’87, travels the country giving motivational speeches for a range of clients. She’s established herself as her own brand and turned her observations into three books and counting. Her first, Ultimate Reminders for Everyday Life, began in a red leather journal as a collection of advice for a friend’s son as he entered high school.
Thriving at Work focuses on four main topics: self-care; leadership, etiquette, and professionalism; workplace drama; and how to find meaning and fulfillment.
All three books feature succinct lessons that mix wit and wisdom from a self-described “smart-alecky Catholic.” They touch on deep topics while remaining deceptively breezy and direct, sprinkled with personal stories that reveal that some of the lessons are hard-won.
The author has enjoyed multiple pursuits in her search for personal fulfillment, beginning in college when she decided to transfer to MSU after realizing that Northwestern University wasn’t the right fit.
“I think what most of us crave even more than happiness is fulfillment,” DeLapa said in an interview from her San Diego home. Fulfillment, she explained, is deeper than the fleeting nature of happiness. It entails fully developing our abilities and character and making meaningful contributions to our world.
DeLapa comes from an entrepreneurial family. Her parents, Jim (’58) and Judy (’59 and ’85) DeLapa, met at MSU and went on to found a frozen foods company, where Gina gained her first work experience—through both the employer’s and employee’s perspectives.
After graduating with an advertising degree and aspirations of writing, DeLapa worked as a copywriter and editor, developing a niche in financial writing.
Although she was making a living using her gifts, it wasn’t rewarding. “I wanted a career that would let me help people more directly with their lives. I also figured out I wasn’t put on earth to write about 401(k) plans,”
After months of soul searching, she discovered a master’s program in career counseling at the University
of San Diego. It brought together her family background in business, her communication skills and her desire to help others.
But after working in the field for a few years, she noticed that her profession wasn’t helping people succeed once they got jobs. She enrolled in an etiquette certification program in Washington, D.C., and started her own company to help new graduates.
Several iterations and expansions later, DeLapa is now a “solo-preneur” with books, speaking and teaching engagements, a free weekly “Monday-Morning Pep Talk” e-newsletter, frequent television appearances in
San Diego and more.
“Don’t be afraid of a career path that seems to take a lot of twists and turns,” she said. “Because ultimately everything does connect and does contribute to where your career is and where it’s headed.”
Browse these helpful tips from Gina DeLapa’s book Thriving at Work and apply them to your professional goals
Say No with a Smile,
Say Yes to What Matters
If you want your life to be less stressful and more fulfilling, you’re going to have to say no to a lot more opportunities, even good ones. Your reward? More time for the contributions you were meant to make, the ones that light you up.
4 Tests of Constructive Feedback
Is this the best time and place?
Am I the one who needs to bring this up?
Is the other person capable of hearing and benefiting from what I’m wanting to say
Does it need mentioning at all?
Sometimes the answer is “No, but I need to say this anyway.” In that case, don’t be afraid to speak up. But if the answer to these questions is just plain no, try biting your tongue. Better to put your energy where it will give you the best return on your investment.
On workplace drama:
The Weapons that Defeat Drama
A winner’s mindset. Too often, we see drama as normal or inevitable. In truth, it is neither. Once you accept this, solutions become much simpler.
Self-confidence. Self-confidence does not mean cockiness, false bravado or lone-ranger syndrome. It simply means trusting in your basic decency and worth, and trusting your ability to handle what life throws at you.
Dispassion. Dispassion says, “I care about you but I’m not responsible for you. I’ll do my part, but I’m not going to own your baggage or negativity.” No matter how much you want to help, don’t become someone else’s counselor. Just leave that to professionals.
A willingness to be wildly uncomfortable. Defeating drama rarely happens in one hit-and-run encounter. And more often than not, it gets harder and rougher before it gets easier and smoother. Keep holding your ground—you don’t need your boundaries to be liked. You just need them to be respected.
Courage. Courage allows us to admit our mistakes, honor our limitations and deal with them constructively. All of these things help put drama in its place. While you can’t become someone else’s counselor, there is no shame in seeking out counseling yourself. It doesn’t mean you’re weak—it probably means you’re strong. For what it’s worth, today’s technology allows you to receive therapy through your phone or laptop.
Kindness. Though it may sound counterintuitive, being kind to someone who is being unkind (or just dramatic) can make drama melt. But don’t be kind to change someone else. Be kind because it’s the right thing to do.
Be kind because tonight when your head hits the pillow, the only behavior you really have to be at peace with is your own.
On making your mark:
To Find Your Calling, Answer this Question
What is it you can’t not do?
As an example, I can’t not write. Often I write to figure out what I’m thinking. I write because it’s cheaper than therapy. It is almost as much a part of me as breathing.
But I also live to encourage other people, to make them laugh and inspire their best—in short, to remind them of their infinite worth. Writing and speaking are a means to this much higher end.
To live your calling, then, you need two things: (1) to use your gifts, the ones that often make you lose all track of time, and (2) to discern which outcomes make you feel most alive and contributing.
Your calling doesn’t have to be lofty. It just has to be genuine. It just has to be yours. As the saying goes,
“What comes from the heart reaches the heart.”
More from Gina DeLapa
• DeLapa’s inspirational books include Thriving at Work, Ultimate Reminders for Everyday Life and Ultimate Reminders for College Students
• Watch DeLapa’s webinar for the
MSU Alumni Lens, “More to Life than
This—Finding Your True Mission” at:
• DeLapa’s website has free downloadable tips and worksheets on a variety of topics, including setting goals, preparing for grad school, public speaking and decluttering, along with recipes and additional stories from her life. Log on to: go.msu.edu/reminders