All posts filed under: Career

Do You Know Who I Am!? Perils of a First-Time Fashion Week Assistant

Photo: Stocksy I was a 20-year old recent math graduate with enviable job offers and a potentially lucrative career in banking already on my horizon. But… something was missing. For one, I never actually wanted to work in finance. I wanted to be creative but no one would ever let me. Ever since my school teachers discovered at the tender age of eleven that I had a talent for math and sciences, I’d been nudged, cajoled and downright shoved (the shoving part by my parents) in that unwanted direction. Now I felt backed into a corner. Most people rebel in their teens but I’d been raised by strict Ghanaian parents in London. As an immigrant, I was well aware of the sacrifices they’d made to give me a good education and I didn’t dare start pushing back against authority until I was prepared to leave home.. Then one day, I was walking down the street, deep in thought when I caught a glimpse of the really swanky west London office building that always had the …

6 Things I Learned Tracking the First Jobs of Famous Folk

Photo (Stocksy.com) Everyone gets a start in the working world somewhere. So, as the Money editor at Reuters, I thought it would be interesting to use the monthly jobs report released by the U.S. Department of Labor as a springboard talk to notable people about their very first gigs. (For non-financial types, the jobs report is by far the most closely watched economic gauge of the U.S. economy’s health.) After all, no matter how famous or powerful they have become, all of us remember the first moment of bringing home the bacon. Here is what I’ve learned from editing three years’ worth of first job stories: 1. Many people got their start delivering newspapers It sounds so old-timey, but the list includes MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, baseball legend Ron Darling and financial wizard Warren Buffett. However, so far no one has mentioned being chased by a dog. 2. Many more of them worked in restaurants Fredrik Eklund of Million Dollar Listing New York, Olympic gold medalist Carmelita Jeter, football star Damien Woody, Wheel of Fortune’s Vanna …

I’ve Pivoted My Career So Much, I’m Pirouetting

In August 2014, I lost my freelancing job as the Director of Content at Grey, a global, 100-year-old advertising agency, often referenced in Mad Men. (It’s where Duck Phillips landed after being dumped by Sterling Cooper.) Because Grey slashed my short-lived position, a frequent mini-tragedy at ad agencies, I was searching for a new full-time gig. I became obsessed with joining one of the bright, shiny digital media start-ups in New York City, partly out of fear that if I didn’t work at a hot, tech-based company, I would soon become a dinosaur. I had studied journalism, and traditional media were on life support. As a Gen-Xer, I felt that my professional currency was quickly fading and I needed to switch gears so I could sparkle…or, at the very least, find a job. I interviewed at a small hybrid PR/social media agency where a dozen under-30-somethings sat shoulder-to-shoulder on ergonomic chairs, huddled around an eco-friendly, reclaimed oak table. Macs lit up the room as an Irish Setter meandered down the narrow aisles, looking to be …

The Woman Who Taught Me to Chase After My “Big Life”

The room was quiet. Ann Shoket, Editor-in-Chief of Seventeen, had just finished giving a keynote address to a room full of hundreds of young women at a HerCampus conference in midtown Manhattan. When she asked for questions, you could feel the room hesitate. What do you say to someone who you’ve looked up to for over five years? I was an upcoming senior in college, and something in me knew this was my chance to start planting seeds for my dream job — becoming Ann’s assistant. I raised my hand, not really even knowing what I was going to say, and managed to ask, “Ann, considering what everyone is saying about the magazine industry right now, what would you say to parents like mine who worry about me chasing my dreams of becoming a magazine editor?” She started to answer and then paused. “Do you want to record this to send to your parents?” she asked. I pulled out my phone and, with a shaky hand, recorded an answer I will always remember: “Your job …

How NOT to Find a Mentor

I had just gotten off the phone with a friend telling me how her mentor recommended her to a new job that she was thrilled about. Just the same week, another pal described her amazing lunch with her mentor who gave her feedback on her business plan and introduced her to potential investors. Another friend was going to a book party for her world-famous mentor. The idea of a mentor sounded great! How could I get one? These same friends told me varied acquisition stories, from being assigned a mentor during their stints at big corporations to reaching out to industry leaders cold (and then somehow magically transforming the acquaintanceship into a mentor/mentee arrangement). No place where I had worked offered those programs, and, if they did, they weren’t geared for those of us in editorial. And as for the reaching out cold, I just didn’t see how that was going to work. I considered my job history. Maybe I had a mentor and didn’t realize it? Thinking over my early years in the job force, …

7 Unexpected Business Lessons I’ve Learned From Millennial Women

I am a VP and editorial director at a large media company. Now 56 years old, I follow with interest debates about whether women at my level do enough to mentor millennial women — a heated and sometimes fractious discourse that covers why they do or don’t, if they should or shouldn’t and so much more. Famously, there’s Madeleine Albright’s “special place in hell,” arguing from the “should” camp (although she’d later characterize the statement as “undiplomatic”). There’s Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s supposition that women feel obligated not to show a gender bias, leading the “why they don’t” discussion. And then there’s the less discussed but pervasive — and patronizing — attitude of a certain kind of senior leader toward her younger female colleagues. The sentiments shared with me, because I am old and it is assumed I will feel the same way, are as follows: Millennial women are entitled, brash, not deferential enough toward leadership, look at their phones when I’m talking in meetings and let’s not even get into what they wear …

My Company Sank and Nearly Took My Morals With It

I’ve never been afraid of failure. I always think of the potential for failure as pure “dare”—and can’t resist staring it straight in the face to see if I can beat it. I always thought this was a noteworthy trait of mine, a good trait. Hell, I even gave speeches about the benefits of not being afraid of failing: learning, experience, trying out innovative ideas, pushing your boundaries, surprising yourself. The trick, I say in those speeches, is to pick good failures, failures that give you more than you lose, whether insights or learning or experiences or, heck, even just great friends or one helluva a good story. You weigh the pros of what you might achieve and accomplish against what the worst-case scenario might be and say: Can I live with the worst, if it comes to that? I had always taken risks in publishing, tried to do things people said “couldn’t be done,” made things from scratch without enough money or enough time or enough team or all three. I did these things, …

I Lost $52 Million and Lived to Tell About It

“I know this isn’t what you wanted to hear, but I promise you this is the very best thing for the business,” he said. “Yup, I know. I’m 100 percent on board,” I exhaled. And with that, my then CFO and I knew we were ending a $52 million contract. Making that decision was the best thing I’ve ever done for my business. I’m here to talk about failure, but, to be clear, losing this deal wasn’t my big failure. Sure, I felt like a failure to my team. We felt totally incompetent, like we had been playing a game of checkers when my supposed collaborators had been playing chess. And, sure, I felt like the business was going to take a nosedive towards a dramatic end. But still, those things didn’t make me feel like a total failure. The failure was in ignoring the warning signs that had been looming for at least two years. Anyone looking at my predicament could have spotted this dramatic, climactic ending 50 miles away. And when I look …

From High-Powered Exec to Pilates Instructor — Am I Happier?

You hear about those folks who eschew corporate America — who just bail and find some trade that makes him or (more likely) her happier, more fulfilled, less angry. You envy them at times. Maybe you crave to do what they’ve done. Perhaps you have a plan to do the same at a certain age or net worth. I’m that girl. I did that. I used to be a media executive. I made the big bucks. I was a Senior Vice President at several major media companies: Scripps Networks Interactive (aka, the parent of Food Network and HGTV), Discovery Communications and Time, Inc. Having started my media career later than many (I did odd stuff until I arrived to it at 30), I ascended fairly quickly. I was a VP by 35 for a high-profile company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. (Fun fact: I started the week after she got out of prison.) Among other things, I had teams under me numbering over 100 people and managed P&Ls in the multi-millions. I was a kind of …

How A Fox News Feminist Changed Things From the Inside Out

Fun fact: I never considered myself a “feminist.” I hated the word as well as the connotations it suggested. But my mother — my biggest fan and toughest critic — changed all of that. She, too, started out as a reluctant feminist.  Sure she believed in women’s rights. Yet, when she came to the United States, she strived to be the opposite: a quiet Indian immigrant, existing between the lines as a med school resident, striving to be the best doctor she could be, but never questioning authority or stirring the pot. That was until the director of Yale School of Medicine told her she could be chief resident if she was more assertive. “Assertive” meant she was committed. “Committed” was a direct shot to chief resident, and “chief resident” meant she would be the BEST.  She would be granted access to what was known as the “Vatican” of Yale medical school. At 27 years old, she would have instant street cred, clout and a possible bump in salary. It also meant she could cut …

The Boss of Me

He was the editor of a well-known men’s magazine. A short man. Not an attractive man. After I interviewed with him I said to my boyfriend at the time, “Why he looks just as much like a turtle as a man can look.” This was the 1980s. This was my first media job, although we called it publishing back then. I interviewed in a navy linen suit from Bonwit Teller, nude pantyhose and navy pumps trimmed with flat grosgrain ribbons. I was a 22-year-old from Iowa and I thought the look I should be going for was “appropriate.” Inexplicably, I was hired. And I realized within the first hour of my first day that I had it all wrong. “Cool” was the style that prevailed among the girls on staff. A girl called Muney wore a pink tutu and black motorcycle jacket like Cyndi Lauper. A girl called April, who was whippet thin and wore lank bangs in her eyes, rimmed all around in kohl, wore leather jeans, the first I’d ever seen. Let’s just say …

tuenight tattly tattoo yng ru chen

Day Job: I Work for a Temporary Tattoo Company

Yng in her Tattlys. (Photo: Ace Boothby/Tattly) Yng-Ru Chen is the head of partnerships at Tattly, a company that makes artful, fun and often elaborate temporary tattoos. (We had one made for our first TueNight birthday party.) Her Tattly partner work even brought her to an easter party at the White House! We wanted to ask Yng-Ru what it was like to work for one of the coolest Brooklyn-based teams, and quiz her, Prosustian-style, on her work essentials and career history. Tell us in your own words: What are Tattlys exactly? That’s a fun question to answer. Tattly is a temporary tattoo company that adults seems to love as much, if not more than kids. All of the designs are by amazing artists who receive royalties from the sales. What exactly do you do for Tattly? As head of partnerships I work on developing clients for the custom Tattly side of the business, I oversee the events we do, I manage our large licensing properties and I create relationships with partners so that our tiny, …

tuenight 1996 caroline waxler switzerland

I Went All the Way to Switzerland, and All I Got Was Chewed Out by My Boss

Seeing my hairbrush down the hall from my hotel room after a long day of not-so-helpful interviews should have been my first clue that this was not going to be the reporting trip of my dreams. In 1996, I took my first international reporting trip to Switzerland, researching the wealth of Swiss billionaires for my magazine’s annual billionaires list. My portfolio of targets included a family with vast grain holdings, a private bank, oil interests, the family behind Swatch, a cement baron, and the scion of a pharmaceuticals company that made good use of nuns’ urine. I was also asked to report on and write a lifestyle piece on the state of the Swiss watch industry, which was then rebounding from a Timex and Japanese-based assault. Getting to go on an international reporting trip was a coveted boondoggle, not that rare though in the flush 1990s when magazines sold so much advertising that editors begged reporters for more copy to fill the pages. Two fellow reporters famously went to the Far East every year for …

Frankly Speaking: How I Named My Business

When I was a young kid, the first thing my father would do when we sat down at a restaurant was find out our waiter’s or waitress’s name. Sometimes the server would give this information independently. But if they didn’t, my dad would ask. And once he knew it, two things could be counted on to happen. First, he would introduce himself, and always in the same way: “Nice to meet you Barbara, my mother named me Frank and she named me well.” And second, he would use Barbara’s name every time she came back to the table — as if the two had known each other for years. Now as a kid, this embarrassed the hell out of me. Because depending on the server, this didn’t always go gangbusters from the jump and could be a little off-putting at first. I’d see this fog of recognition slide down the waiter’s face and I imagined this internal monologue of, “Oh man, what kind of nut-job is this table going to be like?” But 100% of …

TueNight Amy Barr Labels

Retiring the “R” Word

Once upon a time in a mid-sized accounting firm in suburban New Jersey, a teenage girl sat in a windowless conference room performing a mind-numbing task. This task entailed removing outdated pages from a massive set of tax code binders (about 40 volumes, each weighing five pounds) and replacing those pages with updated versions. The sheets were tissue-thin, impossible to separate without tearing and capable of inflicting the wickedest of paper cuts. That was my first paying job and the first time I could officially be labeled a “working person.” Now, nearly four decades and a few career changes later, a new label might better describe my status as a working person: Retired. [pullquote]If I’m not between projects and I’m not retired, what am I? [/pullquote] Ugh. I don’t like that word and I’m not the only one I know struggling with it. Several contemporaries have recently bid goodbye to long-term careers on their way to the unknown next chapter in their working life. They seem as confused as I am as to how to …

Why Equality is Critical: A Chat with Pax CEO Joe Keefe

I have said repeatedly — and publicly — that Joe Keefe is the perfect white male. And here’s why: As president and CEO of Pax World Funds, Joe Keefe is leading a movement to promote women in the workplace. Earlier this year, he teamed up with Sallie Krawcheck, a former Citigroup and Bank of America executive and one of the highest-ranking women in the history of Wall Street, to create the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund. It tracks companies with the highest rating for advancing women’s leadership. Companies in the portfolio include Avon Products, where five of the beauty company’s 13 executives are women, including CEO Sheri McCoy and CFO Kimberly A. Ross. Another holding is consumer products giant Procter & Gamble, where women comprised 43.6 percent of management positions globally last year. Keefe has dedicated his career to social change. He has served in politics and worked at several socially responsible investment firms. He recently spoke on a panel I moderated about diversity and investing, sponsored by Thomson Reuters and the Women’s Bond Club. At first I …

What’s Your Best Public Speaking Trick?

Sweaty palms, butterflies in stomach, clenched throat. For some, giving a talk can be as fun as a root canal and no amount of imagining your audience in their underwear can save you. (Plus, ew.) For others, toasts and TED talks come naturally. But even the most confident speakers usually rely on a trick or two to get them through a presentation. So we asked our contributors, notable pundits and women who regularly speak for a living for their best tips on speaking out loud to a crowd. Let’s Talk About the Weather “Connect right up front and say something in the moment, that you all share — about the room, the day, the weather, what’s going on in the world. You’re inviting them on your ride. As Tip O’Neill once said, ‘All politics is local.’ All public speaking is too!” — Jane Condon, comedian Soft and Smooth “I learned this in one of my acting classes: Right before you walk out in front of an audience, feel and identify the fabric of your clothing: ‘This …

My Saturday as a Smorgasburg Vendor OR How I Stumbled into a Second Career

Last Christmas I gifted my co-workers with some of my homemade granola — a mixture of  oats, groats dried fruit (apricots, golden raisins, dried cherries and more), sunflower seeds, chopped almonds, walnuts and sweetened with a hint of maple syrup and honey. I’d just started making it as a hobby. They devoured it and asked me for more. One of the partners at the restaurant where I work (I’m a manager at Blue Ribbon Sushi) wanted to sell it, so we collaborated, and voila! My own line of Granola. After only a few months, it made the Best of New York. This was fast turning into a second career! I finally gave it a name — Dailola, a combination of my two rescue dogs’ names, Dailo and Lola (you’ve seen their photos here on this very website) — and a portion of the proceeds is donated to New Spirit Australian Shepherd Rescue. And now, every Saturday, I sell my granola at Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s 100-vendor food fest. Somehow, in addition to my day job, I manage to squeeze in …

How Working in Fast Food Prepared Me for Life on a Slippery Floor

I have worked as long as I can remember. As a young girl, I used to pull dandelions for my mom at a penny a piece (I only realized as an adult that my parents were paying us to stay out of the house), and I swept the floors and stamped coin envelopes at my family’s magnet factory. It was awesome growing up around all those magnets, but the highlight was the huge piles of flattened packing boxes my brother, sister and I used to climb onto and lounge on. So, maybe we played a little more than we worked. My first real job was in fast food. I worked at Gino’s and for those of you outside the mid-Atlantic region, Gino’s was a regional chain co-owned and named for Gino Marchetti of Baltimore Colts fame. They had the Kentucky Fried Chicken rights around here so (close your eyes and imagine this), KFC and burgers in one place.  I know. Dreamy. At 17 years old, when I retired from my Gino’s career, I had already …

Bored at Work? Adopt a Gig Mentality

Summer vacations were one of the best things about college. They provided me with a precious three-month opportunity to explore the working world without consequence – exactly when my appetite for adventure and real-world experience bumped up against the ugly reality of living wages and educational expenses. After my first year in school, I wangled a stipend to explore my passion for non-profits and the law. I volunteered at a major international non-profit sporting organization that planned, organized, marketed and led a weekend summer camp for the athletes. One day a week, I was a lackey at the county courthouse. In spite of organizational challenges, I was a veritable over-eager sponge. I had a burning desire to move faster, produce more and innovate around systemic efficiencies that were of little interest to my seasoned superiors. The whole time, my bright-eyed enthusiasm never waned. The reason? The start of the school year provided a clean break. These three months were a priceless, experience-building window that allowed me to bypass any regrets, resume concerns or awkward goodbyes. …

Why No One Wants to Go to Your Meeting — And How to Make it Better

It’s not uncommon to hear a collective groan from your employees when another meeting alert pops up on their calendars. After 10 years in the professional world at every level from assistant to Vice President, I’ve learned firsthand just how much impact a meeting can make. We hope our team leaves a meeting excited, inspired and ready to work, but I’ve also sat through meetings where an associate actually fell asleep on their laptop. Not good. It can be taxing having to step away from daily tasks, but more importantly, badly run meetings can severely hamper productivity. After years of being over scheduled myself, I’ve learned a few tips to help make meetings and check-ins smarter and productive — not just an hour wasted during the work day. Be Selective One of the biggest pain points of meetings is that there’s simply too many people in them. Invite only the crucial members of each team, the ones who truly need to be there. If a key team member is unable to make the meeting, let …

Mad Men & Office Politics: Different Era, Same Drama

Like many of you, I harbor a very real Mad Men addiction. It’s not so dire that I need it in the morning before work (that would be very Mad Men, come to think of it), but it’s extreme enough that I often can’t get through the day without something triggering a knee-jerk Mad Men reflection, or a Mad Men-related Google search that leads me down a rabbit hole of mid-century minutia. I’m not proud to admit the number of times I’ve excitedly interjected the phrase, “That actually reminds of that one scene in Mad Men when…” into a conversation that, well, wasn’t about Mad Men at all. Even though the show is set in an office, Mad Men isn’t really a show about working, in much the same way that The Sopranos wasn’t really a show about the mob. It’s an evolutionary character study that just so happens to be set in a Madison Avenue ad agency. But strip away the intense psychological examination, and the show does realistically highlight the differences between workers just blindly tadpoling their way into …

On the Event of My “Canniversary”

(Photo: Kat Borosky) My boss slid two manila folders across her desk. “Well, you’re probably not shocked about what I’m going to say.” I had an inkling about what she was going to say, but it didn’t mean I wasn’t shocked. One week after returning from
 my 10-day honeymoon, I was getting the axe. * As we celebrate (ok,
 we don’t celebrate) the 5th anniversary of the 
2008 economic collapse, I celebrate (and yes, I celebrate) the 
moment I was laid off from my last full-time job — my 
”Canniversary.” Credit for that term goes solely to my friend Maura
 Johnston, who announced, on Twitter, her one-year Canniversary of being 
”shit-canned.”  (However if
 you look up canniversary in urban dictionary, it 
has a whole different meaning) It was the first time I’d
 ever been let go from a job. Ever. I’d always been that
 sit-in-the-front-row, hardworking, sleeves rolled, do whatever it
 takes kind of worker. I’d been promoted at every job I’d ever had. 
But in this particular digital editor gig, I had a personality conflict with my boss …