Main Leave Your Mark: Land Your Dream Job. Kill It in Your Career. Rock Social Media.
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Begin Reading Table of Contents Newsletters Copyright Page In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher constitute unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the publisher at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your support of the author’s rights. To David, Jonathan and Sabrina, I love you more than the world. In loving memory of my father, Dr. Michael Bernfeld, who left his mark on everyone who knew him. FOREWORD BY DONNA KARAN People with passion inspire me. You feel their energy. They stir your deepest emotions. They create momentum and excitement. We can’t help but be drawn in and want to be around them. When it comes to your career, you can’t hope to succeed unless you have passion for what you do. Passion is everything. Aliza Licht has a true passion for fashion. For the seventeen years she’s worked at Donna Karan International, I’ve seen it firsthand. Aliza expresses her passion in what I call my “C” words—she connects, communicates and collaborates. She does it with clothes, creativity, celebrities, conversation, community. (Half a million Twitter followers is some community!) So naturally, she has chosen to write a book about yet another “C” word: careers. I can’t think of a better mentor to help get you going at work and in life. I’m passionate about mentoring because I owe so much to those who have mentored me over the years. My most influential mentor was Anne Klein, my first boss. She taught me to trust my instincts. Anne also had an amazing work ethic, which is why she fired me when she thought I wasn’t taking my job seriously. I was nineteen and devastated. Soon after, I got a job with Patti Cappalli, another designer who became a mentor. I worked incredibly hard and learned the importance of ; discipline. A year later, Anne Klein was looking for an assistant designer, and I applied. Thankfully, Anne gave me a second chance. When Anne suddenly passed away a few years later, I was asked to take over the label. And the rest, as they say, is history. Anne and Patti were remarkably generous with me. In different ways, they showed me designing was a business, one you have to work at. As a result of their example, mentoring young talent is one of my greatest pleasures. Whenever possible, I work with design students at Parsons The New School for Design, happy to give back in any way I can. Mentors shape who we are. They guide us and let us learn from their successes and their failures. They’re the ultimate big sister in our professional lives. They give you room to grow and help you realize who you are and what you’re capable of doing. They give you that needed nudge, that sign of encouragement. They challenge you to be your best, and if they’re good, they’re also tough on you. Because mentors aren’t there to flatter you; they’re there to help you. Everyone may not be as lucky as I was to find a great mentor, which is where this book comes in. Aliza is the ultimate mentor because she’s the ultimate role model. She talks the talk and walks the walk. A self-starter, Aliza makes things happen. Everything is possible with Aliza, and if she doesn’t know something, she’s the first to reach out and find someone who does. Like all great communicators, Aliza is about the “we,” not the “me.” Most importantly, Aliza is open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. She was on top of social media long before the rest of us. The success of DKNY PR GIRL is testimony to the force of her personality. She gives you a reason to keep checking in for brand news, insider gossip and girl-talk. Aliza saw social media for the incredible platform it can be. Aliza’s Internet success reminds me of when I started my company. My goal was to design clothes for just me and my friends. Little did I know I had so many friends! Yet that’s what success is all about—believing in something and going for it. If it speaks to you, the chances are great that it speaks to a lot of other people, too. Aliza knows communication is all about the personal touch. She’s conversational, she’s witty, she shares. She is connected to the world, because she first connects on a personal level. She can’t help it; it’s in her DNA. As Aliza puts it, this book isn’t a “how-to,” it’s a “must do”! Read it, be inspired—then go out and own your passion. A NOTE ON THE PEOPLE AND PLACES IN LEAVE YOUR MARK The stories in this book are authentic accounts of experiences I have had or been privy to throughout my career, told to the best of my recollection. For the most part, I have changed the names, gender or character traits of some of the people mentioned in this book. To that end, I have also changed some stories’ chronology or setting. The titles of the fashion magazines I worked at in the past have also been changed to chic, French titles. I could have totally included the real publication names, but what’s the fun in that? You should also know that the circumstances and working conditions that I describe at these magazines occurred many, many years ago and may not be a reflection of what happens today. For the purpose of flow, I made a decision to pick a lane between sexes. Meaning, no matter the story, I have chosen between using the pronouns “he,” “she,” “her” and “him” at random. Feel free to recast the person as you see fit. The advice and insider secrets provided in this book are strictly and exclusively my view. They are lessons I have learned along the way and do not reflect the views of my employers past or present. INTRODUCTION “Who wore it better?” flashed across my computer screen. As a public relations executive working for one of the most internationally renowned luxury fashion brands, following style trends, celebrity red carpet coverage and the like, is a daily part of my job. Was Charlize’s lace Dior dress styled as well as Cate’s Armani? What fashion contraption was Gaga wearing now? I loved contemplating things like that, but this time was different. I had stumbled upon a random post from a fashion blog cleverly comparing the dress worn by my company’s Twitter avatar—a hand-drawn “fashion girl” illustration—to none other than Jennifer Lopez, who happened to be wearing an identical blush draped jersey Donna Karan dress. Was this blogger really comparing an illustrated fashion persona to a real A-list celebrity? Nicely done, I thought. Whether this blogger intended to get my attention or not, she had succeeded in grabbing it. Upon quickly scrolling through the site, I learned that the blogger’s name was Jenna and that she lived in Austin, Texas. She was clearly good at dissecting style, and her writing was sarcastic, a personality trait that I happen to love in people. I decided to follow her on Twitter. As weeks passed, we became Twitter-friendly, tweeting back and forth every once in a while to dish about this or that. One day, I received a direct message from her asking me if she could email me a few career-related questions. Jenna’s request was one that I had received countless times before—especially on Twitter. And since mentoring has always been a passion of mine, I immediately responded with my email address. Within minutes, I received an email from Jenna. Actually, it wasn’t an email; it was a novel. Jenna told me that she worked at an artificial turf–manufacturing company, but that she loved fashion and really wanted to break into the field. It continued for paragraphs. I knew that the answers she needed were vast. I responded by simply writing, “CALL ME.” A few minutes later my phone rang. Jenna and I spoke for a really long time and it was almost as if we were good friends catching up. (There’s just something about the sense of community you feel with people you meet through Twitter.) I had a lot of advice to give and the bottom line was that if she wanted to break into fashion, she needed to be in New York. Sigh. I know that’s so much easier said than done. It’s hard to just pick up, leave your friends and family and move to another state with no job to speak of. In fact, it’s frightening, not to mention really expensive. I knew that Jenna must have hung up the phone with a heavy heart and a swirling head. One afternoon about five months later, while I was online catching up on Paris Fashion Week, I saw a tweet from Jenna asking people to vote for her in a blogger competition. The prize was a yearlong blogging position in New York. Along with some of her other Twitter friends, I retweeted her request, encouraging people to vote. She ended up becoming a finalist and was flown to New York. We made a plan to meet. When Jenna came to the office, it was like seeing an old friend that I hadn’t seen in years. A month later, Jenna learned that she had unfortunately lost the blogger competition, but she wasn’t about to give up. Through her online network, she discovered that there was a social media position available at a public relations agency in New York. Her previous trip to New York, along with this opportunity, had solidified what she had been feeling since our initial phone conversation: She had to move here. Without another thought, Jenna proceeded to pack up her life in Austin and move to New York City. With no apartment and no job, she would stay on a friend’s couch and get a job checking coats to make some money. When Jenna called and told me what she’d done, I couldn’t help but be impressed. She had taken our conversation very seriously. She was hungry. She wanted a career in fashion and she was going to do anything to get it. Good for her. Sometimes when you take a chance, you get lucky. A week after Jenna moved to New York, she secured an interview at that PR agency. Before the interview, Jenna politely asked me if I would consider being a reference for her. To be clear, I don’t give out references lightly. I had never actually worked with Jenna, but I felt like I knew her social media skills from her blog and her tweets, and I knew that I liked her as a person. Sure, that’s not rock-solid evidence that she should get the reference, but I always go with my gut, and my gut said that she would be an asset to any company that hired her. Jenna nailed the interview and a week later was offered the job. Six months after that, I was faced with hiring a new assistant, and I wanted to find someone who also had social media experience. I decided that the best way to find the most socially savvy candidates was online. So I tweeted a link inviting candidates to apply on my company’s Facebook page, stating publicly why they thought they should get the job. After that, they were instructed to also send their cover letter and resumé to human resources. When my job-posting tweet popped up on Jenna’s timeline, she knew she had to move quickly. As it turned out, and unbeknownst to me at the time, Jenna had just been laid off. By this point, Jenna and I were very friendly, so she might have thought to casually email me and write, “Hey, I want this job! Oh and P.S., I just got laid off.” That statement would have totally been in line with her colorful personality. Except she didn’t. She behaved professionally and applied properly, a move that I greatly appreciated. We received over three hundred applications for the assistant position. You would be amazed by how many of those people completely blew it on the very first step of the application process. The typos were staggering. The text-message speak was even worse. People treated the application process quite like they behave socially—very, very casually. But they shouldn’t have, because it was a test. I wanted to see if the people applying were savvy enough to know how to switch gears between social talk and professional communication. Most didn’t. My mind couldn’t help but go back to Jenna and how she intuitively knew the difference. But could it be that easy? Did I already find the perfect person for the job on Twitter a year earlier? I couldn’t fathom it, so I labored over hundreds of submissions anyway and ultimately met with ten people. In the end, after a long, drawn-out process, Jenna was the one. One tweet from a girl who worked at an artificial turf–manufacturing company in Austin led to her dream job in fashion, in the heart of New York City. Jenna’s story is the ultimate example of everything I believe in and everything I will teach you in this book. We live in a world that is totally and utterly connected. If managed properly, how you make and use those connections can result in amazing things. Jenna’s clear talent and instinct to behave in the professional way she did made me want to help her. But she’s not the only one. Since 2009, I have had the daily privilege of sharing my fashion insider views on the glamorous, and sometimes not-so-glamorous, world of fashion in one hundred and forty characters or less on Twitter. Since that time, I have organically built a loyal community of over half a million followers—or as I like to call them, “Twitter friends.” Whether I’m tweeting about Oscar gowns that have gone missing at LAX or the ridiculous fashion show ticket requests that come into my inbox, my tweets offer a juicy behind-the-scenes peek at fashion through the lens of public relations. But something interesting happened on this six-year journey: Social media has become just as much a vehicle for me to mentor as it is to dish on the insides of the fashion world. Thousands of conversations have shown me that no matter the industry, everyone is just trying to make it. People need others to lift them up when they are down or steer them in another direction when they are headed the wrong way. I speak to people who need a complete motivation makeover and others who just don’t know where to begin. These conversations have led to many a coffee, meeting with people who want to brainstorm about how to make their next career move. I get it. I would have loved to go for coffee with someone who had already made some of the hard decisions I was trying to make back in the day. While I’ve always been one to pay it forward, how can you have coffee with everyone who asks? You simply can’t. Leave Your Mark is my way of allowing us to grab that coffee. In this book I will spill all the secrets I’ve learned the hard way and help you land your dream job, kill it in your career, rock social media and build your personal brand. Forget everything you have ever learned. My experience in the fashion industry, and specifically in public relations, is the only crash course you will ever need. Hint: We’re not playing here, so get ready. I will share with you insider tips to help you navigate your career in any industry. I will teach you all the ways I have learned to get ahead that no one ever tells you. Things like: what you’re supposed to do when you’ve made the wrong career choice and figure it out way too late, or how to get experience when you have none. I will show you how to suck your internship dry and interview strategically for the job of your dreams. I will teach you how to assess if you’re ready for that promotion and how to negotiate it with flair. You will learn how to survive office politics and all the things you should never say to your boss. When you realize that you’re at a dead-end job, I will show you how to shift gears. I will demonstrate how social media can benefit (or damage) your reputation and how to make presentations like a pro. And when you’ve finally made it up the corporate ladder, I will share with you the merits of being a likeable, motivating leader. But probably the most important thing that I will impart to you is that YOU are your own brand, and how you manage your personal brand can make or break your career. Because here’s the biggest secret truth: How you brand and market yourself can weigh just as heavily on your success as your actual skills do. As a publicist, it’s my job to shape messaging and generate publicity. When you spend all day strategizing how to make people perceive a brand positively like I do, you start to realize that the same principles can be applied to people. How you communicate and influence others often matters more than the idea you’re pitching. I will show you how to create and shape your own personal brand by manipulating the principles of public relations from both the fashion and celebrity worlds as a guide. My career in public relations led to my expertise in social media. Not only has social media turned “traditional public relations” on its head, it has also shown us how influence matters and how it can grow from anywhere. I will explain in detail how to use social media in creating your personal brand. You will see how real engagement and transparency matter and how connecting with people can help shape and build your image. My knowledge comes from nearly twenty years of experience, but isn’t it a shame that we often don’t get to have that experience until it’s too late? Sure, we all have to make mistakes, but wouldn’t it be genius if we didn’t have to make as many? I want to give you a cheat sheet: everything I’ve learned. I want you to have choices and to be savvy enough to recognize the options in front of you. But more than that, I want you to see that you have the power to create a new path for yourself where there isn’t one. Why wait to learn something the hard way when I can teach you now? Leave Your Mark isn’t a “how-to” book; it is a “must-do” book… OK, and definitely a lot of “don’t-dos.” In this book I’ll take you along my career journey—which, I promise you, was anything but a smooth ride. You will see the good, the bad, the ugly, the insane and the hilarious. Since making the hard decision to give up medicine to pursue my childhood love of fashion, I have pretty much seen and heard it all. At every step of my career, I have learned incredible lessons that you can use no matter what job you have. The lessons in this book will also prove valuable to anyone who simply wants to be a better communicator, conveying their personal brand in a more impactful way. Life is too short to settle. You have the power to create your own path to success. But I will warn you, this journey doesn’t come without a lot of soul-searching and, ultimately, hard work. Nothing is yours unless you work for it—and however hard you think you have to work in order to get somewhere, I can promise you that it’s triple. I know that sometimes life can be daunting and that obstacles can seem insurmountable, but with this book, a massive to-do list and a giant cup of coffee, I promise that you can get it all done and still have time to tweet about it. PART I Landing Your Dream Job CHAPTER ONE Finding the Right Career Path GROWING UP, MOST OTHER TEENAGERS I KNEW WERE WALLPAPERING THEIR ROOMS WITH PICTURES OF THEN-HEARTTHROBS COREY HAIM AND Jason Patric. But not me. My walls were plastered with high-fashion magazine spreads. It was 1988 and Vogue had just gotten a new editor in chief, a British import named Anna Wintour who had new ideas for the magazine. Vogue’s covers, for example, had featured tightly cropped photos for years. Anna’s first cover featured a half-body shot of Israeli model Michaela Bercu dressed in a Christian Lacroix haute couture top paired with—drumroll, please—Guess jeans. That cover was groundbreaking—not only for the way Anna let the reader see more of the model, but for how couture was paired with off-the-rack clothing. It was just unheard of at the time. The genius behind that breakthrough marriage of high-low styling was Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele, a French fashion editor whose love for color, accessories and eccentric styling made for a very creative and inspiring bedroom wall. That cover was the focal point of my bedroom door for months. For me, fashion was what life should be like, just amplified. A world worth diving into and living in, albeit through images. I spent years sitting on my bed, doing homework and glancing up at those fashion-plastered walls. But the joke was that I never once gave even a single thought as to how a magazine was created. As far as I was concerned, all of those issues made their way to the newsstand and onto my walls like magic. Fashion wasn’t a career option—if only because I didn’t know any better and had no one to guide me. Because I had always liked and done well in science and my father was a reputable dentist with his own practice, I decided to study to become a doctor. I was good with my hands, so my love of art sparked a more specific interest in plastic surgery—a specialty that, in my mind, combined the best of both worlds, beauty and science. During high school I began interning for a nearby plastic surgeon whose office was straight out of the movie Pleasantville. A white picket fence surrounded his perfect little white-shingled house, where procedures happened all day long, rarely with any drama. I had a front-row seat in the operating room, watching cosmetic surgeries that all looked so seamless. I loved that a plastic surgeon was in the business of making people feel better about themselves, not to mention how fun it was to see your friend’s mom getting a face-lift when she doesn’t know you’re standing there watching. Haha. I was certain that plastic surgery was the right path for me. That experience, plus my grades, earned me a full four-year merit scholarship to the University of Maryland, where I’d been awarded the title “Francis Scott Key scholar.” My parents were over the moon: Their daughter was premed—and for free! They couldn’t sign the paperwork fast enough. I declared my major in neurobiology and physiology and sucked up eight a.m. labs four days a week, eating candy corn to keep me awake. (I didn’t drink coffee… yet.) I took the dreaded MCATs during my junior year and landed a six-week summer internship at a hospital in Long Island. I was so excited that I’d been accepted into the program and confident that the experience would prove valuable and educational. That summer, my alarm went off every day at six a.m. Getting ready was easy because it didn’t really matter what I wore. I’d be covering it all up with a lab coat—unless I was doing surgical rounds, which meant changing into scrubs, a hairnet and a face mask. Every day at seven thirty a.m., the interns were briefed on that day’s schedule. Our program was meant to show us what it was really like being a doctor. Each morning exposed us to difficult cases, so by the time lunch came around, we couldn’t wait to sit down together in the cafeteria to relax and reflect on our experiences that morning. Everyone had strong opinions about whatever medical course of action was taken or needed. Listening to everyone’s point of view, I slowly began to realize that I didn’t share the passion or enthusiasm they did for what we were doing. But how could that be? I loved everything I was learning in school and during my plastic surgery internship, but hated the practical applications of those lessons in a hospital? It didn’t make sense. But an uncomfortable feeling started to nag at me, and with every day that passed, it became more difficult to ignore. I would spend all day in the hospital and then come home to my ailing grandma who lived with us after having had a stroke thirteen years earlier. It was wonderful to live with her—she was a remarkable person—but it was also extremely sad to watch her deteriorate. My time at the hospital and my home life combined were physically and emotionally draining. On Friday afternoons when I came home from the hospital, I couldn’t wait to shower and pick out my outfit for the night. Fashion excited me and on top of everything else, I hated that it didn’t matter what I wore each day. I missed my clothes. It was like someone had snipped my wings. Wearing scrubs was awful; they made me feel very self-conscious and just plain dumpy. The hairnets we had to wear during surgical rounds were mortifying (imagine wearing a shower cap out in public) and the face masks smudged my signature red lipstick. Medical wardrobe is clearly not a reason to give up on a profession, but I was looking for any excuse I could find to convince myself that the career path I was on was the wrong one. I told myself that if I became a doctor, I would not only be reliving my grandma’s long struggle, but I would also be giving up all the fashionable dreams of my youth. That gut feeling, the one that pulls at you to get your attention, is definitely worth the time to examine. I had to ask myself: Were these reasons big enough to quit medicine? I’d just spent three years working toward a career that I felt like I no longer wanted. But the thought of shifting gears so drastically seemed insane—and shifting them to what? Could I really walk away from a goal I’d had for such a long time? And what would I tell my proud parents? I had a choice. I could keep calm and carry on despite my reservations, or I could listen to my gut and see what else was out there. I decided that I couldn’t live my life with regret. My dream had changed and it wasn’t my fault. That’s precisely why you intern: to test the water. I had to be honest with myself and admit that it was OK to make a mistake. It’s by no means ideal, but it had to be OK. Sticking with medicine would have been the easy path, actually. No explanations necessary, no feeling embarrassed about my mistake. But when everything in your mind is screaming NO, you can’t ignore it and you shouldn’t ignore it. I had to make a new choice. I had to choose to shut the door on medicine. I knew there was no easy way to break the news to my parents; we just needed to sit down and have a serious heart-to-heart. So I waited until Saturday morning when it was quiet and I knew I would have their full attention. I wasn’t going to sugarcoat it, so I just went straight to the point. “I’ve been thinking a lot about my experience this summer, and I don’t think being a doctor is for me,” I said. Silence. “What do you mean?” my mom asked cautiously. “I mean that I am really not happy and I don’t think it’s because of this one hospital experience,” I said. “I don’t think I want to be a doctor anymore.” More silence. Maybe shock. I mean, how could they not be disappointed? How many people did they proudly tell that their daughter was going to be a plastic surgeon? I’m sure too many to count. “So, what do you guys think? Please say something,” I said quietly. “What should we say, Aliza?” (What is worse than when your parents use your actual name?!) “It’s your life and your decision. You need to do whatever you think is right for you,” my father said. “But what are you going to do?” pressed my mother. “I don’t know yet,” I said nervously. “But I hope to figure it out soon.” With that comment I got up and left the room. My head was swirling. I had spilled the beans but I didn’t feel any better. I was very anxious about my mother’s last question and also the way she asked it. Her tone was very “You have a plan B, right? Please tell me you have a plan B.” Her concern was legitimate. After all, I had only a year of college left. It was too late to change majors. It was too late to do much of anything. Oh and P.S., I had no idea what it actually was that I wanted to do. I needed a really good idea, and you know whenever you need one is precisely when your mind goes blank. Weeks later, when I was back at school sitting on my bed in my apartment, I glanced at my windowsill, where a copy of Arthur Elgort’s Models Manual was lying. I had bought that book in my senior year of high school. Elgort, a fashion photographer, filled the pages with stunning images of supermodels, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista among them. Completely unreachable, awe-inspiring beauty. Models that Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele had transformed into supermodels in the 1990s. I had flipped through that book countless times before. But something was different now. Something felt more important. I suddenly flashed back to my magazine-wallpapered room and it all became crystal clear. Those magazine pages had always been there, right under my nose: Fashion was the answer. I had spent years gathering magazine editorials to wallpaper my room. It defined who I was. But if you had asked me back then if I wanted to work at a fashion magazine, I would have looked at you like you had five heads. I knew no one working at any magazines or fashion houses. And keep in mind, at that time if you wanted a job, you had to mail your resumé, on paper, into a black hole and wait. I had no networks to draw from: no online job searches, no LinkedIn, not even Google! But at that moment I learned a very important lesson that I have carried throughout my career: You can’t just wait for someone to hand you the “in.” You have to make it yourself. INSIDER TIP: If you have no one to show you the ropes, you have to build a ladder. Take a Selfie: How Do You Know If You’re on the Right Path? Breaking news: Selfies are not just proof that you wore a great outfit! They can be used for reflection. You need to consider whether you’re even in the right hemisphere—geographically and/or metaphorically—for what you want to do. Who says you can’t have an “I’m going to be a… just kidding!” moment like I did? So what that I spent four years of college prepping for med school? Looking back at all the early warning signs, making the jump to fashion was a natural choice for me. Bottom line: It’s never too late to start over. We hear stories all the time of people later in life going back to school for something completely new and different. Those stories are inspiring. If you’re lucky and you’re honest with yourself, you might realize that you need to make a change early on. P.S. this is not a scientific quiz! These are simply questions to ask yourself in order to see your reflection better. Do you honestly know how you really feel about your career choice? Are you afraid of what people will say if you make an about-face? Remind me again whose life it is and how many of them you get? Yeah, that’s what I thought. I’m asking you these questions because it’s hard to ask these questions of yourself. So, go ahead and check your temperature: 1. How do you feel when you think about embarking on your chosen career path? a. happy b. excited c. indifferent d. apprehensive 2. Do you feel passionate about your industry of choice? a. yes b. not really c. not sure d. no 3. Are you ready/excited to do the hard work it takes to succeed? a. yes b. I have no choice c. not sure d. no 4. Are you envious of another person’s career path and wish that you could do something else? a. yes b. no c. sometimes 5. Does your mind ever drift off where you fantasize about doing something else? a. all the time b. never c. sometimes 6. What do you picture yourself doing if you weren’t going to stay on your current career path? 1st choice: 2nd choice: 3rd choice: 7. If you could do so without consequences, would you shift gears and choose another path? a. yes b. no c. not sure 8. Are you worried about what others will think if you changed gears? a. yes b. no c. not sure If the majority of your answers paint the picture of a dissatisfied, non-enthusiastic person, it’s time that you seriously rethink your path. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or are already years down the road. You get one life, but many chances. It’s time to take a new one. I’m going to show you how. We’re asked to make decisions that will affect us forever so early in life, and we often feel pressure to stick with the decisions we’ve made. But let’s face it, it’s not easy to find a career path. That’s why the selfie is important. Self-examination is key. If you’re happy with your answers, great. But if you’re not, you owe it to yourself to do something about it. CHAPTER TWO Getting Experience When You Have No Experience THE GOOD NEWS WAS, I WAS NOW CLEAR ON WHAT I WANTED: I WANTED TO WORK AT A FASHION MAGAZINE. THE BAD NEWS WAS THAT I HAD JUST spent three years studying neurobiology and physiology, and I was pretty sure my knowledge of organic chemistry was not going to get me very far in fashion. I needed related experience, something to at least move my resumé in the right direction. The million-dollar question we’ve all asked ourselves at some point is: How do you get experience when you have no experience? I decided that the only resource I had was the actual newsstand. Magazines always have a masthead—a page listing everyone on its staff—and I figured it could provide a wealth of information. So I snatched up DC Moment, the one regional magazine that looked promising, because its offices were located near my university. If I could somehow land an internship there, I’d be on my way to building that first rung of the ladder. I sent my resumé directly to every senior person on the masthead—not only to the human resources department (which, by the way, needs a new name). I figured sending my resumé to human resources would have been like waiting to hear a pin drop in Times Square. I had a gut feeling that I needed to connect with the person who had the job I was trying to get one day. INSIDER TIP: “To Whom It May Concern” never concerns anyone. My resumé was pretty nonexistent, so I had to make my cover letter magical. I knew it would be important to prove to DC Moment that I was a fan, so I rounded up the last few issues of the magazine in order to get knowledgeable. Poring over the magazine’s content, I made sure to tailor each letter to that editor’s specific role at the magazine. INSIDER TIP: One size cover letter does not fit all. I wasn’t about to tell the restaurant critic how much I loved DC Moment’s movie reviews. That may sound obvious, but I can promise you, based on the crap I see, it’s not obvious to everybody. For the next two weeks I checked the mail and my answering machine (that’s today’s voicemail!) incessantly. One afternoon I came home from class to find a message from an advertising sales representative at DC Moment magazine! Either they didn’t get a lot of requests for interns or I got lucky. I immediately returned the call. I didn’t want an internship in ad sales at all, but I wasn’t about to be picky. I needed to get experience and maybe if I proved myself, they would let me moonlight in another department. I had to start somewhere, right? John, the ad sales rep, asked if I could begin immediately and naturally I said yes! Of course I would have to work around my class schedule, but they were amenable to whatever hours I could commit. Commuting into Washington, DC, three days a week was not an easy task, but I did enjoy getting dressed to go to a real office. The atmosphere there was buzzing with people going to and from. It was an open, newsroom-type floor plan, with lots of desks situated in rows across an open space. People were lively and talkative, which would have made it easy for me to engage. But even though the environment was seemingly relaxed, I felt that I needed to be professional, and in my mind, that meant being serious. I definitely did not want to appear too comfortable too quickly, because I feared I would somehow suffer for it. This is one of those weird things—sometimes I think bosses don’t like it when you feel at home right off the bat. They want you to struggle a little bit, be a little intimidated and even revere them at the start. I thought then, and still think now, that it’s a good idea to let them warm up to you instead of the other way around. In general, when people start asking you for your opinion or ask you join them for a meeting, a lunch, whatever… that’s proof that you have earned your first stripe. INSIDER TIP: You’re not part of the club until someone tells you that you’re part of the club. I spent my days at DC Moment cold-calling companies to pitch them on buying advertising space in the magazine, a task I found uncomfortable and didn’t relish. But I was never going to show John my supervisor that. In fact, I went the opposite route. I powered through my call list so that I could be done as soon as possible. Then I used the extra time to research ads that were being placed in a competitor magazine and not DC Moment. I presented those companies to John as possible leads for new business. I wanted to show him that I had drive and that I was creative. He was impressed. Once I knew there was nothing more I could do for the ad sales team on any given workday, I would wander around the office to see what everyone else was up to. I needed to get experience beyond just making cold calls, because in the back of my mind, I knew I had to work on honing actual skills. As I’d originally suspected, I loved hanging with the people over in editorial, those who got to write about restaurant openings and cool new gadgets they liked. Even though I was technically an ad sales intern, I offered to help them any way I could once my own work for the day was done. INSIDER TIP: When you’re done with your to-do list, make your own work or ask for more. I wanted to absorb as much as I could and make myself available to every possible opportunity so that I’d have more comprehensive content to include on my resumé. By being so amenable to every task, I also made a lot of friends. I turned into the office’s intern, one who knew and was willing to help everyone. But making lemonade out of lemons wasn’t enough; I wanted to learn where I could get the lemons in the first place. That’s what I did at DC Moment; I learned all the parts of the business and how every area of the magazine came together to make the whole. I asked a lot of questions about the bigger picture and I got a lot of answers. When I was done I knew much more than when I had started. Throughout my later career, I’ve encountered way too many interns who don’t do that. Most interns don’t take advantage of the wealth of information before them and it’s a real shame. You can’t just float by in an internship. You can’t be what I call a “zombie intern.” You know the type—she’s there, she does everything asked of her, but there’s no pulse, no passion, no real understanding of the bigger picture. When a zombie’s internship comes to an end, she always asks for a reference and I’m always like, “Really? Do I even know you?” She ultimately learns the hard way. INSIDER TIP: Use your internship to start thinking and acting like you’re already a professional. A good resumé should make you appear at least a year ahead of your age or assumed experience level. I always love when I see recent graduates who have four years of internship experience. It shows me that they have not wasted a minute and that they know how important it is to take advantage of the opportunities out there. Too many students think college is a vacation, but the smart ones know they can’t just waste that time playing. Relevant experience on a resumé is always impressive, but sometimes seems impossible. You need to take what you can get and mold any experience to work for you. No matter the industry, you need to find those professional common denominators. INSIDER TIP: As long as the experience is related (and I mean loosely related) to your passion in some way, it’s worth your time and effort. Also, by taking an internship or job that’s not on your firmly designated career path, you may learn something new about yourself. Advertising sales was never going to be right for me. I knew that intuitively before I ever stepped foot in DC Moment. But instead of counting it out, I welcomed it in a different way. I saw that internship as an opportunity to test my skills in an environment that I secretly didn’t really care about. It’s like dating. “I like you as a friend” are brutally honest words that nobody wants to hear. But the funny thing about hearing them is that it takes the pressure completely off. Since he’s not going to like you in that way anyway, you may as well just be yourself. The same thing applies when you’re interning in a field that you don’t ultimately want to work in. You’re not afraid to be yourself and you’re not as intimidated, so you tend to ask more questions and show more personality, both of which lead to greater discovery and deeper relationships. MUST DO: GET EXPERIENCE WHEN YOU HAVE NO EXPERIENCE How annoying is it when people say, “Oh I’m sorry but we need someone with experience.” DUH. As if an employer would ever readily seek out an employee who is clueless to the job at hand. But we all know you have to start somewhere, and sometimes experience can come from a place you least envisioned. 1. Dig deep and find the contact that is closest to what you ultimately want to do, at the company you most want to work for. Once you manage to get that contact info, do NOT use it to ask how to get an internship there. You get one chance to make the pitch. Use that opportunity to make a great first impression with a killer cover letter and resumé. I find it lazy when hopefuls email to ask me how to apply to the company. They’re basically asking me to do the work for them, and that does not make for a good first impression! 2. No jobs or internships available? Set up exploratory interviews with as many different people as you can. If you’re lucky enough to make contact with a person in a company where you’d like to work, you need to milk it for everything. When you’re willing to go on what is essentially a fake interview, you show a lot of enthusiasm and determination. Plus, you can learn a lot from the person you meet. But don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a casual chat. INSIDER TIP: You still need to do the same prep for an exploratory interview that you would do for a legit interview, and you should take it just as seriously, which also means dress appropriately. Every person you meet gives you the ability to expand your network. 3. At the end of your exploratory interview, ask if it’s OK if you stay in touch and inquire about any future positions down the line. Then ask if there’s anyone else at the organization that your interviewer might recommend for you to meet, and, if so, politely ask to be introduced. INSIDER TIP: This question gets your interviewer thinking about YOU and what you want to do. Every supervisor wants to sound knowledgeable, so I’m making a bet that she will come up with other people. 4. If you can’t land an internship at the company of your dreams, you need to make use of your time in other ways. Smaller companies always need help, so it’s worth reaching out to them even if you ultimately want to work for a big brand. If you can’t afford to quit your day job, perhaps there’s a way to work on projects at night or on weekends. It never hurts to ask!! Anything you can do to gain experience and show your determination is worth your time. I know people who have continued projects on their own accord, even after they have left an internship, because they want to keep that connection going. 5. If you still feel like you’re getting nowhere, continue learning! The Internet has a wealth of online classes and tutorials from very established people who can virtually mentor you. If you search your field of interest and add words like “how to” or “IndustryX 101,” you would be amazed at how many free tutorials and blogs are dedicated to educating people. You can hone your skills by creating specific searches related to every aspect of the job you want. For example, if I Google “PR 101,” over ninety-seven million articles pop up. I could refine the search even more to take a deeper dive, but you get the point. Bottom line, don’t wait to be taught; go out and teach yourself. Showing potential employers all the classes you have taken to improve your knowledge will show determination. Getting your foot in the door takes a lot of work. When I applied for my internship, I didn’t have anyone to guide me. I knew that I had to do the work. However, if you’re lucky enough to have a lead, you should of course use it to help you break in. That said though, you need to be careful as to how you use your connection. My friend Samantha once shared a cautionary tale with me about a college student trying to get her first job—and relying on her mother to do the heavy lifting. INSIDER TIP: If you want a profession, you need to act like a professional. One day at work, Samantha received a surprising phone call. “Hi, Samantha, this is Sally, I spoke to you a few years ago about x, y and z.” Samantha had no clue what Sally was talking about. “Sally, how can I help you?” Samantha asked. “My daughter is graduating in May and she’s looking for a job. She would love the opportunity to work in your department.” Samantha’s instinctive thought was, Why am I talking to you and not her? This girl’s mom is calling to get her a job? Was her mom planning to come to the first day of work, too?! She had to hold herself back from saying, “Your daughter is too old to have Mommy come calling.” Instead, Samantha politely explained to Sally that there were no positions available, but Sally pressed on. Samantha was dying to tell this woman to stop ruining her daughter’s career, and then she contemplated asking to speak to Sally’s daughter so she could school her as well. Sally was relentless. She wasn’t willing to take no for an answer. Every time Samantha tried to end the conversation, Sally suggested another way that she thought her daughter could fit in the department. Samantha ended up having a fifteen-minute conversation with Sally, giving her real advice and information. When she finally got off the phone, Samantha’s colleagues flew into her office with “WHO WAS THAT?! That sounded painful!!” Umm yes, it was, and Samantha was thankful to be off the phone. The next day, Samantha was scrolling through email, when she suddenly saw Sally’s name. She was shocked that Sally had made contact again and immediately forwarded it to her team (and eventually me) so that they could share in her amazement. When I read this email myself, I couldn’t believe how clueless this mother was. Samantha, of course, agreed with me and was kind enough to share her witty commentary in italicized parentheses. From: Sally Jones To: Samantha McNally Subject: Job for my daughter Hi Samantha, I left you a phone message and hope you remember we spoke yesterday. (No, I forgot, sorry, I have amnesia.) My daughter is very interested in the field of communications and reminded me that she was president of the Debate team in High school. (Totally unrelated and P.S. “debate” and “high” are not proper nouns.) I contacted you, because you helped me in the past. (I’m sorry, but I have no idea who you are, lady.) My daughter is looking for a full-time position and would love to work at your company. You directed her to look at your website to see what departments she would be interested in and she is very open and interested in communications. (I’m still confused as to why I am speaking to you and not her?) I am proud to say that my daughter is very smart and is graduating early. (Umm she’s not that smart if she has you calling for her.) She has had wonderful internships for the past two summers and you can see more information about her on her resumé, which is attached. She will be living in NY this coming year. She noticed on your website that most positions require working experience. Everyone needs to begin somewhere. (Yes, but that’s precisely why she should have called me.) We are hoping she can begin her career with you. We are hoping you can open the door to an interview. I would so appreciate if you could send her resumé to whoever is in charge of hiring or training programs. Best Regards, Sally (You mean “Mommy”) Sally was trying to do everything to make sure her daughter didn’t fail. She’s not a bad parent; it’s just that she doesn’t realize that she is doing her daughter a disservice. On the reverse side, her daughter doesn’t realize how bad it looks to an employer that she isn’t doing the outreach herself. To be clear, I am going on the assumption that the daughter knew what her mother was doing. I imagine the conversation going something like: “Honey, I know someone at CompanyX! I will call for you.” “Thanks, Mom! That’s great!” But what should have happened is an email like this: From: Ruby Jones To: Samantha McNally Subject: Job Inquiry Dear Samantha, I am reaching out to inquire about a position you may have available within your communications department. I have grown up loving your company as my mother knows you from x, y and z. You might recall her? Her name is _________. (and so on.…) That is a cover letter intro that Samantha would have respected. It’s perfectly fine and smart to use any connection you may have to a potential employer, but at a certain point it becomes poor form to not speak for yourself. Having Mommy do the legwork comes off as lazy. Now you may be sitting there blaming the mom, but if that were my mom, I can assure you that I would have never let her call a prospective employer. It would have been easy to just never reply to Sally’s email, but Samantha couldn’t sit back and let this scenario ever happen again. She had to educate them; as painful as it was to address it with Sally, she felt she had a responsibility to do so. Samantha sent the following email back: From: Samantha McNally To: Sally Jones Subject: Re: Job for my daughter Dear Sally, Your daughter should feel free to send her resume to PersonX in human resources, but I have to tell you that I believe you are doing a disservice to her. I am sure you are a great mom and one who obviously cares deeply about your daughter’s success, but by doing the work for her, you are actually hurting her. She must do the outreach to companies herself. I hope you understand my point of view and I wish her luck in her job search. Best Regards, Samantha Then she waited for the explosion. But guess what? Sally was surprisingly appreciative of Samantha’s email. Sally responded by explaining that her aim was to make the connection for her daughter through “their” relationship. Samantha explained to Sally that her daughter could have essentially made the same connection herself in her cover letter. Samantha felt really good that she broached the topic with her and genuinely hoped that she made a difference in her daughter’s path toward a profession. A few weeks later, Sally’s daughter finally called Samantha herself to inquire about a possible position. Funny thing, she never mentioned her mother or any previous conversations had. Good for her; let bygones be bygones. Better late than never! I love a happy ending, don’t you? Three cheers for honesty! So what can we learn from all of this? Getting experience when you have no experience is not easy and it takes creativity and passion. You absolutely need to use whatever resources are available to you, but you always need to remember the impression that you are trying to make. It’s not enough to nail the cover letter and have a good resumé. You also need to act the part. You need to be a professional before you actually are a professional. If you’re asking an employer to consider you for a job, you need to show that employer that you are first and foremost taking responsibility for yourself. After all, if you can’t be responsible for yourself, how can you possibly handle the job? CHAPTER THREE Writing a Killer Cover Letter and Rock-Solid Resumé THE POSTCOLLEGIATE, RITE-OF-PASSAGE TRIP TO EUROPE WAS AND STILL IS WHAT EVERY COLLEGE GRADUATE THINKS THEY DESERVE. BUT I’VE NEVER been one for roughing it, so deciding to skip backpacking across a continent and sleeping in youth hostels was a very easy decision for me. I also knew that I didn’t have a “right” to go. Sure, my internship at DC Moment had been great, but it was not nearly enough. One internship does not make an impressive resumé and mine still glaringly lacked fashion experience. I knew I couldn’t waste the summer playing; if I wanted to get a job in fashion, I had to buckle down. It was time for actual fashion experience. Although none of the lovely people I’d met at DC Moment had any connections I could use, I did get one particular nugget of information that I was able to run with. John explained to me that group-publishing companies owned the big fashion magazines. I had never heard of Condé Nast or Hearst before, and that little fact opened my eyes to another world of places I could apply to. See, you never know what you can learn from an experience! Armed with more knowledge than I started with at DC Moment, I went back to the newsstand again. This time I purchased my favorite high-fashion magazines. Those magazines were the ones that I used to wallpaper my room with back in the day, and now they were where I wanted to work. Nothing like aiming high! So I sent my pre-med resumé, now with at least one internship’s worth of magazine experience, to the fashion and accessories editors at each of those titles. Just by reading the mastheads, I’d figured out that fashion was somehow a separate department from accessories. I didn’t know what the different jobs entailed, but I did know that reaching out to both would increase my odds. I also sent my resumé to the human resources departments at Condé Nast and Hearst, specifying the magazines I was interested in working at. My cover letter—which I sent to each magazine editor, changing only their names and the name of the magazine—was as sincere as I could make it without being nauseating. I also geared it toward the fashion-conscious. If I was emailing multiple people at the same magazine, I made sure to alter each letter so that they wouldn’t be identical. Dear Mr. Johnson, My name is Aliza Bernfeld and I am a senior at the University of Maryland. I’m currently a neurobiology and physiology major and I have been working toward becoming a plastic surgeon since high school. But this past summer when I interned at a local hospital, I came to the harsh realization that my passion for medicine was no longer there. Upon further reflection, I recognized that my childhood love for fashion has never really gone away. You see, I grew up with Haute’s fashion pages on my bedroom walls, and fashion has always inspired me. But ironically, as much as I love fashion, I never understood that fashion was a career that I could pursue. I decided to take steps to better understand the magazine industry in the hopes that my experience would lead me to an internship at Haute Magazine. Working at DC Moment showed me that I am extremely interested in the editorial side of a magazine. I hope that you will allow me the privilege of learning how your magazine is created this summer. Enclosed, please find my resumé for your perusal. Thank you in advance for your consideration. Sincerely, Aliza Bernfeld I concluded that I had nothing to lose by telling the truth. Yes, I’d made a mistake, but with the help of these editors, I was very much hoping to correct it. I’ve always been a very forthright person, and I think that has helped me gain the trust of many. I believe that there is something very attractive about honesty. INSIDER TIP: When you have a glaring omission or lack of experience on your resumé, it’s best to address it head-on. My letter to Haute Magazine worked, and I received an offer to join their team as an intern in the accessories department. My dream came true! MUST DO: WRITE A KILLER COVER LETTER There are thousands of books out there on how to write a cover letter. I haven’t read a single one. The dos and don’ts that I will share with you are based purely on what I have seen throughout my career. I know which cover letters I react well to and which ones I don’t. If you’ve got the basics down pat, good for you! But I can promise you, based on what I’ve seen, too many people don’t. Plus, it never hurts to be reminded of the 101 stuff, because truly nothing is worse than making a rookie mistake. 1. Spell the name of the person you are addressing correctly. (You don’t deserve employment if you don’t!) 2. Refer to the person by his or her correct professional title, and spell that correctly, too. Don’t you dare think to yourself that you can’t find this. If it’s not readily available on the Internet, make a phone call. INSIDER TIP: Do not abbreviate! Abbreviating is perceived as both casual and lazy. 3. Spell the company’s name correctly. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen “passionate fans of the brand” spell the company’s name wrong on a cover letter. Seriously? I have no words.) Oh and P.S. consult the company’s official website. INSIDER TIP: Google searches will pull anything, including user-generated content with incorrect spellings! Google is not official; neither is Wikipedia. 4. Use formal writing etiquette. That means NO text-message speak. (You are NOT friends!) Dust off “Dear” and “Sincerely,” because you’ll need them. 5. Choose your font carefully. For professional correspondence I like Arial. For a more personal, less formal letter, I love Century Gothic. Please, please do not send your cover letter in Comic Sans (puke!) or any other font with too much personality. Your font should match the industry you are applying for. For example, Times New Roman for a position at a law firm would probably be the right call. 6. Use a font size no bigger than 10. The bigger your font, the more casual your writing will seem. A smaller font shows the letter’s recipient that you understand professional correspondence and you’re keeping yourself in check. 7. Do not write in all caps, because that’s considered SCREAMING. When people write in all caps I can feel my hair blowing back! 8. Do not use exclamation points. The tone of the letter should be professional, not squeeeel!!! 9. Do not use any punctuation that would be interpreted as chummy or overly comfortable. Emoticons (like smiley faces, for example) are unacceptable in any professional correspondence when you have yet to form a close working relationship. So are abbreviations like LOL, IRL, etc. Even little marks that denote friendliness should be avoided. For example, a lot of people in the fashion world sign off with a kiss on email like this: Aliza x You do not do that when you don’t know the person reading your letter. You especially don’t do that when you are applying for a job. Just remember that when trying to impress a potential employer, casual correspondence kills. K? 10. If someone has recommended that you contact the person you’re writing, always mention that right at the start of your cover letter. For example: Dear Jane, John Doe suggested that I reach out to you regarding the manager position available in your department. It goes without saying that John Doe better have really recommended you do that. Never name-drop for the sake of name-dropping. It never ends well! 11. Include one or two sentences that summarize who you are and what you’ve been doing professionally. Remember that these sentences should relate back to the job at hand. You must focus on getting the employer’s attention. But be brief! This is the part where you have to choose between your babies (a.k.a. the most important pieces of yourself). If it helps, pretend that you’re on a morning show and the news anchor has asked you to describe yourself in six seconds before they go to commercial break. What would be the most important statement you would make? 12. Include at least one really good line conveying why you want to work at that specific company. It’s not enough to say you want to work “in communications,” for example. Prove why you want to work in communications there. INSIDER TIP: It’s really ALL about them. 13. If you can, cite one of the company’s recent accomplishments that you really admire. That shows that you are really up on the company and a true fan. Even if you’re not, fake it, baby. 14. Get to the point quickly. Nothing is worse than a person taking forever to get to the punch line. 15. Read it over multiple times. Seriously. 16. The last time, read it backward. Yup, you heard me. When you read copy backward, you inevitably read more slowly, which is a great way to catch spelling, punctuation or grammar errors that you might otherwise blow past. 17. If you are emailing this correspondence, the cover letter should be written right into the body of the email with the resumé document attached. People are lazy, and opening two attachments is one more step they might not want to take. 18. Or better yet, GPS your resumé! Upload it to a “share file” system. This way, you can track when your document has been downloaded or the link to your file has been shared. Your cover letter should be written right into the body of the email inviting the recipient to download your resumé. 19. Don’t include promises like, “I will call you next week to follow up.” Because a) that just solidifies the fact that this employer need not take any action, since you’ve promised to do the following up, and b) what if for some reason you forget to do it? You’re setting yourself up for failure either way. 20. Close the letter thanking the recipient “in advance” for her consideration. I like this for good measure, as it doesn’t actually do anything in particular except make for a nice ending. I didn’t have very much to put on my resumé at this stage in my journey toward fashion, but what I didn’t want to do was mess up all my hard work on a penalty for stupid fonts, poor wording or lack of maturity. The key to a good resumé is to include the content that will be relevant to the employer or position you are going for. For example, being in charge of the office supply closet does not impress me. That’s not a marketable skill. But if you told me that you were able to reduce the monthly office supply bill by 15 percent by reorganizing the way supplies were distributed, that’s something I would be impressed to see. You have to focus on skills that an employer reading your resumé would see value in. What experience do you have that can be an asset to this position? You don’t have to list everything. For example, I don’t care what sorority or fraternity you were in. I want to know what you did in college that is going to help the company. So if you were president or social chair of that sorority, that tells me something. It tells me that when you speak, people listen. That’s a skill worth sharing. If you can answer, “Why would they care about this?” to every bullet point you write, you’re in good shape. If you can’t, lose it. MUST DO: WRITE A KILLER RESUMÉ I’ve reviewed hundreds of resumés and whenever I do, it takes me about a nanosecond to decipher if it’s going in the trash or not. If I boot a resumé out of the game right away, it’s because the writer was sloppy and messed up the basics. So I’m going to go ahead and go over the rudimentary things that everyone should know, because based on what I see, they don’t. Once you have the foundation, you need to make sure your resumé style matches the job you are applying for. If you are applying to be the executive assistant to a CEO in finance, then perhaps your lavender resumé paper and swirly, scripted font might be better suited to a bridal shower invitation. I’m a very visual person, so paper color, quality and font inevitably make a powerful first impression. When you design your resumé, you need to always remember that this little piece of paper is the only thing representing you until you hopefully get called in to interview. So what do you want to show that employer? 1. Start with your objective and tailor it very specifically to the job you are applying for. That means you might have multiple versions of your resumé for multiple job applications. Keep the wording brief and to the point. (For example, if you are applying for a job in public relations, but include an objective about wanting to work in marketing, that is going to show your potential employer that a) you don’t know the difference or b) you were not careful when you re-edited your resumé for multiple positions.) Here are a few examples of objectives for a candidate pursuing a job in PR, but applying to various companies: Objective: To secure a position in the public relations department at a luxury fashion brand. Objective: To secure a position in the public relations department of a fashion magazine. Objective: To secure a position as an account manager at a public relations agency specializing in fashion. All three of these objectives show this person wants to work in PR, but it specifies where they want to work in PR. As I’ve stated previously, one size does not fit all! 2. Every company you’ve worked for should be listed formally (no abbreviations), with the exact title of the position you held. 3. Under each position title, list your job accomplishments, not only your responsibilities. INSIDER TIP: What you have done is more important than what you were supposed to do. 4. Do try to apply statistical information to each accomplishment. For example, it’s not enough to say that you “grew the business.” You need to be specific and say, for example, that you “grew the business by 5 percent.” 5. Do not list accomplishments that are clearly the work of the team. For example, if you were an intern and you state that you secured three new clients for the firm, I’m not going to believe that. INSIDER TIP: Keep your resumé real, otherwise people will see right through you. 6. List the dates of employment for each job. List your most recent and relevant experience first. 7. Describe your skills in the most sophisticated way you can. For example, don’t just state that you’re “social savvy.” Instead, state that you are social media trained with specific knowledge of x, y and z platforms and grew a community of x number of fans. 8. Include multiple ways for an employer to contact you. These ways should also be the best ways. For example, if you know you can never talk at work, then why list your work phone number? Include the contact information that you know you have the most access to, because you’re going to want to respond quickly. Taking four days to return a phone call from a potential employer is not a good look. If you want to include your social profiles, you should include them at the bottom as a separate line item since you obviously don’t want a potential employer contacting you publicly for the world to see! 9. But before you include your social media profiles, make sure that you are comfortable with what an employer might find if they searched them. If you’re not, make them private or delete any questionable posts. 10. Use the same type of keywords that the employer might list in a job search profile. Don’t make them have to think! Make it easy. For example, if the employer includes technical skill terms on the job posting, serve them right back up on your cover letter. 11. If you have gaps of time in your job history, it is best to address what you were doing during that time. Try to phrase the language to be as favorable as possible to the job you are applying for. For example, if you took time off to travel to India, explain what you got out of that experience that could possibly add value to your next endeavor. No matter what, though: account for the time. 12. It is OK to omit unimportant experiences or jobs if they are not going to enhance your resumé, but only if omitting them does not create new gaps of time. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and that is how you have to think of your cover letter and resumé. They are taking you on your first date. But just like in the early stages of dating, you need to bring your A-game every time. These documents are never final. They need to be reviewed with fine scrutiny every time, before you send them out again. I promise you that with every review you will find a typo or an opportunity to make a bullet point better. Sometimes you might even find something that you can’t believe you included! Looking at your cover letter and resumé anew is even more important if some time has passed since the last time you sent them out. When you view these documents with fresh eyes, you are giving yourself a chance to reconsider how you might be perceived. Most importantly, though, make sure your current documents make sense for this new potential job opportunity. CHAPTER FOUR Sucking Your Internship Dry I REMEMBER MY MOTHER DRIVING ME INTO NEW YORK CITY ON THE FIRST DAY OF MY HAUTE INTERNSHIP. I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO WEAR OR HOW TO act—but it turned out that didn’t really matter, because I was the last person anybody there was thinking about. If people even looked in my direction and blinked at me, I was lucky. But that was also fortunate, because this anonymity gave me a chance to take in my surroundings and absorb the way things were done: how people dressed, what they sounded like, who was friends with whom, etc. My boss was a very dynamic guy named Dean Johnson who was handsome in a boyish way with wavy brown hair and the most endearing smile. He’d been at Haute Magazine for many years, and I could immediately tell that he was very well liked and great at what he did. His team consisted of two women named Cara and Meredith. Cara was the more senior editor of the two, and she had that olive-skinned, “I just came back from vacation” look going for her. She also had an equally relaxed disposition, which made working for her a nice experience. Meredith was a born-and-bred New Yorker, one whose wit was as sharp as her heels were high. Meredith kept the day lively and made the office a fun place to be. The three of them seemed to get along famously, creating a work environment that was both entertaining and interesting. They were my first teachers in what would be my very long education in the fashion industry. Dean’s job was to edit the accessories collections and decide the trends based on what he thought was relevant to the Haute Magazine reader. He curated accessories for his own “still-life” pages and provided accessories options to the fashion department for whatever model shoots they were styling. He would present his ideas for all of this in “run-throughs” with the editor in chief or the fashion director, and they would decide what would ultimately go on the shoot. At Haute I learned that just because something goes on a photo shoot, doesn’t mean it actually gets photographed. I also learned that just because something gets photographed, doesn’t mean the image is going to turn out great, in which case it gets dropped from the story. There was an extraordinary amount of product that needed to be “called in” for shoots. Cara and Meredith had relationships with the in-house public relations people at all the major design houses as well as outside PR agencies that represented various designers. Essentially, they would call in product for the magazine to borrow for a short period of time, and then the product would be returned to its rightful home. It was the job of the interns—a.k.a. me—to “check in” the product, which meant taking a Polaroid (yes, a Polaroid, on film) of every single accessory and documenting the date it arrived and the date it was returned. This inventory process was tedious, but essential. Designers sometimes produce only one sample of an item. That one sample needs to be loaned out for hundreds of photo shoots around the world. If Cara requested a Prada bag for a photo shoot, the PR person she called might tell her: a) That it’s available from x date to y date b) That it’s not available because it’s out on another shoot (the name of the other magazine never being disclosed) c) That it’s not available because it’s out with CelebX (name definitely disclosed for effect) d) That it’s out for a sales event (usually a lie and the real answer is b) So if Cara was lucky enough to get a coveted handbag in for Dean, I can promise you that there was a very specific “return date” that had to be honored. If we messed up and caused the item to miss the next shoot on the PR person’s schedule, she might never loan us her precious samples again. For the duration of an accessory’s stay at Haute Magazine, it would reside in the closet. The closet was essentially a large room filled with racks, shelves and hooks. But what filled those racks and shelves were thousands of dollars of designer accessories. Every luxury designer you could ever imagine was represented. We had hundreds of shoes, handbags and trays of costume jewelry, hats, scarves and belts. It was any girl’s dream closet and of course it was the place that I loved the most at the magazine. It was my job to maintain the closet, making sure the shoes were all properly arranged by color and style, the bag styles were kept together, the belts were hung and the jewelry was perfectly placed on velvet trays. I was also a self-appointed Chief Bunny Collector, picking out the dust bunnies that would inexplicably, yet inevitably, accumulate on a daily basis. The thing about getting your first big break is, you have to be enamored with everything. I was the first person to turn on the lights at the office in the morning and usually the last person to leave. I never sat around idle. I always asked if there was something else I should be doing. I thought ahead and would try to take the next logical step so that when Dean asked me to do something, I could happily say that it was already done. INSIDER TIP: Anticipate your boss’s needs. I absorbed. I asked questions. I didn’t waste a minute of time but instead always tried to learn something new. I was business-focused. A great attitude is one of your most marketable skills, and if you can muster the energy and passion to have a good attitude about any task, large or small, then you will get very far. You can always tell when an employee thinks, “Oh, that’s stupid. I’m not going to put a lot of effort into that.” Wrong attitude! You have to think about how that task serves the bigger picture. Every job matters along the food chain, so take pride in everything you do, even if it seems pointless at the time. Also, if you throw a fit when you have to do something you don’t want to, I can promise you that when a good project pops up, it will be given to someone else. So I embraced every aspect of my internship, and with every day that passed, I started to get more comfortable with the people I worked with. Dean and the girls were so warm and friendly that it was easy for me to begin to feel like I was truly part of the team. One day, I decided to ask the question that had been on my mind since day one. “How did I get this internship? I’m just curious because I didn’t exactly have the right experience,” I asked Dean. Dean threw me a sassy look from across the room and said, “Honey, that’s exactly why we liked you! You had a different perspective. You don’t need to have fashion experience to love fashion. And your cover letter rocked.” There you have it. Honesty had worked, and in this case, my lack of a fashion major hadn’t mattered. From that moment on, I felt an even greater sense of belonging, but I still minded my behavior. If they were serious, I was. If they were playful, so was I, although I made sure never to come across as more playful than they did. INSIDER TIP: Calibrate your behavior based on your boss’s cues. In the beginning, you never want to play or laugh too hard because when you do, it reminds your superiors that you’re only an intern, and a way-too-comfortable one at that. The trick is to be aware of people’s reactions. A good stand-up comedian always knows when he has lost the audience. You have to pay attention to the reaction you get when you’re putting yourself out there a bit more loudly. If it’s an awkward one, pull back accordingly. Even though I was feeling comfortable and liked, I still knew there were limits. The editors often borrowed accessories from the closet if they were running out to an important appointment or out for an evening event. The closet was essentially their closet. I could see how after a while, you definitely start to feel like those accessories are yours. But that perk was not something I would dare ask for. One day I was in the closet holding a pair of amazing Mary Jane stacked heel pumps. I’m not going to lie; I was fantasizing about how great they would look with my outfit and imagined myself wearing them after work at Bryant Park, where I was going for drinks that night. At that moment, Meredith came in and somehow knew exactly what I was thinking. “Do you want to borrow them?” she asked. “Oh, no, I couldn’t,” I said, totally unconvincingly. “Sure you can!” she replied. “Enjoy them. Just bring them back tomorrow.” Ahhhhh!!! I can’t even express the excitement I felt. Not only because I got to wear killer heels, but even more so, because Meredith had trusted me. I was really becoming one of them. I wore the Mary Jane pumps to drinks that night and was the envy of all of my friends. Hell, I was practically envious of myself. I felt like a million bucks. It was in that moment that I really felt the power of fashion, how a great shoe or dress or accessory can change your mind-set and boost your confidence. As long as those shoes were on my feet I felt unstoppable. P.S. I would later go on to buy those same shoes at a sample sale and have a near-death experience in them when the heel broke off midstride on Madison Avenue. No big deal (*S). Getting around in high heels was a must-have skill for every editor. In fact, at the time, there was many a rumor that fashion editors at certain high-profile magazines were actually not allowed to wear flats. Well, thankfully, as an intern who had to run around like crazy, no one cared if I did. One stormy afternoon I was asked to run an errand. “Aliza, can you rush-deliver this hosiery to the set at Lincoln Center? It’s really urgent, so take a cab,” one of the editors instructed me. I rushed out of the office with no raincoat and no umbrella. Of course, on a rainy afternoon in New York City, you could more easily win the lottery than find an available cab, so I had to take the subway. By the time I arrived at Lincoln Center and had made my way across its vast open courtyard, I was soaked to the bone, but I didn’t care. I was going to save the day on the shoot! I ran into the building like I was delivering a live heart to a transplant surgeon and my arrival would literally save lives. “These are for you, Paul,” I said breathlessly to the on-set assistant as he snatched the bag from my hands and walked off. And that was it. No marching band of thanks for me. No “You saved the day, Aliza!” I don’t know why I expected so much more gratitude, but I realized on that day it would be a long time before someone appreciated something I did. “Thank you,” it seemed, was not in most fashion people’s vocabularies. INSIDER TIP: Don’t expect a thank-you or a pat on the back. Do a great job for YOURSELF. I returned to the office a bit defeated, but mostly thrilled to have witnessed a real photo shoot, if only for a moment. So what if I was a glorified messenger? One day, you’re hobnobbing in Bryant Park in designer shoes, and the next, you’re a rain-soaked minion who didn’t get a “thanks.” All that mattered was that one day I would play a more meaningful role. INSIDER TIP: Put your head down and just do the work. After a couple of successful months at Haute Magazine, I decided that maybe it was also a good idea to get more fashion experience to put on my resumé. I asked Dean if it would be OK to cut my days down to four so that I could also intern somewhere else. He was amenable. Please note that I would have never even broached this idea had I not been confident that I had invested enough solid time at Haute and had proven myself to Dean. I knew that I would have his support because he knew I was a hardworking and dedicated intern. I knew he would understand what I was trying to do. Another Haute fashion editor got wind that I was looking for an additional internship opportunity and mentioned that her cousin was the fashion director at Le Ville Magazine and that maybe they needed some interns. She called her cousin and arranged a phone interview for me. Shoot, score! I got the one-day-a-week gig. Friday would be my day of the week to go to Le Ville and hopefully learn more applicable skills. But most importantly, I would be able to get my second “fashion bullet point” to put on my resumé. If Haute was the angel of internships, Le Ville turned out to be the devil. First off, Le Ville wasn’t technically a fashion magazine, so the makeshift fashion department was confined to the magazine’s tiny floral-and-mahogany-decorated conference room. (Seriously, I can’t think of a decor less fashionable.) There was an army of us, which was good because there’s always safety in numbers, but there wasn’t enough room for everyone. The hours we worked, meanwhile, were completely insane. Sometimes we would stay in that one room until two in the morning, packing up for shoots. On top of those subpar working conditions, the fashion editor, Leanne, was a total nightmare. (P.S. the fashion director, a.k.a. the cousin of the Haute fashion editor who recommended me, was lovely and not the issue. The problem was that she was often out of the office on shoots and we were left with Leanne.) She pretty much treated us like dirt—never actually talking to us, just spitting out orders. It was at Le Ville Magazine that I learned a valuable lesson: how not to be. It’s funny; sometimes you learn the most from watching people display their worst. I had been lucky to have nurturing bosses at Haute, so this was new for me. But at the end of the day, I just needed to put Le Ville Magazine on my resumé and hopefully get a glowing reference letter out of it as well. INSIDER TIP: Suck it up and get the most out of the experience, no matter what. After five months of interning, I had finally made a career dent. So when an accessories assistant position opened up at Atelier Magazine, Dean recommended me for the job. Actually, he pretty much threatened the Atelier team that if they didn’t hire me, he’d kill them. I am forever indebted to Dean; he was the fairy godfather that everyone needs at one point or another to break through. There’s always that one person who gives you the chance, who takes you under his wing and changes your career path forever. If you can identify a supervisor with a generous teaching spirit, then it’s worth your time and energy to make sure you continue to cultivate that relationship. Unfortunately, it’s easy to lose touch with people as you move around in business, but if you make an effort to keep going back to the well, you will begin to create that mentor/mentee relationship. Be sure to keep your mentor abreast of where you are and how things are going. If you are contemplating a move, your mentor is the perfect person to bounce opportunities past. When you have implemented some of his advice and the results have been favorable, let your mentor know. He will be thrilled he was right and able to help! You should be sure to always thank your mentor for all his support. A handwritten note goes a long way. From time to time, you could also send a token of thanks, like flowers. These little gestures show that you value the advice given and the time your mentor has taken to show you the way. These relationships are essential to nurture early, as they will prove invaluable to you as you move up your career ladder. INSIDER TIP: Find a mentor or career angel to build a strategic and meaningful professional relationship with. MUST DO: INTERN LIKE A ROCK STAR When you enter a real work environment for the first time, especially as a college student starting an internship, remember why you want to be there: First and foremost, to learn real marketable skills that can enhance your resumé and to secure a strong referral from your supervisor. You do not go about getting these things by thinking, “Oh, I’m just an intern, so this experience doesn’t really matter.” Too many people make the mistake of thinking that since they don’t “really” work somewhere, how they present themselves isn’t of consequence. On the contrary, how you present yourself matters more because you’re trying to prove yourself and break in. By the last day of your internship, your boss should be begging for you to stay. She should be saying things like, “What are we going to do without you?” That is a lasting impression. That is a reference nailed. Here’s how you do that: 1. Dress the part: The more you can dress to fit the office culture, the easier it will be for people there to visualize you as part of the team. Now, here’s where you start panicking that you don’t have the money to shop for new clothes. Listen: Shop thrift stores or borrow from friends. When my sister and I get bored of our closets we swap wardrobes. It feels as gratifying as shopping! If you can afford to, invest in accessories. A quality shoe or handbag is much harder to fake. When in doubt about your wardrobe, wear black. Black doesn’t make mistakes. Be mindful of the cuts: The office is no place for strapless or cleavage. Miniskirts can also be a no-no. You’re not stupid so you don’t need me to tell you this but… don’t dress like you’re going out clubbing. Guys, for you the advice is different. For some reason, men underestimate the importance of a clean, pressed shirt. Don’t dress like you’ve just rolled out of bed. A sleepy outfit can give the impression of a sleepy mind. 2. Investigate your employers beforehand: Google the names of anyone you know who works there. Study them and memorize who they are. There’s no excuse for not knowing who the CEO of a company is—when you end up in the elevator alone with him, you don’t want to mistakenly ignore him. If you can, it’s also smart to examine your future coworkers’ body language in photographs; are they really smiley and having fun or are they serious and stiff? If they’ve been quoted anywhere, what did they say? What do people say about them? Think like an investigative reporter and come up with a few takeaways as to what the tone of the office might be like. INSIDER TIP: Know the players or you won’t know how to play the game. 3. Be on time: No, better yet, get there before everyone else does. If your boss shows up and you’re already in the office, that’s bonus points and if you ask your supervisor the night before what project you could start in the morning, you’ll achieve rock star status in no time. Going above and beyond will pay off, I promise you. And if you have the nerve to be late, guess what you’re giving off? The “I don’t really value this opportunity” sign. You may as well pick out your tombstone now, because, honey, you are dead and buried. 4. Remember, you’re not one of them: You don’t actually have a job, you have an internship. Your boss doesn’t want to hear unsolicited information about your boyfriend problems or what you ate for dinner last night, and she certainly doesn’t want to hear that you’re so tired because you were out partying until three a.m. On the flip side, your boss doesn’t want to be interrogated by you either. Don’t ask personal questions. You’ll know if and when the relationship evolves because she’ll start voluntarily disclosing personal tidbits about her life. Even then, you’re better off as the listener than the blabbermouth. It should not be you sending the first “we’re friends now” signal. INSIDER TIP: Filter what you say to your boss. 5. Learn to self-start: Not every manager is good at delegating and giving direction, so taking the initiative to make your own work goes a long way. Nothing is worse than seeing an intern sitting around because he has nothing to do. If you can’t figure out what you should or could be doing, then by all means, ask. 6. Take a hint: When you start working in an office, you need to pay close attention to the culture and the atmosphere. Is it loud? Is it serious? Are people eating lunch at their desks? You know what they say, when in Rome… same idea here. You need to follow the lead of the environment and try to mimic the way your colleagues work. If everyone wears black daily and you decide you’re going to wear red, you’re making a very loud statement and not necessarily a positive one. Best to wait until you have really established yourself. 7. Don’t question everything: Whoever said, “There are no stupid questions,” was wrong. That said, do your boss a favor and try to research the answers to your own questions before you ask them. I would much rather someone say, “The Condé Nast building is at One World Trade Center. I just wanted to check that’s where you want the package sent,” as opposed to, “Where is the Condé Nast building?” 8. Don’t gossip: Once you spend enough time in an office, you’ll start to realize that office politics are a lot like high school; word travels fast through the hallways. Don’t add to the fodder. Keep your mouth shut and don’t weigh in on issues that have nothing to do with you. That also goes for what you say outside the office. Everyone loves to tell the story that begins, “My friend who interns at CompanyX heard…” Eventually though, the people who work at CompanyX get wind of it. It’s a small world out there. 9. Yes, yes, yes and also yes: When it comes to work-related tasks, the only word you know is “yes.” And not yes with an attitude, a sigh or an eye roll. It’s “Yes!!” with bells on. Managers should not be made to feel like they’re putting you out by asking you to do something, and saying “yes” when your body language is saying “don’t bother me!” is not good interning strategy. Of course, if you’re ever asked to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable, by all means do not do it. No job is worth sacrificing your values or morals. You’ll know where to draw the line. 10. Don’t be a zombie: Silence can mistakenly come off as rudeness. If you see a colleague, say hello! If you have nothing to do, ask for an assignment. Be a self-starter. Be responsive to instructions. I understand that it can be intimidating, but the more conversation you have with your supervisor, the more impact you will make. 11. Don’t go above heads: It’s natural to want time with the big boss, but your direct supervisor is the one you need to make happy. If she sees that you’re not so enamored of her, but you’re ass-kissing her boss, she’s not going to be pleased. The hierarchy in a department is very important and people take it seriously. You should, too. 12. Social media: It’s tempting to post on social media as the day goes on, but focusing on your job is a better idea. Remember that people can see what you post! You definitely don’t want to give off the impression that you’re not taking work seriously. You also don’t want to look like your mind is elsewhere, or worse, get caught talking about your colleagues (even anonymously) behind their backs. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it just in case: Don’t post about your internship! What happens in the office stays in the office. INSIDER TIP: Read the company’s social media policy before posting anything—even after hours. I will go into a lot of detail about social media later in this book, but since this topic is so important to your professional life, it’s worth mentioning this here as well. Think about it this way: You are trying to create a reputation for yourself in the workplace, so don’t endanger that reputation by being unprofessional on your personal platforms. INSIDER TIP: You don’t want your social media profile to give off a negative impression and influence the people you work with in the wrong way. A few quick rules: Don’t follow or friend your internship supervisor. You can consider doing so after the internship is over when you know that you have established a good relationship. Same goes for LinkedIn! Your supervisor does not want to connect with you, because she doesn’t even know you or how you work. Wait until after the internship, when you have proven yourself. If your supervisor follows or friends you first, you should reciprocate, but don’t engage with her unless spoken to first. I know you’re thinking that I’m being a stickler, and why not try to build a relationship via social? I promise you that it will be too much, too soon. If you are connected through social media, then you better take extra care to think about what you are posting before you post it. This may feel stifling, but you have to suck that up. Though these are your personal social media profiles, there are rules. Before you get the internship, however, using social media to connect with companies or executives is a great way to network. In fact, I would highly recommend it. I have met many students through social media who have secured internships and even jobs through social connections. Jenna, whom you read about in the introduction of this book, is the best example! But that said, social networking with potential employers is best done prior to securing the internship and after you leave. 13. Take advantage of the team: You have professionals at your fingertips, so don’t waste the opportunity to learn about your colleagues and find out how they got started. I’m sure they’ll have great stories to tell, and one of them may spark an idea that can help you. It’s also smart to ask them every once in a while for feedback on how you’re doing. Finding out what you could correct while you still have time to is better than a) never knowing and b) finding out when you’re about to leave the internship. You are essentially giving yourself a chance to improve your supervisor’s impression of you, so take that opportunity! Constructive criticism will only help you, and it’s easier sometimes for your supervisor to give that if she’s been directly asked for it. 14. Leave graciously: Don’t forget to thank your supervisor for a wonderful experience. INSIDER TIP: Make sure you thank everyone on the team, not just the most senior person. If you feel you deserve it, ask if she wouldn’t mind being a reference for you. In fact, you can ask anyone on the team that you know you have worked with if she would be a reference. The more the better! Keep a file of your references so that one day, when you need them, you have them at your fingertips. Because people often change jobs, try to get personal contact information as well. Of course you could try to connect on LinkedIn, but sometimes supervisors find this method a bit forward because you want the connection and they might not. Remember that LinkedIn is as much your supervisor’s professional network as it is yours. Just because you get the reference though, doesn’t mean that your work is done. As annoying as it is, you will need to reach out to that reference right before you are about to interview for a job and ask again if it would be OK to use her as a reference. I know you’re thinking, “But wait, they already said yes and I have the letter to prove it!” I get it. But here’s the thing: By re-asking, you are reconnecting with that person and reminding her about who you are and what impression you left. That way, when a potential employer calls, she is prepared. Time will inevitably have passed and managers have countless interns. You don’t want to be embarrassed by having the potential employer catch your old supervisor off guard. It’s your job to reach out and remind her who you are; hopefully, she will remember you and be willing to speak on your behalf now. It’s not a given. Making the most of an internship is the most important thing you can do when you’re starting out. Not only does interning allow you to learn important skills, it provides you with invaluable networking possibilities. Whom you connect with can lead you to your next job. You’re also more likely to hear of opportunities when you’re in an office and are top of mind. If Dean hadn’t recommended me for the job at Atelier, I might not have heard about it. If you suck your internship dry and gain the trust of your supervisor, you can continue to use that resource long after you’ve left. Making sure not to stalk, you can check in with your previous supervisor every once in a while to see if she has heard of any job openings that might be right for you. INSIDER TIP: People who already have jobs hear about job opportunities first. If she does and knows the person hiring, then maybe she would be willing to forward along your resumé, too. Remember that people trust people they know. Your performance is the key to getting to that level of trust. So don’t blow a great opportunity to make that kind of impact on a supervisor. CHAPTER FIVE Nailing Your First Interview ON DEAN’S GLOWING RECOMMENDATION, I WAS CALLED IN TO INTERVIEW FOR AN ASSISTANT POSITION IN THE ACCESSORIES DEPARTMENT AT ATELIER. It was my first real job interview and I was petrified. The only relevant experience I had was my bit of real fashion experience from Haute Magazine and a little bit of Le Ville, and of course the passion for what I’d learned at those places over the summer. To prepare, I bought the latest issue of Atelier Magazine and pored over it while trying to understand its point of view. Atelier was a good fashion magazine, but it wasn’t as high fashion as Haute Magazine, nor did it even exist when I was busy wallpapering my bedroom walls in junior high. I could tell its tone was friendly and informative and it definitely had a large fashion component, but it was not as edgy as Haute. I went in to meet with the newly promoted accessories editor, Elizabeth, who had just gotten permission to hire an assistant. Elizabeth was a tall woman with the palest blond hair you could ever imagine. She had sharp features and watery blue eyes. Upon first glance, she seemed intimidating, but when we sat down to talk, she was warm and engaging. I felt an instant connection with her and I hoped that the feeling was mutual. I was pretty sure I would move on to the next round of interviews, this time with the accessories director, Heather. Heather was short and not as fashion-forward as Elizabeth. In fact, she didn’t strike me as someone who would even work in fashion. Her look was simple and classic; she had a short brown pixie cut and wore tortoise glasses. If I were casting her in a film, I would have pegged her for a teacher. But as innocuous as Heather’s look was, her interview game wasn’t. Something about the way she spoke made me feel like she was trying to purposely trip me up. She asked a lot of questions that mandated subjective answers: What did I think of the magazine? What style of hosiery would I pair with a pencil skirt? What shoe would I style with that skirt and hose? What did I think the magazine could do better? What other magazines did I read? Who were my favorite designers? What was my favorite show from that season? I suspected that the only right answers were the ones she would have come up with. I imagined that she was judging my taste, how quick I was on the draw and how comfortable I was sitting in the hot seat. I walked out of there very unsure about how my answers went over, but I did know that I spoke well and confidently, and I had to assume that would count for something. Well, I guess I was right, because a few days later I was offered the position. Take a Selfie: Can You Master the Interview? Interviewing is the worst, isn’t it? It’s so easy to blow your chances because the audience matters almost as much as you do. Here’s the good news though: You are in charge of what comes out of your mouth. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is that while trying to prove their worth, they use the wrong language and tone. Of course you need to promote your accomplishments, but there is a way to do that. Take a look: 1. Do you sound cocky or confident? Cocky:“I’m the best person on my team.” Confident:“I’ve been fortunate to have been able to lead a team on several projects this year.” Cocky:“I can do everything well.” Confident:“I am an experienced multitasker who works well under pressure.” Do you see the difference? Cocky is not likeable, but confident can be. A smart person will admire someone who’s politely confident, but everyone will hate someone who’s cocky. So you need to promote your skills and positive attributes without making the person who’s interviewing you hate you. People generally want cocky people to fail. Just remember that. 2. Are you a good communicator of your strengths? You might be great at certain core competencies, but if you can’t communicate examples of how you use those skills well, it will just end up sounding like a lot of noise. Come to the interview with a list of three to five examples where you’re showing, not just telling, how well you know your stuff. 3. Are you praising your prospective company’s accomplishments? You want to show the person interviewing you that you have been following along, that you’re an avid fan of the brand. While you should make sure to reference specific achievements you secretly know your interviewer had a hand in (which you’ll know because you’ll Google your interviewer beforehand), be wary of obvious ass-kissing here. People can smell that a mile away. 4. Do you maintain eye contact? Do you look and sound interested? 5. Are you showing that you’ve got the right personality for the job? For example, in public relations you need to have an outgoing personality because the entire job is about your ability to deal with people. If you look like a miserable person with no life to you, I don’t care what public relations skills you have, you’re not someone I want on my team. 6. Are