In elementary school, I started my own business. Very creatively titled “Lily’s Guide to Fashion,” I would give my teachers fashion advice for a mere quarter. Bargain of the century. Complete with a portfolio of dos and don’ts, my fourth grade self was unafraid to tell someone that they “should stay away from horizontal stripes” or “would be a great candidate for What Not to Wear.” I would go on the intercom to promote my services, and within a few weeks, I had consultations with almost every adult in the school. Shout out to Stacy London for the inspo and my mom for letting me stay at school a little late.
Throughout my life, I’ve had many career aspirations. A fashion buyer. An investigative journalist. A politician. A teacher. A stay-at-home mom. The person who makes Apple commercials. So far, none of these things have come to fruition. Instead, I spent all summer working in the marketing department of an insurance company. Have I ever taken a finance class, accounting class, or anything business-y before? Nope! But I still kicked ass at my internship and fell in love with the work. For anyone like me, who has a hard time balancing being a free-spirited creative who wears her heart on her sleeve and lots of bell sleeves, but also wants the stability and cash money of a 9-5 job, listen up. I’ve figured everything out!!
Lesson 1: ?????
Ask questions. All the time. To anyone. It’s not annoying, it’s flattering and necessary. You’ll make that person feel like a connoisseur, and it saves everyone time if you ask questions to ensure clarity rather than waste time trying to figure it out on your own or even complete an assignment wrong. Not to mention, asking questions shows you are passionate and want to learn. Curiosity might’ve killed the cat, but you’re a lion so go get ’em tiger!
Lesson 2: Dress like a Saturday afternoon daytrip, not a Friday night
I’m a feminist and a fashionista. A feminista, if you will. I love when women wear what they want when they want. Show off your boobies! Wear turtlenecks! But in the work world, there are boundaries. I’m not sure who set them (jk, obviously the patriarchy) but unfortunately I am in no position to rewrite them. While all work settings are different, there are a few universal rules: no bra straps, no rips, nothing too tight/revealing. But that doesn’t mean you have to wear mumus and muted colors. Unless that’s what makes you feel empowered, in which case, you do you! Personally, dressing up was one of my favorite aspects of having a big girl job. Your clothes are a direct reflection of who you are. The image you put out for the world to see is your personal brand, and your brand is everything. Know the brand on you. Don’t be “wore a mini to a meeting.” Be “always wears dope earrings” or “rocked a killer pantsuit.”
Lesson 3: Be mindful of noses
If you eat lunch at your desk, avoid foods that will stink up the entire floor. And do not, under any circumstances, try to mask the smell with perfume. Do, however, keep some Poo-Pourri in your purse. You never know.
Lesson 4: It’s okay to have weaknesses
Excel was one of those things I threw on my resume but actually had no idea how to do anything with. Literally. Never even heard of a pivot table. Still don’t know what that is. But I did realize that I have a ton of strengths, many of which I thought were common or uninteresting, but actually were valued and set me apart. Position yourself to utilize strengths. Don’t completely hide your weaknesses, but it’s okay if you’re just not as good at other things. That’s called being human. For example, if you know your forehands are stronger than your backhands, you should position yourself to hit more forehands when it matters and practice backhands until you get to where you need to be. Sports!!!!!!!
Lesson 5: The three P’s
People skills, public speaking, and poise. From accountant to acrobat, you have to be able to work with people, speak to people, and present yourself to people. Bottom line: what people think of you matters. It’s less about what you do and more about how you do it and how you make people feel. That means being friendly to your desk neighbors and asking your manager how his or her weekend was. That means not turning into a complete hermit while public speaking, as hard as it may be. Lastly, that means embracing your inner Jennifer Garner circa 13 Going on 30 and having POISE.
Lesson 6: Stay true to your web
Take a piece of paper and your favorite pen. Write down 20 things you love, from how your silk robe feels after a long shower to the smell of freshly baked cookies to Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. Then, write down 20 things you want to accomplish in life, big or small. After that, write down 10 strengths and say them aloud, preferably to another person (although your dog counts). Women are conditioned to be timid. Fuck that. Be confident. Brag about yourself. You’ve earned it. Lastly, write down 5 values. This list, while always subject to change, is a compass that will guide you through your professional life. Once you land a job and get into a routine, often times we forget to reflect and question if what we are doing is actually what we want. After all, monotony can be comforting. But this list, your “web” as my coworker calls it, will keep your feet on the ground and your eyes towards the future. Revise and revisit your web, and put it somewhere you will see it regularly, from your phone to post-it notes on your bathroom mirror. Your web will make sure you are always growing, fulfilled, and working towards what you love, what you want, and who you are.
To sum it all up, be inquisitive, work hard, be kind, look dope, don’t lose sight of yourself, and avoid hardboiled eggs. Good luck!