Women Helping Women

She slowly approaches the mic. 

*Tap*Tap*Tap*

Is this thing on?

It’s been a while, blogosphere. My laziness got the better of me.

But International Women’s Day (yesterday) inspired me to start clacking at my keyboard to share an experience I had this past week that I thought was well worth a post.

Apparently, it wasn’t enough inspiration to actually write it the day of, but points for doing it at all!

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it on the blog before but connections are key. Doesn’t matter what industry you’re pursuing in Los Angeles, without connections, you start at the bottom of the barrel of sludge. If you’re lucky enough to claw your way up out of the muck, you’ll find yourself standing, covered in slop, at the bottom of a mountain so high that the clouds envelop the summit.

NOW. If you stumble upon someone willing to give you a leg up–someone willing to at least share advice and knowledge–you ofttimes get to circumvent all of that muck.

In my experience, a lot of women that have gained a modicum of success are “gatekeepers”–women wanting to keep the young, ambitious, and curious out. From what I can tell, they do this for two reasons:

  1. They’re threatened;
  2. They’re so wrapped up in their own accomplishments that they feel they need to “school” anyone that comes to them looking for help.

They’re ready to shoot down the starry eyed, hopeful youngin’ that reach out to them with the intention of “removing some of that naiveté”.

These women suck.

But then there are others, happy in their success, ready to help the next generation by telling them how to easily jump hurdles that previously tripped them up during their own race to the top.

Through a series of lucky circumstances and random events, I met not one of this type of woman, but two.

I made the acquaintance of a high powered, high profile, executive assistant and her predecessor. In fact, their official title is “Chief of Staff” and the organization they work for is a huge conglomerate with its hands on film, television, radio, print, philanthropic charities, etc.

It’s all mind-blowingly awesome that I got to sit down and have a chat with these ladies, and even more surprising that both gave freely of her advice and expertise. Not only that, they were willing to help me begin a job search within their company (until I let them know that I wasn’t currently on the market).

Because I’d eventually like to be just like these ladies, I’m going to share some of their tidbits of advice and some nuggets of wisdom with you.

  1. REACH OUT: if there is someone that you’ve become personally acquainted with, someone that you admire and feel that you can learn from: contact them. Ask them if you can buy them a cup of coffee in exchange for being able to pick their brain. Reach out to as many people as you can–expand your network. Don’t be afraid. The worst thing they can do is say they don’t have time.
  2. LAY THE GROUNDWORK: if you have the luxury, set up these meetings before you’re on the job hunt. People can tell when you’re coming at them wanting something, and if you come in free of that suspicion, they’ll give information more freely. This also gives your connections opportunities to get to know you and gives you a boost for when they’re eventually recommending you for a position.
  3. PREPARE: before your informational interview, gather a series of intelligent questions in case conversation stagnates. I chose to consult my many professional friends on social media and received some great queries to proffer.The most important question is “how did you get where you are?”. People love sharing their story and there is so much to be gained by listening to the details of the path that got them there. Don’t ask obvious questions, dig deep!
  4. READ “LEAN IN” by SHERYL SANDBERG: this book has been a hot topic within the working world–not everyone agrees with everything said by the author, but every woman (and man, really) should consider what she has to say. [Side note, I actually met the co-author, Nell Scovell, at a writer’s event in Los Angeles–she’s a really confident lady!] 
  5. ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE: come into the meeting with an idea of where you’d eventually like to end up–i.e. Your Dream Job. The person you’re speaking with may have advice on how to eventually get you there.
  6. FOLLOW UP: at the end of the day, stay in contact with the people you’re meeting with! If they ask you to send along a resume so they can sneak a peek, DO IT. If you’re reading an article about something that reminds you of a topic of conversation during your informational interview, send it along in an email. They may be interested in reading it, too.

I left that meeting having absolutely no idea where I will be career wise at the end of 2014.

And that is incredibly exciting.

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