Some people are lucky enough to grow up with a firm idea of their ‘dream job’ and subsequently attain said job directly after college and proceed to gain renown in their field. By ‘some,’ I mean almost none. Kim Kardashian was a ‘professional closet organizer’ (among other things…) before rising to superstardom. Lloyd Blankfein was a lawyer—and he hated it—before founding Goldman Sachs. Lin Manuel-Miranda, playwright and actor of Hamilton and In the Heights fame and recent recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant, did not graduate from Wesleyan and stroll directly onto Broadway. He worked as a Bar Mitzvah dancer, wrote jingles for commercials, sang backup at children’s concerts, and was a substitute English teacher in order to pay the rent while he wrote In the Heights. So if you think your Liberal Arts Degree grants you a competitive advantage in the job market, I hate to be the one to tell you that you’re wrong. It’s all about how much you’re willing to do in order to get where you want to be. Society perceives the collegiate and post-collegiate ‘millennial’ generation as entitled and lazy. Unfortunately, I’ve worked with a few people who validate this assumption. But guess what? The people who matter don’t care where you came from or went to school—they just want you to work hard. In Leave Your Mark: Land Your Dream Job, Kill it in Your Career, and Rock Social Media, Aliza Licht tells us exactly how to do just that.
Licht [née Bernfeld, but I will refer to her as Licht throughout the post for consistency’s sake] grew up with big plans to become a doctor. In fact, she spent her first three years at the University of Maryland studying neurobiology. But, after her first internship in a medical lab left her cold, she realized she needed to abandoned her “five year plan” in favor of her passion, something she never thought could become a career: fashion. There was just one problem; Licht was nearing graduation and had neither experience nor connections in fashion. So she decided to take matters into her own hands. She purchased a newsstand copy of a local magazine [which she calls DC Moment], and e-mailed every senior person on the masthead—not with a generic cover letter, mind you, but with writing tailored specifically to each Editor’s role. Licht gained an internship at the magazine and thus was able to kickstart her career in the fashion world, working subsequently at two magazines she refers to as Atelier and Haute [one of them is Marie Claire, though I wasn’t able to figure out the identity of the other] before moving onto DKNY, where she ultimately became not only the SVP of Global Communications for Donna Karan International but also a social media celebrity. Licht is known as one of the first businesswomen to embrace twitter—with an online persona called ‘DKNY PR Girl,’ in which she’d provide tidbits on celebrity fittings, fashion event gossip, and her own [manufactured] life. @DKNY was your stereotypical ‘PR Girl’…and people loved it. Licht ultimately gained over 500,000 followers and quite a few imitators in her industry. Licht worked incredibly hard to gain prominence in the fashion industry, but her business savvy transcends fashion and remains relevant regardless of your chosen field. Lucky for us, she’s shared her wisdom in book form. And lucky for you, I’m sharing [some] of it with you!
Aliza Licht’s Top Insider Tips:
- One size cover letter does NOT fit all
- You don’t get a promotion for doing your job. You get a promotion for going above and beyond your job
- Third party credibility is more powerful than anything you can say on your own behalf [i.e. stop being afraid to ask for references!] and, in the same vein, let other people promote your talents
- If you wouldn’t feel comfortable running a full-page ad of your tweet in the New York Times, don’t post it [or keep your channels private]
- Judge a job on its future potential. A seemingly later move could prove to be the opportunity of a lifetime
- Accessibility makes you indispensable [i.e. if you’re not answering your boss’ emails in 5-10 minutes or less, she’s ultimately going to find someone else who will]
And, the best for last…
- Don’t expect a thank you or a pat on the back. Do a great job for yourself.
The book also offers innumerable valuable resources, such as exactly what Aliza herself looks for in a resumé and cover letter, 14 rules for ‘sucking your internship dry,’ tips for mastering an interview [send WRITTEN thank you notes!!!! How do people still not know to do this?], a 12-step game plan for discussing a potential promotion with your boss, how to negotiate a salary and navigate offers that are far below your desired amount, and, most importantly, and entire section on ‘Surviving People and Politics.’ Office politics are a minefield, but if you play your cards right, you can win friends, mentors, and references from your internship or job. This chapter is a step-by-step guide on how to achieve all of that. Though the lipstick-stained coffee cup on the cover might suggest a fun and frothy read, this truly is a no-nonsense guide on how to excel in your chosen industry [though there are a few tidbits of fashion gossip in there, too].