Today is going to be spent running around like a bit of a maniac as I leave for Costa Rica at 4:30am tomorrow morning. I’m really looking forward to my yoga retreat! I’ll still be working a little but mostly it’s just going to be a week of yoga and surfing and reading on the beach. A real vacation!
Today though, I wanted to talk a little bit about work. I spoke on a panel on Monday night and have been thinking a lot about career advice this week. So here we are. I’m really fortunate to have had a really diverse career path and a ton of experience before going full time with my blog. I’ve worked for companies large and small and in between but can also speak to working for myself. So today I’m compiling the best career advice I have. I really hope it’s helpful – and that if you are feeling like it, you’ll chime in (in the comments section) with your best career advice!
Topshop Coat (similar, love this one too, and also available here) // Halogen Cashmere Sweater (similar) // Paige Jeans // gifted Sarah Flint Tortoise Slingbacks // Estee Lalonde x Daisy Jewellery Necklaces (literally wear these everyday; last seen in this post!) // Parisa Wang Bracelet Bag
Find a way to be yourself and you’ll almost always be successful.
For the first eight years of my career I was slogging through the corporate world. I spent 3.5 years working as an assistant buyer for a big department store in Boston (Filene’s) which is now a part of Macy’s. Then another 5 years working in brand management for two big beauty companies. I was successful by all accounts. I regularly got promotions and I didn’t hate my jobs… It was all just FINE. But that’s what it was… fine.
Getting up in the morning to go to work didn’t have me excited. Maybe I was excited every now and then; but it was really just because I loved my coworkers and was friends with everyone I worked with. Honestly, I didn’t really realize I could LOVE WORK until I got to BaubleBar. I got that job through my blog and I remember my first week there and what a breath of fresh air it was.
I realized then that I’m more of a small company person. Also, I like being able to make a difference, I like being able to make decisions immediately. I liked that I could joke around the office, be a goofball, and wear fashion-forward clothes but still be taken seriously and have my opinions valued. It was the first time in my life that I felt like I was really “me” at work. That being said, small companies and startups are not for everyone. Some of my close friends are now VP’s at those big companies, and I saw people at BaubleBar leave and feel happier in a more structured, big company sort of environment.
With the blog, it’s a similar but different situation.
In years past I tried so hard to be something I wasn’t – going to fashion week, etc. The minute I got really clear on who I was and what I wanted this site/my social channels to be, I started to see so much more success. I guess this could be called honing in on your “personal brand” but I like to think of it as just being yourself.
The bottom line is that we all need a work environment where we can be 100% ourselves. It might take you a little while and a few career moves to get there but once you do, things will just click and you’ll breathe a sigh of relief. You’ll feel like your home. (Yes that’s very trite but it’s the TRUTH.)
Empathize – with your boss, your employees, your customers.
This applies to several situations but it’s probably the best advice I can give you. It’s so important to have empathy for your customer/client, your boss, and your subordinates/employees.
When I worked in brand management at P&G, our customer referred to as our “who.” Everything we did revolved around him/her. That’s why P&G is as successful as they are; they’re really able to get into the mind of their customer – therefore better serving her and making her life easier. I do this on a different level with my blog. I always think about everything I do from the reader perspective. Is this interesting? Is this useful/helpful/entertaining? Also, is it something I’d want to read? Or is it just a cute outfit with some self serving drivel? If it’s the latter, I’d rather just not publish the post.
It’s also important to develop empathy for your boss and employees. This will make you a better boss and employee. Your boss probably isn’t a bitch (or maybe she is, haha) – she’s likely facing pressure from her boss or from investors. Once I understood that as an employee I got it and focused not on how annoyed I was but how I could better serve her and help make her life easier.
The same goes for your employees.
I had the worst boss of my life in my mid twenties. It was almost traumatic. I’m not an anxious person but I would have horrible panic attacks in my office and I cried almost every day. She had absolutely no empathy for anyone on the team and it was so evident that she didn’t care about us at all. I ended up getting HR to move me to a different team but I learned my biggest and best lesson there: don’t be like her. Anytime I manage employees now, I strive to be a good boss. To anticipate their needs and give them the independence but also the tools they need to be successful. To work WITH my employees or assistants or interns and be a source of support and empowerment… not a scary critic or source of anxiety.
Never do something just to do it.
This advice can be used across so many levels.
I wanted to start a podcast for a MUCH longer time than when I actually started it but I never wanted to just do something for the sake of doing it, or checking a box. I had to think so long and hard about it. Also, I wanted it to complement the blog but not cannibalize it. I knew I couldn’t have the podcast be just me. I’m not interesting enough and wouldn’t want to have to rely on guests every week.
I really struggled, and then thought about my friend (and now co-host, Becca).
Honestly, I knew we’d be a great duo as we have differing professional strengths and weaknesses. And she reads as much as I do. After hours and hours of brainstorming with Becca we came up with a concept (a digital book club with advice + (now) guests in between) and it felt like it was something that was different, fun, made sense, and had an opportunity to be successful. But it wasn’t just checking a box or doing something just to do it.
I listened to this interview with Julia and Thomas (from Gal Meets Glam) this week and loved everything they said but one particularly poignant thing was when Julia said she’d turned down book deals because she didn’t want to create something fluffy and that if she did write a book she’d want it to be something amazing that could move people. I feel the exact same way. Writing a book would be a dream of mine but I can’t think of anything I could write that I would want to actually read.
I think that in my industry (and any industry for that matter), there’s so much pressure to be doing *all the things*.
There’s this career trajectory and all of these boxes to check to hit the definition of success but it shouldn’t be like that! The most important thing is to know your strengths and what you’re good at and focus on those things. Don’t get swept up with what everyone else is doing. You don’t have to talk to the camera on instagram stories. You don’t have to do video content. Also, you don’t have to have a podcast! You don’t even have to have a blog if you don’t want to do that. But if you do the things you’re really great at, you’ll be successful.
Have a hobby; one that has nothing to do with business.
This is a tricky one for me but so important. My blog was originally my hobby and then it turned into my business. Reading was my hobby and then I started doing more book reviews here + launched a podcast about books. Now I’m trying to think about what else. For me, yoga and art (visiting as many museums and galleries as possible and learning as much as I can) are my hobbies right now.
Never stop learning.
Ever. Whether you’re learning about work stuff or something else, it’s so important to do something that exercises your brain, every day!
Work hard and be nice.
I say this here all the time and it really is the simplest thing: if you work hard and you are (genuinely) nice, you will go so far.
Network, but network smart.
I haven’t always been the greatest networker but it’s something I have made more of a priority this year. In my industry there are a lot of ways to network. Countless brand events and requests for coffee/drinks. I am ruthless with my time so try to be really smart with my networking. I’ll reach out once a month to someone I admire. We’ll get lunch/coffee or take a workout class and have a meaningful conversation.
Networking should never be about seeing what you can get from someone; it should be about forming meaningful relationships and friendships. The other stuff follows but if you set out to find out what you can get from a relationship, you’ll never be successful. Also that’s gross.
Own your weaknesses and hire around them…
I am not a great photographer so I outsource almost all of my photography. But I’m a stronger writer so every word, every social media response or post, is written by me. It’s so important to know your strengths and what you’re good at, and spend your time there. Then hire someone with complementary skills.
Do the thing you don’t want to do first.
There’s always that thing I really don’t want to do but I find when I do that thing first, I have a much better day and a weight is taken off of me.
Take breaks when you need it.
Breaks (even the smallest ones) are so important. You won’t be successful if you’re run ragged. My best and most productive days are the days where I go to yoga at lunch or get out for a walk. I tend to sit down and have a hard time getting up because once I’m at my desk I have 1,000,000 things I want to accomplish. Taking a break always leads to a more productive day.
The same goes for vacation. The lines get really blurred with blogging and vacation because oftentimes trips are press trips, or you are working with a hotel to create content on your social channels/blog. That isn’t vacation. It’s work (albeit a MUCH more fun and often warm version of work). I came to the conclusion a couple years ago that those trips left me depleted and more tired so I (mostly) stopped doing them. I realized I’d rather pay for my vacations and not feel the pressure of creating content for brands and capturing every moment. Sometimes I just want to put down my phone and enjoy the moment, ya feel me? This trip to Costa Rica will be a real break, and after a break like that I am always more inspired and refreshed and ready to get back to work!
photography by Carter Fish.
I loved this post, Grace! I’m also a small company type of person. I worked for a large company before and it was okay – but the work was really monotonous. Now, in my smaller firm, I get to try out so many different roles! Plus, my coworkers are all around the same age as me, and everything’s more fun! 😀
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
Thanks Charmaine! Have a great weekend.
I absolutely loved reading this post! I’m going through a funk in my career right now so this definitely helped..thank you! xo elle
So glad it’s helpful!
Amazing advice! I’m only 22 but I’ve had countless jobs for short periods of time and in every single one I’ve learned so much, not only from good examples but also from bad ones like you with your terrible boss. I relate to so much you said and they’re things I’ve been learning over the years. It’s always good to learn not only from our experiences but also from other people’s experiences.
SO MUCH YES to this Grace. All of it, so well said. Still figuring a lot of this stuff out, but it wasn’t really until I hit my 30s I began to hit my stride career-wise. I think there is something special about blogging that forces you to discover a lot about yourself, or maybe it’s just being self-employed. Never in a million years thought I’d be someone that worked for myself. Side note, really love the outfit, so chic and timeless. Have an AMAZING time in Costa Rica. It was the first trip Craig and I ever took together, too many years ago to admit and I am dying to go back. xx Jess
I so agree! And thank you – I am so excited. xx
YES YES YES! This was so helpful and motivating girl! Well done!
x Lisa | lisaautumn.com
so happy it’s helpful! xo
Your blogging style is so inspiring and motivating! I enjoyed reading this. All these advices of career and personal growth are very useful.
Hi Grace, happy Friday! Absolutely loved this post (and your outfit). Something that has worked well for me along my career journey the last 7 years is to take calculated risks when it comes to a job change or career move. Before accepting any job I have taken, I think about how it will project me in the direction I want to go. Maybe on paper my career path doesn’t make sense (I’ve gone from managing a small fashion design company to managing a boutique, working in advertising and I now work in PR), but each opportunity has moved me into a new career that opens up even more doors, growing my skill set in a way that encompasses and enriches my entire portfolio. I like to think this has made me an ideal candidate the longer I have been in the work force and my unique background sets me apart from people who have maybe taken a more traditional route to get to the same position.
I love that! Thanks so much for sharing!!
Love this – all of it! I completely agree that working hard, being nice and empathetic, and really honing in on what you want and need is SO important. Thanks for sharing! I love all your posts, but especially the more personal ones. You have a lot to say and share, and it’s great to see you doing more of that. I can’t wait to read more 🙂
The Frida Kahlo exhibit at The Brooklyn Museum (‘Appearances Can Be Deceiving’) was excellent if you need a non blog, non book related activity!
I just went! It was AMAZING!! I love her.
Enjoy your trip! 🙂
What rings are you wearing in these photos? I love the look but I can’t zoom to really see how you’re styling them.
it’s a signet ring from baublebar and a vintage aquamarine ring from tiffany’s that was passed down to me from my grandmother!
Could not agree more with everything you have said (and I still have to remind myself of some of these things all the time, but especially the one about not beating myself up about not doing ‘all the things’).
I would also add two things: 1) don’t expect your boss or employees to be mind readers – communicate and ask for what you want so they can help you get there; and 2) don’t wait for opportunities and promotions to land in your lap – you have to focus on what you want and be smart about how to get there.
I so agree with all of this! Thanks B! Happy weekend!
So much of what you wrote resonated with me. Was taking screen shots as I read Love the comment you made about your personal brand equating to being yourself. Such great food for thought.
The pressure of “doing all the things” is real. I’m trying to slowww it down and focus on and celebrate what I’m accomplishing instead of just seeing the next five mountains to climb.
Enjoy Costa Rica and warmer weather!!
Thanks Steph! I am so happy it resonated!!!
The other thing I would add is stand up for yourself/know your worth. This often takes time but is so crucial especially for women I would say. A few years back, I was offered a promotion… same job but with the biggest clients at the firm… they offered me $3,000 more a year. I said no way. My boss at the time said that I should be grateful to be offered the job. I made the argument to why having me would be beneficial and negotiated a bigger raise. No one else will stand up for you and the last thing you want is to feel like you are being taken advantage of.
Yes!!! Love this advice, thank you for sharing.
There are so many interesting points of advice in this list. Definitely, something to ponder over! I have just started the podcast episode with Julia and Thomas and already love it. Thanks for the recommendation <3
Oh good I’m so glad to hear it! Thanks, Lizzy!
Oh gosh, these are such good tips. Thank you so much for this post 🙂
thank you, so happy to hear it’s helpful!
Such a great post! I realize I like working with a smaller group of people and wearing different hats.
this blog post is so inspiring! i’m a 20 year old college student with only 1 and 1/2 years left before i graduate. i’m currently a music ed major but i started a youtube channel called Living Chelsea around 6 months ago. i recently got insecure about it and stopped posting. but this post helped me to realize that i got insecure because i wasn’t being myself and posting content that had to do with things i enjoy. thank you so much for the tips!