Three years ago I was a very recent college graduate with little idea about what I wanted to do post-college. After being a diligent student for the first 21 years of my life, I graduated from Princeton University with a degree in art history and no idea how I was going to apply my liberal arts education to a real-world job. I was experiencing the ultimate paradox of choice. Yes, as everyone said, the world was my oyster, but I felt utterly paralyzed—pulled between the notions of “doing what I loved” and trying to make the highest salary possible. The problem was, I didn’t know what I loved. And, in all my time attending undergrad lectures, participating in seminars, and doing thesis research, I hadn’t managed to consider how I would define success in the world beyond syllabi and grading rubrics.
I had always challenged myself to be bold in the classroom—to relay my point of view, participate in discussion, and comment on others’ interpretations of text and theory. But for some reason, the boldness I embodied as a student started to dissolve quickly after the fairy dust of graduation settled. I participated in a self-described “job experimentation period” for the first two years out of school. I dabbled in the world of third-party Pinterest marketing; I tried fundraising at an education-based nonprofit; I even ventured into the world of finance and took a position as an analyst at a commercial real estate firm. True to form, I would try my best to do well within my given office setting, but nothing I tried held my fascination when I was “off the clock.”
In my off hours I found myself returning to the same daily, and sometimes thrice daily, ritual of visiting WhoWhatWear.com, a routine I had practiced since my sophomore year of college. I wasn’t just obsessed with the site’s bright, crisp photography and fashion-friendly voice; I was in awe of its founders. I would spend hours researching Katherine Power and Hillary Kerr, studying the evolution of their success, but it never occurred to me that I could one day work at one of their websites.
Then, one day while I was working on a digital marketing assignment for my then-current endeavor, I spotted Katherine Power taking meetings at Soho House. I didn’t have a résumé ready, I certainly wasn’t dressed to impress, and I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to say, but seeing someone I have looked up to for ages in the flesh empowered me to make a move. I waited until she had a moment to herself, and then I got up, went right up to Katherine, and introduced myself, telling her how much I admired her company and that I would love to be considered if she had any openings at Clique Media.
Fortunately, Katherine was impressed enough to give me her business card, and when I followed up with an email and edited résumé the following day, she was very quick to respond. Several months later, I am writing this article for MyDomaine from my desk at the Clique Media offices.
Recently, when I asked Katherine how she reacted when I approached her out of the blue, she said, “I respond to boldness, because I have always been bold. When I decided I wanted to work at a fashion magazine, I figured out the email formula for my favorite teen titles (Teen Vogue and Ellegirl) and emailed absolutely everyone on the masthead of each until someone responded. Only one or two people did, but that was enough. One month later, I was made West Coast editor of Elle and Ellegirl magazines.”
The moral of my story is this: Figure out what it is you love, and then be bold and make it your career. Don’t wait for an opportunity to appear; create the opportunity yourself. Who knows? Maybe your career role model will respond to boldness in the same way that mine did.
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How Remarkable Women Lead: The Breakthrough Model for Work and Life by Joanna Barsh, Susie Cranston, and Geoffrey Lewis ($11)