Taking the Right Risks in Your Career

May 22, 2017

What career changes are worth it? What does it mean to stand up for something we believe in? How do we negotiate with our partner, colleagues, family and friends to live our lives aligned with our values?

On May 18, 2017, NYWICI hosted a panel Courage v. Fear: Navigating the Big Risks to Go Big at New York Institute of Technology, as a part of New York Festivals, which recognizes the world’s best work in advertising.

The panelists were Levo League, Chief Leadership Officer and advocate for women and girls Tiffany Dufu; LMHQ director and Lady Boss founder Tracy Candido; and McCann Creative Director Susan Young, who led the Microsoft Girls Who Code campaign and has been recognized by Cannes Lions, Clios, Webby’s and more. Moderator Carol Evans helped launch Working Mother magazine in 1978 and founded Working Mother 100 Best Companies, still the most important workplace benchmark in the country. Carol asked these extraordinary women how they took risks to lead the lives they wanted.


On where their courage comes from…

Susan YoungSusan: When I was young, I wanted to come to New York. My fiancé at the time told me I wouldn’t like the city at all, but I knew that’s where I wanted to be. He eventually moved here too. Now, I have a two year old and to me, that was a risk to take also. I was afraid that after having a child, I wouldn’t be able to produce work of the same caliber. That’s the issue when work is the center of your life and you start out on the fast track. Know what you want and what your values are. That’s very important.

Tracy: I’ve always been a natural risk taker. I want to jump into things head first and my parents taught me the value of commitment. When I joined something at school and I no longer wanted to participate, my parents told me that I needed to stick with it. My optimism served as a coping mechanism, forcing me to find what I loved about the activity. That optimism has been a good thing and has served me well in my career.

Tracy CandidoTiffany: It all started when my Dad pushed me to run for student government in middle school. He was a preacher and felt that I should experience the power of public speaking. I was 12, in the 6th grade, and had to figure out why people had to invest in me. I lost that race, but people have remarkable empathy for those who take risks.  You realize that you can fail publicly and the world doesn't fall apart. Because I took that chance, I identified myself as a leader, which gave me agency and power that I still carry with me in my professional life.


On challenges in the workplace…

Tiffany DufuTiffany: Marie Wilson, who was former President of the Ms. Foundation and created Take Our Daughters to Work Day, was my mentor and sponsor. I’ve had powerful women supporting me, so sexism in the workplace isn’t necessarily my story. My perception of my experiences, however, reflects who I am as a person and a leader.

Susan: Exactly. Focus on female mentors. Don’t put too much energy where it’s not worth your time. I’m glad that nearly half of our creative leadership consists of women, but it’s still taking a long time to reflect that female perspective in advertising work.

Carol EvansTracy: I’ve always been open about being queer and to me, it’s not a risk to be out. Are our rights at risk right now? Yes. Is it difficult for my wife and me to have this child? Yes. But every person’s story is different. I do feel that there is a lack of visible role models for homes with two working moms. Do I have to write that book?

Tiffany: You should!


On taking risks to pursue meaningful work…

Tracy: In a prior position, I had no work-life balance, and I knew that I couldn’t search for a job in the right way until I had resigned. My wife is a little more risk-averse, so she asked me to save three months of my salary first. I was willing to walk away and take some time to feel like myself again before starting over. With my network and years of hard work in freelance to build my reputation, I was able to land a creative producer role for a big brand. None of this would have happened unless I took that risk.

Tiffany: Taking over the White House Project from Marie Wilson was a huge risk, but I don’t think I realized that at the time because I was younger and more naïve. The White House Project was a powerhouse for advocacy and it was such an honor to work in that role, but I didn’t realize what I was taking on. It’s not enough to have a vision. You need a strategy and a plan that engages — little steps to get to the big picture. Recently, I had to negotiate with my company to scale back my hours, so that I could write my book. I had to negotiate this before I even secured the book deal. It was a big risk, but it was something I needed to do.

Susan: To step forward, I took the risk to pursue more provocative work. We don’t always have the luxury of doing what we want, but with some clients, we can find the right time to be bold and tell the client that this is the work they should be doing. The Girls Who Code satiric video and campaign, which aims to get more girls in STEM, came out of this outrageous statistic that I saw. Only 7 percent of patents in the world are held by women. Microsoft is so huge, so we can actually create an impact through their organization. The result has been us navigating the complexities of patent law in Uganda, India, Greece, and figuring out how to empower women to become patent holders. This was a risk worth taking. It’s an award-winning campaign, and it’s enacting real change. Same thing applies to the “Toddlers Kill” campaign, which we made for the Brady Organization to end gun violence. We needed to get gun safety into the debates. Hillary Clinton referenced ToddlersKill.org in the final debate, even though it was released only days before. That’s the reward of brave work.


On negotiation tools to secure courageous work…

Tiffany: I asked the people close to me to describe a moment when I was my best self, people from different stages of my life. I recorded them and analyzed similar words and phrases — that’s the consistent experience people have with us. Leverage that experience to build your brand and achieve your goals. We don’t want to be remembered as people who “got a lot of stuff done.” We want to be remembered for meaningful work. For me, that’s advancing women and girls. Be authentic and listen to your own voice. People will trust you and your intentions.

Susan: Always put things out there. In my business especially, we self-edit constantly. We come up with reasons as to why something won’t work. Women, sometimes, are too responsible. If you’re a young creative, it’s not your responsibility to make the meeting. Someone else is running that meeting. It’s your job to throw the ideas out there and to go for it. Also, be tenacious. Just because a client won’t buy in immediately doesn’t mean you shouldn’t return to the idea. Have the creative tenacity to keep going.

Tracy: Trust your gut. If you believe in something, there’s a reason for that. Speak clearly about what you want and communicate your values in an empathetic way. Sometimes, you just have to take a big leap of faith and your colleagues, your partner — everyone — has to take the journey with you. Think about it as a consent process, not a power struggle.


On letting go…

Tracy: When I was a kid, my parents took us on a Big Red Boat Disney cruise. I was 7. There was a contest for the kids to get as many signatures as possible from the crew. I stressed thinking the other kids might have gotten more signatures. At the end of the day, no other kid even made an attempt. I was the only weird kid that did it! Oftentimes, you’re stressing and no one even cares. You don’t have to be excellent in everything and you don’t have to get all the signatures. If you want to work that hard, do it for yourself.

Tiffany: My book Drop the Ball talks about what we need to do in order to prioritize. What is our purpose? What can we let go of? Growing up, Claire Huxtable on the Cosby Show was someone I looked up to. Today, I can delineate between the social messages I was taught and what I want. With my first child, I was overwhelmed trying to keep all the balls up in the air. There are so many invisible job descriptions we’re trying to fulfill — and well. We want to be a good daughter, sister, friend, student, mother, wife. Today, I know that my foremost priorities are advancing women and girls, nurturing my relationships and being a conscious global citizen. Nothing else matters, and I’m not a bad person if I can’t keep everything going. It’s very freeing.

Photos: Jan Goldstoff


Posted by: 
Jennifer Reres

"Don't Take No for an Answer"

May 17, 2017

Carlyn ReichelGovernment, finance and public transportation are not sectors that typically come to mind when considering careers in the communications industry, but they were front and center at “Non-Traditional Communications Jobs That Rock” panel on May 9, 2017, at Treehaus MiMA. The event, which was hosted by NYWICI’s Young Professionals’ Committee, featured three panelists who pivoted from “typical” communications jobs and went on to build successful careers elsewhere in the industry.

Carlyn Reichel started out at a public relations firm in Washington, D.C. before pursuing a career in political speech writing, and she is now director of communications at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. Dana Deubert Blythe worked in television production before shifting gears to a career in financial services and is now managing director of global public affairs at Citi and Beth DeFalco spent years “chasing crises” as a reporter for several outlets before shifting to the other side of crisis communications, which led to her current role as communications director of the MTA.

Dana Deubert BlytheWhen it comes to their careers being considered “non-traditional,” Carlyn pointed out that more women pursuing roles in these sectors can help change that perception. Here are some takeaways from the panel discussion:

On the skills needed to pursue a communications career…
According to Dana, it all starts with good writing. “I often question that and pick at it a little, but it really is your entry point to becoming a communications person. And I have yet to meet a peer who says that isn’t so.” In addition, presentation and speaking skills also play an important part in getting your foot in the door.

Beth added that the ability to build honest relationships of a transactional nature is also important when pursuing a communications career. “It seems sort of blunt but I found it to be more expedient…We can never figure out what people want, and sometimes all you have to do is ask,” she said.

Beth DeFalcoAnd Carlyn noted that in speech writing particularly, preparation and research skills are critical.

On forging a new path…
All three panelists agreed that you don’t necessarily need to have worked in the sector you’re pursuing in order to land a job, but rather should be able to articulate that your skills are transferable. “One of the things I always talked about [in interviews] is I’m a really fast learner, and I’m a mimic and I’m a chameleon,” said Dana.

“Don’t take no for an answer,” Beth stressed, while recounting a story in which her journalism professor told her she didn’t have enough experience for a job she was pursuing.

And Carlyn went to grad school to help forge a new career path, but agreed that persistence is what landed her a speech writing job. She also emphasized that offering to work for free is often “a magic sprinkle in the sauce” when trying to win over a potential employer.

On managing a crisis…
According to Beth, while you might not be 100% accurate, making quick and clear decisions are extremely importance in a crisis. “The waffling is where the crisis spins out of control.”

Dana advised remaining calm in the face of a crisis and understanding that “the crisis is what’s happening around you, you are not part of that crisis. You’re part of mitigating the crisis.”

On being a woman in their fields…
Carlyn was able to navigate a “very white, male-dominated space” by taking a more aggressive approach. “I don’t know that I would advise this in every office, but judging my relationships as it were...I think there are opportunities to push back a little bit.”

A game changer, Beth admitted, was learning to stop apologizing for things and getting past the notion of being liked. “I stopped asking for ‘thank yous’ and just started doing my job.” 



Posted by: 
Marissa Piazzola

Courage in the Workplace

May 15, 2017

Tracy CandidoTracy Candido (at right), director of programs and events for LMHQ, knows what risk-taking is all about. During her career, she has literally quit her day job, launched her own company and now works to help other businesses grow through collaboration. Ahead of her appearance as a panelist at the May 18, 2017, event Courage v. Fear: Navigating the Big Risks to “Go Big”, we spoke with Tracy about what it means to show courage in the workplace.

What are some small or big worthwhile risks you have taken to grow your career?
I’ve quit a job that had a dysfunctional work environment without having anything else lined up. I’ve been raised to never quit something you make a commitment to and to try to embrace the things you like about it. But when there’s nothing left to like, you end up suffering. Granted, I didn’t just irrationally quit one day: I took a personal finance workshop and saved 3 months of my salary in order to do that. It was a calculated risk, but it allowed me a lot of freedom. I could accept a freelance gig, work on a side project, and have the time and space to prepare myself for my next move.

When you found that courage, what opportunities opened up for you? 
After I quit, I got offered a big dream freelance gig and took it, instead of looking for full-time work. The gig was really hard but taught me so much. I kept freelancing for the following year and was able to make 30% more money that year in 9 months that I had made in 12-months at my previous full-time job. I grew my portfolio and my network and developed a thicker skin working with various personalities.

And then, when I wanted to find full-time work, I was a desired talent because I had built up all of these desirable projects and skills, and I was able to choose between a few great offers.

In your professional life, what have been your greatest fears and why?
I’m trying to stay calm in the face of fear when dealing with my impending life as a working parent. I’m currently 8 months pregnant, and my career has always been my baby. For a long time, I’ve had side projects, such as Lady Boss, that have been a strong creative outlet for me. My fear is that my identity as a creative person who has a lot going on in terms of work and projects will be lost when I have less time for pursuing career ambitions. I know that having a kid is a constant negotiation with myself, with my wife and with my job. So I’m trying not to get too freaked out!

How would you encourage young professionals to be actively courageous in their work? 
I would encourage them to be their own best advocate while also making sure they are being a supportive coworker and team player. It’s a balance for sure — it takes a certain level of good nature, relationship building skills and communication in order to make it work. But no one is going to advocate for you except yourself. It can be hard to imagine yourself asking for more money, or a more flexible schedule, or more responsibility, but it’s rare that those opportunities are handed to you based on merit, so you need to ask for them. Be strategic. Be kind. Go above and beyond. But also, make sure you’re taking care of yourself. It’s courageous to actually get what you want at work, and it’s even better when you’ve made your own path to success! 



Posted by: 
Jennifer Reres

Mistakes to Avoid When Applying for Jobs & Internships

May 10, 2017

Student AloudI’ll never forget my first difficult interview. It was a two-hour painstaking interrogation for a summer copy-editing internship at a small local flyer. I had applied for the obscure, but paid, job under the assumption that I would be a shoo-in, and ended up being utterly unprepared for my interview. I didn’t get the job, but I learned what mistakes to avoid in the future. Here are a few lessons I learned from every job I didn’t get.

Treat every application like it’s your dream job and put in the corresponding effort.

You should never apply halfheartedly, because it will show in your cover letter and in your interview. When I applied to the small local copy-editing internship, I was asked during my interview why I wanted to work at that company, and because I hadn’t done adequate research and preparation before the interview, I gave a sloppy answer. While every job may not be your dream job, every job may be a step on the way to your dream.

Always, always, always research the company extensively. 

You should know who you’re going to work for before you even write your cover letter and especially before you go in for an interview. You would be surprised at some of the questions they ask you to ensure that you’re interested in the position. I’ve been asked questions such as “Can you name all the cities in which our publication circulates?” “Can you name a recent piece we’ve done and explain why you like it?” “Who do you admire from our company and why?” To get even more specific, as a journalist, I get targeted questions about the news as well, such as, “What policy is important in regards to Trump’s phone call with Taiwan?” “Name the three biggest stories of the year and explain your choices” and “What are some of your story ideas?” No matter what industry you’re in, you should always stay well-versed in your area of expertise and always come to an interview with ideas.

Double-check, triple-check and have your neighbor, friend or family member check the hiring manager’s name on your cover letter and email. 

I still remember applying for a job in which I spelled the man’s last name as “Kellog” instead of “Kellogg,” which for some reason, even after double-checking his name, I still missed. My eyes glazed over the mistake numerous times, and as a result, I got this response: “These internships are much sought after because they are paid and because they have been successful launching pads for our best interns. That's a polite way of saying the competition is significant and all applicants must concentrate on putting their best foot forward. (That would include correctly spelling the name of the person you're writing to.)”. I knew I wouldn’t get the job, but I also knew that from then on, I would always ask for a second pair of eyes when checking emails and cover letters.

Never write the first draft of an email in the email box. 

While we’re on the subject of typos, you’re less likely to catch mistakes when writing in your email box than when you write on Google docs or a Microsoft word document. After sending a few emails with sentences that were missing appropriate commas or that contained small errors, I now always write the first draft of my emails in Microsoft Word so that I can use the spelling and grammar check feature. You want to avoid illogical sentences such as, “Please let me know if there is any I can do to make myself a stronger candidate for this internship,” which is actually a sentence I emailed once. (eek!)

Don’t apply to only a few jobs, but also concentrate your effort wisely.

A good rule of thumb is that you’ll tend to get responses and interviews from about 10 percent of jobs that you apply for, and of the ones that you interview for, you might get offers at about half of them. Of course, this isn’t a perfect formula, but it’s important to keep in mind that you’ll have the best chance of getting a job if you apply for a lot of them. That being said, it’s impossible to put forth 100% of your effort on every job if you’re applying for 30 or 40 positions per semester, but you should identify which jobs you have the best chance of getting, or which ones you want the most, and put in a little extra effort when applying.

Don’t wait too long before following up.

Generally, I like to send my follow-up email about a week or two after my actual application. In the past, I’ve sent my follow-up email only to discover that the position has already been filled. Most internships tend to fill up within 3-6 weeks after the application deadline, so it’s important to act fast if you want to stand out. Your follow-up email itself should also stand out. Have something interesting to say in your email, whether it’s a compliment for recent work that the company has done, an idea that you would bring to the company, or another reason why you’re a perfect fit for the job.

Play by the rules.

If they say “no calls please,” don’t call. If they say “three to five samples of your work,” don’t submit six. If you can’t follow directions when applying for the job, what would make the company think that you could follow rules at the job itself? It’s often annoying or obnoxious if you don’t follow the guidelines set down by the company, and it can be a waste of everyone’s time. Additionally, and this should go without saying, sometimes people still think they’re an exception to the rule: your cover letter and resume should only be one page each! At this stage in the game, there’s no reason to submit a longer resume. By sending long cover letters and resumes, you’re overloading hiring managers, and I’ve had one hiring manager tell me that if she receives any applications with two page resumes or cover letters, she just throws them out.

Personalize your cover letter. 

Don’t make the mistake and settle for a boring cover letter. Each cover letter should be customized and tailored to the company and should tell a story. Never start your cover letter with “Hi my name is *blank* and I’m applying for *blank*. While you do need to put the name of the position you’re applying for in your cover letter, never put the hiring manager to sleep with a boring and bland opening statement.

I can’t guarantee that you’ll get a job even if you avoid making mistakes, but the biggest mistake of all would be to give up. I applied for NBC Universal five times before they finally interviewed me and offered me a job, and it was 100% worth all the effort. Just because a company rejects you doesn’t mean you should stop trying. Sometimes, they’re just waiting for you to gain a little more experience or they don’t have enough positions for all of their amazing applicants. If you don’t get hired, use it as a learning experience: Ask yourself, what can I do better next time?


Posted by: 
Amanda Morris

Don't Waste Time Being Afraid of Your Dream Job

May 9, 2017

Carlyn ReichelWhen you think of jobs in communications, gigs in public relations, marketing and journalism typically come to mind. The Young Professionals Committee will shed light on intriguing communications roles in financial institutions and government at a panel on May 9, 2017, “Non-Traditional Communications Jobs That Rock”.

We caught up with panelist Carlyn Reichel, who served as former Vice President Joe Biden’s foreign policy speechwriter from September 2015 through the end of the Obama administration. Carlyn now works as Director of Communications at Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.

What was your first job out of college and how did you land that role?
By the time I graduated college, I knew that I wanted to work in Washington. So, I moved across the country and dropped off my resume in a lot of congressional offices. Unfortunately, it was August, and Congress was in recess — not a great time to try to land a job in DC. But I did get an offer to join a boutique PR firm in town that handled an array of clients from the government and non-profit sector.

I don’t have a great story about how I got that job: I applied to a posting I saw online while searching for communications jobs in DC, interviewed with a series of people, and ultimately accepted the job so I could get my feet under me in Washington. I figured out relatively quickly that I wanted to be more directly involved with politics and policy making — the whole reason I moved to DC in the first place — so I started looking into grad schools. But, because it was a small company, I got to try a lot of different aspects of PR work, which was helpful in sorting out what I did and did not want to pursue in my career.

How did you wind up becoming a speechwriter? Was there someone in particular or an experience that motivated you to follow this career path?
Well, I didn’t so much “wind up” becoming a speechwriter as I aggressively pursued the chance to try my hand at it and then worked a lot of long hours for many years to develop my skills. But it’s fair to say that I didn’t always know this is the direction my career would take.

I was in graduate school during the 2008 campaign, and I spent most of that summer on a journalism fellowship talking to people in Minnesota about the idea of the American Dream and how it was changing. I interviewed people and politicians, covered the state party nominating conventions, even sat in the press pen for a rally with then-candidate Barack Obama. And by the end of the summer, I knew in my heart-of-hearts that I didn’t want to report, I wanted to advocate. I had clear opinions about the direction our country should go, and I wanted to fight for them. 

What are some misconceptions about your career that people would be surprised to hear?
I think there might be an overly romanticized idea of the speechwriter alone with a computer, agonizing over the perfect turn of phrase that shifts the course of history. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of agonizing — something all writers understand. The pressure is immense. Deadlines are real.  And, especially when you write on behalf of representatives of the United States government, your words carry serious consequences, so you better have your facts right. But great speeches most often aren’t made up of the fanciest words or the showiest sentences. They convey something real and powerful in a way that immediately connects with the audience. People want to feel that a speaker understands their problems and gets what their life is like. And since speeches are meant to be heard, not read, being simple and sincere with your words is almost always more effective than trying to be convoluted or clever.     

Can you share an exciting moment in your career?
I had so many incredible opportunities during my time working for the Obama Administration, it’s hard to pick just one exciting moment. I’ll never forget my first time landing in a foreign country in one of those Air Force planes with “United States of America” printed in big blue letters on the side. Or the first time walking through the gates to start my job with the National Security Council and realizing, “OMG, I work at the White House.”

For an American Studies major who grew up watching The West Wing, those were pretty amazing moments. But my best memories are all from times when I got to see how a speech or an article that I worked on made a difference to someone,—,gave them hope, or encouraged them to keep going, or just let them know that someone cared. That’s what I cherish most.              

What is your best piece of advice for young professionals?
Don’t waste time being afraid. I know that’s easier said than done and the only real antidote is experience, but it’s also an energy suck that consumes a lot of time that would be better spent just doing the work. Because I started my career in speechwriting by working for a high-profile principal — then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — I fought a lot of anxiety early on about whether or not I deserved the opportunity.

I don’t think I’d heard the term “imposter syndrome” at that point, but certainly I didn’t believe I’d earned the right to call myself a speechwriter. It didn’t matter that I was surrounded by incredible people who saw my potential and who were willing to invest the time to train me. My fear was my biggest stumbling block. And when I was finally able to internalize the fact that even people with important jobs are just people—when I was able to be myself around them without fear—that’s when I really started to come into my own. 



Posted by: 
Cori Rosen

Communications Is Not A Hobby

May 8, 2017

Dana Deubert BlytheWe all know the typical jobs in communications: public relations, advertising, magazine publishing etc. But there are a lot of communications’ jobs that you don’t often hear about. The Young Professionals committee is highlighting those jobs and the incredible women that hold them at the “Non-Traditional Communications Jobs That Rock” Happy Hour on May 9, 2017, at 6:30 pm.

We caught up with one of the featured panelists, Dana Deubert Blythe, the managing director, Global Public Affairs, Global Consumer Banking Communications at Citi. We asked her how her career path led her to financial banking and what advice she had for young professionals thinking of pursuing a non-traditional job in communications.

Your career trajectory shows you’ve always had an interest in communications. What brought you to the financial sector of communications?
It hunted me down and captured me.

What are some common misconceptions about your job?
Myth: If you can talk or if you can write a memo then you are a communicator. Nailed it!

What is some advice you have for young professionals looking to break into a communications role at a bank?
Be willing to do it all. Place chairs for a town hall meeting. Show up first to offer support to nervous presenters. Always look serene, not stressed. Speak up — you are there for your honesty. Value your skills so others will too — your skill is rare and share it generously. Be a consultant and not a cop.

Why are you excited to speak on this panel?
It's a glimpse at the potential quality of the future of communications. This is not a hobby. It is a profession.

What has been the best thing about working for Citi?
Citi opened the world to me.



Posted by: 
Mandy Carr

Helping the MTA Run

May 3, 2017

Beth DeFalcoNot every job in communications is like the one you read about in a textbook — writing, editing, reporting. There are jobs that encompass political communications, financial communications and crisis communications to add to the mix.

To be competitive and enhance your career options, think outside the box in your career path. NYWICI's Young Professional Committee has put together a panel on May 9, 2017, “Non-Traditional Communications Jobs That Rock” to help you do just that. You won't hear from top editors and other executives but from women with intriguing jobs that you might have never considered before.

We caught up with one of the panelists, Beth DeFalco. She is communications director and chief spokeswoman for the MTA, and we asked her about her non-traditional job — and the common misconceptions that go along with it.


What made you choose this communications path?

I was a reporter for 15 years, so communications was a natural fit. Also, I like to talk.

What are some common misconceptions about your job?

That I understand engineering.

What is the one thing you love most about your job?

That what we do is at the very core of what makes this amazing city function. There is nothing more quintessentially New York than the subway.

What is some advice you have for young professionals looking to break into an industry like yours?

Don't take no for an answer at work. It's just the beginning of a negotiation.

If you weren’t doing what you are doing today, what would you be doing?

I would be a screenwriter.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

Stop apologizing. Explaining is fine when things don't go perfectly. Save your "I'm sorry" moments for friends and family and events that truly warrant contrition.


Posted by: 
Alyssa Barnett