What is a "Not So It Girl" and What Career Secrets Could One Possibly Have to Share?
During the summer of 1999, I was an about-to-graduate senior at the University of South Florida (go Bulls). I went to Walmart at 3am with my best friend Michelle because, what else do college students do when there's two of you and neither wants to be the designated driver? Walmart was our compromise.
As an education major, Michelle browsed school supplies and as a journalism major, I poured over every magazine on the newsstand. I already completed a life changing internship at Rolling Stone the previous summer. All I needed was my degree, a one-way ticket to New York City and a job at a glossy magazine. As a pop culture junkie, the only places I wanted to work were Teen People, Entertainment Weekly, Seventeen, US Magazine (this was WAY before it became a tabloid) or, if they'd have me back, Rolling Stone.
That was until that night at Walmart.
There on the newsstand was the premiere issue of CosmoGIRL! magazine. That canary yellow cover with "GIRL" scrawled perfectly in red lipstick and then it-girl Melissa Joan Hart smiling back at me . . . I studied the cover in awe for a good five minutes before I started flipping through. I couldn't catch my breath. This was a magazine written for me—I was a CosmoGIRL! all these years and never even knew it. I was awkward and more into chasing my dream of being a writer than chasing a husband. I had no idea how to flirt or network or pull together a power outfit but I knew how to pull off a dream internship in NYC, launch my own magazine on campus and find a small group of friends who just got me when so many others wanted to judge me instead.
Then I read the letter from the editor-in-chief. She was glamorous yet had a funny name (Atoosa Rubenstein) and boldly published unflattering pics of herself as a teen. She was self- deprecating but real and motivating. I wanted her as my mentor and best friend. I kept flipping through the pages and hidden among the advice and how-to articles were BEN AFFLECK stickers! That sophisticated immaturity spoke to my soul. I marched the magazine over to Michelle and announced that I was the next staff member of CosmoGIRL!. She laughed but I felt those words resonate in my gut like nothing ever had before.
Not even two months later—due to synchronicity that I doubt even Deepak Chopra has experienced—I started at CosmoGIRL!—as Atoosa's assistant! It's not the only time that I manifested a dream come true—but nothing has ever compared since. That was the true beginning of my career in media. An industry where someone new is buzzed about as an "it girl" (or guy) every day and one wrong word/Page Six item can send you slinking out the back door before you even digest what went wrong.
Almost twenty years later and my career, which can be categorized as successful, didn't take the exact path I expected. Some years were filled with "pinch me" moments. Other years were so disheartening that I don't know why I didn't move to an island and sell coconuts (which people do and are crazy successful at—I just hate retail and burn easily). But, the one thing I've always been good at is reinventing myself, recycling/upgrading my skills and giving career advice on everything from dealing with horrible bosses to why you were passed up for promotions that seemed to be "in the bag."
Now would be a good time to mention that I've reported to 28 different bosses, hired/oversaw 25 direct reports and fired roughly eight—so I've seen a lot, learned a lot and been a part of a lot!
But, rather than wallow in what I haven't been assigned or haven't been hired for at this point and time, I'm going to take a page from that night in Walmart and make my own destiny. From CosmoGIRL!, I went on to Us Weekly, Inside TV, Sirius Radio, a million freelance contracts, assignments and consulting gigs, a dream job as an editorial director that ended when I was six months pregnant, an amazing husband and seriously perfect daughter—and now this, Career Secrets of a Not So It Girl.
And please think of this as more than a blog. It's the best stories, anecdotes and lessons of my career that I hope will help, inspire and entertain those setting out on their own career journey. Laugh at my stories from the heyday of the magazine biz (like days when I could take a car service all over Manhattan just to find the perfect hot dog cart for an over the top staff holiday party I was "assigned" to plan) to my lowest points (getting fired from a cushy job at Sirius because of a massive snafu with the Real Housewives of New York ranks up there). Some stories will react to what's happening in the news, some will be long, some short, most out of chronological order and all meant to give a morsel of . . . hope? Advice? Permission to fail or even laugh at yourself? Chutzpah to reinvent your career too?
Take from it whatever you need at that moment and then let's start a conversation. Not everyone is an Anna Wintour or Mark Zuckerberg or fill-in-the-blank with the icon of your own industry. But, we all have dreams and goals to fulfill. We've all felt like we're not in an "it" place on the way to achieving our success. So, let's fall on our swords together as we figure out what we truly want to be doing—and let's do it.
PS: Full disclosure? Career Secrets of a Not So It Girl was 100% supposed to be a book—and maybe it still will. My agent started shopping my proposal around over the summer and I've received the most lovely rejections. Like, rejections that are so full of compliments and hope for my bright future as an author that I should print them out and paste on my office wall. Rejections not because the editors hated the book idea—they actually love it—many just don't love the market for career/memoir mashups and had to pass. For now . . .
But, it's okay because I'm taking matters into my own hands. I hope college students about to embark on their first job search to those in the middle of a changing landscape and wanting to make a career change find advice, motivation, inspiration and humor in my stories . . . because this is me manifesting a dream like I'm at a Walmart at 3am in the summer of 1999 . . .