Hi. Do you follow me on twitter yet? I’m trying to crack 500 followers. Help me out.
I’m trying to do a lot of things and I’m trying to do them in an authentic, natural-feeling way. I don’t want to be scheming or shady or sleazy. At the same time, I know that in this day and age savviness and self-promotion skills are often what push one person over that line into “success” and leave someone equally talented behind working a day job they do not want to be working.
Mandy Stadtmiller over at xojane got me thinking about this more than my usual amount with her second article on career & networking advice. (If you don’t read her article, still note this anecdote: Kurt Cobain used to call radio stations asking them to play Nirvana songs before Nirvana “made it.”) Rather than summarize her article, I’m going to share the realizations I had and goals I developed after reading it.
1. Stop acting like a newb.
I have my Master’s degree for the love of god. I have over a decade of work experience. But because I recently made a career change, I feel like a 22-year-old who doesn’t know what she is doing when faced with people who have a feeling of ownership in this industry. Sure, I just accepted writing as my life’s purpose in the fairly recent past, but that doesn’t mean I have to announce that to people at every turn. I’m still good at it. I still know what I’m doing. I am as competent as many of the people I encounter who go around acting more confident than I do.
You know what is required for a Master’s degree? Lots and lots of papers! Papers that require writing. You know what my “real job” involved? Bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars with grant writing and putting together reports. Even though I haven’t explicitly been trying to “be a writer” all these years, I’ve still been writing and writing well. I need to stop discounting that and labeling myself as “new.” I need to stop telling people I “just started” this career path.
Also, as I mentioned in my blogging history post, I’ve been blogging personally for eight years. I’ve always been an “early adopter” for social media, and I handled Facebook, myspace, flickr, and Youtube accounts professionally as early as 2008. I’ve had my writing published online sporatically over the years. It’s time for me to connect the dots and put them into a narrative that is honest, but positions me as experienced and at expert-level rather than as a newbie. That will give people confidence in me and help me get where I want to go much, much more quickly.
I commented on Mandy’s article, asking questions and advice. She answered, like a sweetheart, and her answers were helpful. Still, the exchange itself pushed me to realize that I need to stop doing shit like that. In one of her comments she recommended that I get a website and a business card. Um, I have a website and a business card. Commenting and asking for career advice and direction displays a lack of confidence and experience and again projects me as a newbie–so new that I wouldn’t have a website or business card. I will not make that mistake again. Sure, I might ask specific questions as they arise, but never again something like, “How do I make it in my field?” Or, “How should I network?” There are plenty of articles on those topics and if I’m feeling insecure, I can read them. No need to announce my insecurity.
2. Get face time.
When people meet me, they like me. (For the most part.) When I send an email or a reply tweet or a Facebook comment, it’s harder for me to stand out. Once I get “face time” I definitely want to act like “me” and not be angling for any particular goal, but I am learning to acknowledge that face time is still important. For modeling, this means doing more fashion shows and going to more events. For my creative writing, this means finally getting off my ass and going to story telling and live lit events in Chicago. For my social media work, it means going to Chicago social media week and whatever other industry events there are throughout the year. I don’t have to act like a sales person at these events. I just have to be there looking well-dressed and acting friendly, with business cards in tow.
3. Network online.
There’s a reason that my twitter and Pinterest and DISQUS accounts use my real name and real photograph. There’s a reason I comment on xojane all of the time and follow/sometimes reply to the tweets of my favorite writers. These are ways I can make myself known (sort of) while still feeling genuine. I only link to and comment on blogs that I find compelling. I only follow and respond to twitter accounts I enjoy reading. That makes me feel comfortable with it. Still, I try to do so in a “peer” type of way, rather than a hopeless fan way or an obvious self-promotion way. (I’ve definitely received blog comments and twitter replies from people who I can tell are “marketing” themselves. These comments/replies lack soul.) If I ever happen upon any of these people IRL, I want them to say, “Oh, it’s you!” and then happily talk to me peer-to-peer rather than talk to me obligingly, as if I’m some random twitter follower stopping them to gush like a fan girl.
Also, even comments are “writing.” Maybe some day taking this extra time to join these conversations will lead to someone saying, “Hey! Wouldn’t that girl Jessica be good at that?” and to me getting a gig. I see some people commenting in a very disrespectful, unprofessional way (sometimes on very major, high-traffic sites while logged in with their Facebook accounts), as if they are completely oblivious to the fact that people from the real world can access those comments. I hope to do the opposite.
4. Look the part.
More and more I’m realizing how much image matters. There are two parts to this. One is actual, physical looks. Modeling has helped me become way more conscious of that. I still have a long way to go (and truly believe it’s a life-long ever-evolving process), but I’ve gotten better at looking put-together before I leave the apartment. Instead of immaturely clinging to my rebellious tendencies (“I don’t have to dress how you tell me! I don’t need to be judged by how I look!”), I’ve realized that changing my appearance is fairly easy, and that if I look the part I’m trying to become, people will believe that’s who I actually am and then it will just be who I am. Physically I had been projecting “poor” and “doesn’t give a shit” when really where/who I want to be is “financially well-off” and “on top of her game.”
(So you know I am doing a promotional modeling gig at “Bloomies” right now? Well, I’m considering applying there for part-time seasonal work. I never knew that this store was so high end. It’s not your average retail department store. I wouldn’t just learn how to use their registers; I’d have to actually learn about fashion and different designers and collections and trends. I’d get a discount on clothes and would probably greatly refine my own style while working there. Still haven’t decided though. We’ll see.)
The second part of this is online image. I more or less get to control how I look online. Earlier this year I worked on this–rewriting my LinkedIn profile, creating a professional website, etc.–and it landed me a job. Now it is time for me to revamp my online presence by rewriting descriptions, updating photos, and more in order to either move up at that job or land a different one. Also, I want more twitter followers. I want 500+ by right now and 1,000+ by the end of the year. It sounds stupid, but it’s a signal. Times have changed. If I have 1,000+ followers I could actually mention that in a cover letter as evidence of my social media skills.
Okay, I think that’s it for now. Although I consider this blog the “behind the scenes” blog, I do want to apply some of these concepts here, as well. I’ve gotten better over the past couple of years (Do you know who I go on dates with? Who I hang out with as friends? Who my clients are for work? Etc.? No. I’ve become much better at writing about generals instead of specifics here and in social media. I’ve learned how to make people feel like they know me, without telling them the who/what/when/where of my life unless it is purposeful.), but I’m still not great. It really involves toeing a line. My personal blogging style is, I suppose, “confessional” in nature. Sometimes that can hurt me, i.e., if I write all about how I’m pumping myself up to act super confident and land a freelance gig at social media week, I’ll feel pretty dumb if someone at social media week turns to me and says, “Oh yeah, you’re that girl who was really hoping to land a job out of this. Good luck. Don’t worry so much!” or something like that.
Okay. Good night!