Influential Women In Business Panel

By: Stephanie Eng, Photos by: Stephanie Eng

Throwing a roomful of 200 well dressed, outgoing, and ambitious young women together is always a good idea, but if that room happens to be located at 195 Broadway and also contains five powerful businesswomen, then you’ve got yourself the first annual Influential Women in Business Panel. The event, which was run by Rent The Runway and sponsored by L’Oreal and The Knot, aimed to provide an advice forum and networking opportunity for young women living in the city.

The evening provided invaluable advice about careers and personal growth from higher-ups at L’Oreal, Rent the Runway, The Knot, Refinery29, and Tracy Reese.


Picking the right company:

As an intern, there are always going to be paperwork and office tasks, and it is important to have a good attitude about doing them. However, it is in your best interest to learn more and do more. You can always be a great intern, but it’s important to find a place where you have an opportunity to shine. Don’t do resume builders, because there is no Employer Checklist Of Things You Have To Do To Be Hired. Make sure you are passionate about the company you choose to intern or work for, or it will show.

Career wise: find something you love, or weed out things you don’t. Many of these women started in Finance or Business, and switched fields until they found what they wanted to do. Think about the company culture, too. In a more established company, your path is linear, and you have more opportunities to gain skills and contacts. However, with a startup, you can really help drive the direction of the company, and you can immediately execute ideas rather than wading through miles of red tape. You have to figure out what you like, even in terms of whether you like sitting at a desk or attending meetings. Always know your worth and what opportunities are out there. Do not stay at a company just to stay. Try it out for six months to a year, and if you don’t love it then move on. In the meantime, become friendly with recruiters, and network like crazy. You don’t want to be stuck without connections, regardless of what you choose to pursue.

Some people use LinkedIn, email, or personal connections to gain opportunities. Others just “happen” to attend the same event as the CEO and have the audacity to ask him or her for some info. Either way, it’s extremely helpful to form personal connections or relationships that can be leveraged later to land your dream job. Introduce yourself, send an email, or tweet them. Just do not be afraid to reach out, because the worst that can happen is no response.

The interview:

Step one: do your research. Take a good look at the company and its competitors. What does it do well, and what could it improve on? Read its website and become familiar with their products. Have a few insightful questions prepared, and arrive with meaningful thoughts and ideas.

Step two: make an impression.  Be polished and presentable, and dress as if you work there. For example, don’t show up to a tech startup wearing a full suit. Otherwise, just make sure to make eye contact, smile, and pay  close attention.

Step three: Know your three selling points, and have stories or examples to illustrate them. Rather than just stating a skill, providing an instance in which you used it is a much more personal way to amplify a focus. Many of the people interviewing alongside you will have similar skill sets, so use your charm and personality to shine through.

Step four: Whether it’s a quick email or a handwritten note, make sure you really utilize the opportunity to not only thank your interviewer for his or her time, but to also sell yourself and seal the deal. A good start is “After learning more about your company, I feel that I’m a great fit because A, B, C.”

A few don’ts: do not bring up money in the first interview, trash talk a previous employer, or (cringe) tweet or text during the interview.

Life choices:

Some jobs are going to require constant attention. If you decide to commit to a job, then balancing your work and personal life can be challenging.  Just leave chunks of time for what matters to you. If that means getting up an hour early in order to make it to the gym, then do it. Prioritize.

In your 20s and 30s, you are depositing as much as you can into your career bank account. Charge ahead now, and cash in later when life gets in the way. You can go see your kid in the school play, but the rest of the time, you have to be focused. Some events just have to be missed, but try to make it to the special things. Working for a fellow working mom who will empathize with you is very helpful. Ditto a company where more women are in charge. Having a supportive spouse and family doesn’t hurt.

It’s a big moment when we don’t have to ask, “Is it hard to be a woman in business?”  When the time comes, your work should be so good that no one questions you if you need to leave early or take a vacation day. PERFORM. If you’re performing, your reputation should speak for itself.  Above all: be tenacious, work hard, and be yourself.

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