10 Things I Learned at the Women in the Real World Panel

Hey there readers!

I've been a bit inactive on this blog for the past couple weeks since I was planning a conference between several HerCampus branches across the state. Basically we all got together, took photos, talked, hung out, ate dinner, and danced together. But the most important part was our panel. We had four phenomenal speakers come out and talk about their experience in the career world, and share their wisdom and advice. 

Our panel consisted of Windsor Hanger, one of the founders of HerCampus, Jen Garrott, Associate Producer for Colonial Williamsburg Productions and documentarian, Caitlin Elizabeth, a recent grad who is on her way to making her dreams come true as a professional photographer, and Carrie Adams, a former White House Intern doing grad school while working for Sojourners, a social and environmental justice group.

If you want to see photos of the event, You can check out HCWM's facebook page, this write up we did on it, or the blog post Windsor Hanger wrote on her time with us on the Founder's Blog at HerCampus.com.

On to the main event! I wanted to highlight some of the things that I learned at the Panel for you all-- I think it's all phenomenal advice that I would love to share with you all.

1 - Always be nice to everyone. It can be hard to put on a happy face, but it never does you any good to burn bridges. You may think you're just talking to a caterer and end up talking to the CEO of a company. You may be blowing off a classmate and then five years later, they are instrumental in you furthering your career. People talk and your behavior gets passed along to other people -- with or withot context. No matter how frustrating or difficult someone is, always be nice.

2 - Always send a handwritten thank-you card. Always thank the people who take time to help you out along the way, interview you, hire you for an internship, etc. etc. Be sincere in your message and try not to do it in email form. In some industries and at certain companies, you may get the feeling that an emailed thank you is preferred, but if you're not sure, go with handwritten, on a nice card. Harper's Thrifty Tip: If you are a gal strapped for cash, I recommend checking out the book-journal-stationery section of your local Marshall's, TJ Maxx, Ross, or other discount store. They have great, pretty, classy looking cards, often for $3-$5 off what they'd cost at a regular retail joint.

3 - Keep track of your connections. It's important to maintain the contacts you make, so hold onto their information some where safe, and keep them updated every once in a while. The best networkers are the ones who maintain good relationships with the people they meet. That being said, you should consider carrying around a coupon portfolio for business cards, and keeping your own business cards on hand as well (so that people can keep track of you!)

4 - Your major is not as restrictive as you think. Getting a degree is a huge deal, but don't feel like picking a major is marrying a career path. Jen Garrott talked about her experience as a history major and constantly being asked if she planned on writing history books and papers or teaching history-- and she wasn't interested in either. She went on to make a historical documentary and work with film and other media, producing educational materials for Colonial Williamsburg. Your major is not a decree from on high about what you will do for the rest of your life. Take it from my mother, who changed her major a half dozen times officially, and probably twice that in her mind, before settling on Hotel and Restaurant management-- and now? She works as a consultant for groups evaluating the financial risk associated with different business ventures. There is literally zero correlation.

5 - Always be the yes guy. Carrie Adams stressed the importance of taking on anything that needed to be done. There are plenty of people who will say "that's not my problem" or "I don't know how" or "not our division"-- you want to stand out as the person who will take on any task. You want to be the person whom the boss knows will get the job done. They'll start to hand you better jobs, and they'll respect you much more. Go-getters don't get called that for passing the buck!

6 - As a woman, you may face discrimination or assumptions about who you are, what your strengths are, what your weaknesses are, what you can do, and how much you can handle. Challenge that. For the next woman to follow you, it is up to you to challenge people who try to put limits on you and other people of your gender. Of course, this doesn't happen everywhere, but if it happens to you, don't just let it slide. Stand up for you and every girl who walks in after you.

7 - Be proactive. Look for things to do. Look for ways to make things better. Even if you just go around the office asking if anyone needs you to run files here and there or even just photocopy things. You always want to be the person people know as a hard worker, dedicated and proud of everything you do. If there really isn't anything to do, hit the web and read up on the field. Windsor mentioned that people who don't go to work to do work should do the same thing at home, off her clock, out of office space, and without being paid.

8 - Your resume is your first impression-- and it's up to that one piece of paper to help you get a chance to make a second one! If your writing is terrible, if your formatting is off, or you have a typo-- sorry! You don't make it to the next round. If you can't handle perfecting a one-page paper that is supposed to tell a company why they should consider you, how can they expect you to handle anything? Remember to save it in PDF format so that it doesn't get messed up in conversion. Also remember that your resume should reflect your industry-- a graphic designer and an accountant should have two very different resumes.

9 - Try new things. Even if something doesn't work out-- whether it's a strange class or a summer internship-- it's always valuable to learn more. Try out different fields if you're not certain where you want to go-- or even if you are! You may discover a passion for something you never even thought about-- like anthropology!-- or discover through an internship that the field you tried out isn't for you. Even if that's the case, you've narrowed down your interests, learned some new things about a field, and about yourself, and gained valuable experience. Once again, remember to say thank you after every opportunity!

10 - Find a mentor in your field, and a woman if that is what you are too. It is so reaffirming to have someone who has been in your shoes, can talk you through the tough times, and has come so far. If you can find a great mentor, you are extremely lucky to build that kind of a supportive relationship!

Well those are ten things I learned from our fabulous panel. There were many other great tips and I wish I could have shared them all. I'm excited for next year and putting together another one of these conferences! I hope you found it helpful and if you're on campus next time we have our conference, swing by our panel!


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