5 years ago, I picked up my first @forbes magazine. Today, I’m the newest contributor at Forbes.com. I report to millennial women about the added value of mentorship, the power of the leapfrog theory and how to be the woman world-class performers actually want to mentor.
Nothing just happens. For many of my career wins, I’ve had to either pull all-nighters, pursue contacts, raise my hand in meetings when I was scared to speak up, book many flights I couldn’t afford just to meet the biggest players in my field or fail hard to earn the opportunities I wanted. There’s so much you don’t see behind-the-scenes.
A sacrifice is a loss or something you give up, usually for the sake of a better cause.
To be the newest @Forbes Contributor is a dream fulfilled. I started my writing career 8 years ago. To say, I’ve been patient is an understatement. I’m going to break down how I turned a distant dream into a note-worthy achievement.
1. I worked for it while I waited for it.
I have an incredible amount of patience. I am willing to make short-term sacrifices in exchange for long-term success. I’m not better than anyone, my focus is just different. In my early 20s I made the decision to give up weekends. That meant saying no to bae-cations, patio season, Cabana Pool Bar (still have never been), and any other cool things that young people do. I’m 29 and still have the same standard. I do have a life, I just spend it doing things that feed my career because that’s the focus. I want a better life for my family and I won’t stop until I earn that “mom you can chill now” money. I’m insanely disciplined. I’m grinding in my 20s so I can live fly in my 30s. Here’s a quick timeline for you:
Age 21: Launched my blog
Age 22: Nationally Published Journalist (Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, National Post)
Age 26: Released my novel, Everything I Couldn’t Tell My Mother
Age 28: Started my career as a ghostwriter for celebrities, pro athletes, and CEOs
Age 29: Became a Contributor on Forbes.com
When I launched my blog it was nothing fancy, but every single day I put my heart into it. Blogging was the newest “trend” and I watched peers pass me in views, recognition, and stardom. But I wasn’t in competition with anyone, I just wanted to be a better writer. For the first year, I might have totaled less than 100 views a month – It was probably only a few friends who cared. Like, Gary Vaynerchuk says 1 is greater than 0. I never questioned if I’d be successful, but I won’t even lie I spent an enormous amount of time wondering when it would actually happen. Gradually, it came in the form of small wins that I learned to appreciate because I spent so many hours shooting in the gym. *Rick Ross voice*
2. I turned strangers into friends
I used my blog as a sounding board for my ideas and dreams. Then I started interviewing other women because I wanted to hear their stories too. I used this series to strategically put me in a winning position. I reached out to powerful women I wanted to add to my network. The key is to give, over deliver and use that as a foundation to build a genuine friendship from there. One of my interviewees became a mentor and then that mentor became an employer who later connected me to an editor at Forbes …which wasn’t just handed to me btw, I had to earn my spot. Your network is extremely important, once you have a solid crew then you need to raise your hand for opportunities available.
3. I asked for what I wanted
This step is for the women who have REAL work ethic. I don’t want to leave you with the impression that you can ask for what you want anytime you want without actually putting in your 10,000 hours. Now that I have made this point clear, girl, listen to me. Closed mouths don’t get fed. If you want an opportunity, you have to ask for it. Don’t expect anyone to read your mind. After years of building a relationship with my mentor and being a dope mentee (ask her, she’d tell you), I literally picked up the phone one day and asked her “Can you please help me write for Forbes?” She said, “Ok.” and we started the process. You can listen to my podcast episode about my life-changing trip to New York. But it didn’t stop there. <— That episode is only part of my journey.
4. Get in the right rooms with the right people
Each new level will require you to stretch yourself. For many of my career wins, I’ve had to either pull all-nighters, pursue contacts, raise my hand in meetings when I was scared to speak up, book many flights I couldn’t afford just to meet the biggest players in my field or fail hard really hard to get the lesson. Because I work in the world of media, New York is where I need to be. I travel there often. Each time I go I make connections that move the needle. Powerful women I once admired are now friends and colleagues like Rhonesha Byng of Her Agenda, Alex Wolfe of Boss Babe, Hakeem Rakim, Ayana Iman, Ashley Fox and Charreah Jackson and more.
In my case, I needed to get in the room with other Forbes contributors and editors. My mentor is who helped me get into these rooms and once I did, it was up to me to turn the lights on. You see anyone can give you an opportunity, but it’s what you do with it that will determine how successful you are. If you are not prepared, you’ll drop the ball. I went to the Forbes event space on two occasions, the first time was to meet the editor – explained here, and the second time was to nurture that relationship.
5. Bring value to the conversation
Sitting in the same circles with female founders I admire is amazing. The networking opportunities are endless. But the real test was during my second trip to Forbes. At one point we started a round table discussion about some of the most talked about world issues. Of course, I was nervous. The whole time I’m thinking “what the heck am I really going to say?” “How am I going to say it?” Immediately, self-doubt creeps into my mind. Then I snapped out of it and changed the conversation (in my head). I had to remind myself…
I was invited because I am a strong, intelligent woman and I am worthy of this opportunity.
As the group conversation continued (my assistant sitting on my right, my friend on my left), whenever I had the chance I raised my hand and speak up, I did. Girl, you have to speak up, even if your voice shakes. I shared my own experiences, I piggy-backed on other perspectives and did this all while my future editor looked on. She was sitting in our circle and leading the discussion. I knew I had only one-take to make a first impression. At this point, I was not a Contributor yet so it was important to me that she knew that I stood for something; that I had an opinion and voice.
This is why it’s so important to stay current. You have to know what’s going on in the world. Girl, read a book. Listen to a podcast. Open a newspaper. There are just too many ways to learn. If I wasn’t such an inquisitive person I would have sat there on mute. And that ain’t cute. Personally, I enjoy using apps like TheSkimm, LinkedIn Pulse, Flipboard or SmartNews.
6. Know what you bring to the table
Every writer for the platform is an expert in a particular area. My area of expertise is mentorship. I’m the Co-founder of New Girl on the Block, a community mentorship platform. My experience is in leadership and millennial engagement. I report on the added value of mentorship, the power of the leapfrog theory and how to become the woman world-class performers want to mentor.
Inspirational stories, personal development techniques, and career advice it’s way too broad. What they’re really looking for is the unique, somewhat narrow/focused topic area that your expertise makes you uniquely qualified to write about. What is it that you know better than anyone else that you can write/communicate in a unique way? There are hundreds of people who want to write about what you want to write about. Which piece of it belongs to you why?