By Christina Jedra
Cosmopolitan’s Fun Fearless Life Weekend opened with shirtless models (see photo) and featured makeovers by Maybelline, giveaways from Express, and networking with top professionals—including Cosmo editors! But the real treat was the career advice from the incredible women in attendance who are leaders in their fields, from Spanx inventor Sara Blakely to Cosmo EIC Joanna Coles. The two-day New York event at the David H. Koch Theater covered everything from interview tips and encouragement to go after your dreams. If you didn’t have a chance to make it, Ed has you covered.
1. Fake it ‘til you make it.
Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx and the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire, told the audience about the journey of inventing and promoting her product. When the Oprah Show came to her “office” (aka her apartment) to film a segment for Oprah’s Favorite Things, they wanted to observe a staff meeting. The only problem? She had no staff. She immediately called a bunch of friends over to act like her employees. The perception that she had a buzzing business contributed to actually making that happen.
FOX’s Megyn Kelly revealed her “faking it” trick: She has a super confident alter ego named Rachel. When she’s stressed about making a good impression, she can slip into character and own any room. And when things go wrong? It’s Rachel’s fault, she said.
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy recommends “power posing” for two minutes before high-stakes situations like job interviews or presentations. By getting into the physical position of victory—like holding your arms up in a V like you’ve just won a race—you trick your mind into believing you can handle anything. “You cannot sell yourself in a job interview if you don’t believe in yourself,” Cuddy said. It’s a positive feedback loop: Power leads to presence, which leads to more power.
2. Enthusiasm goes a long way.
Sara Blakely said she knew nothing about business or fashion when she invented Spanx (on a random night when she wanted to wear white pants without a panty line). But she knew that she was most qualified to understand the needs of her female customers. She told herself she didn’t need to be a expert at patents or manufacturing, but, “Let me see what happens if I care the most.” Apparently, a lot can happen.
Julie Greenwald, chairwoman and COO of Atlantic Records, said that millennials should know that caring the most can mean cutting back on social time. “I don’t know if I lived my life in my 20s,” she said. “There’s no punching the clock if you’re on a career path.”
3. Let mentorships develop naturally.
Megyn Kelly advises against outright asking someone to be your mentor, which can sound like another job for the professional being asked. “Don’t be stalkerish,” she said. “Slowly try to develop a relationship with someone.”
Finance expert Sallie Krawcheck recommended offering expertise on millennial culture and social media in exchange for advice from potential mentors. “The information you can bring us is enormously powerful,” she said. “There is a lot you can bring to the party.”
4. Work your network.
“Understand the strength of weak ties,” said Dr. Meg Jay, a psychologist who was able to publish a book in part because of a chance email connection she made with woman in the book industry. “Your best friends can’t open new doors for you because you’re all locked in the same room.”
She said not to be afraid to reach out to women we admire because when we ask for help, we give the person a “helper’s high.” “When we do a favor for somebody, we decide we like that person more,” she said. (Interestingly, this technique was also recommended during the “Manthropology” panel: If you make your significant other feel needed, like when you ask him to open a jar, he’ll feel better about himself and you.)
5. Recognize opportunities—and go for them!
Windsor Hanger Western—co-founder, president, and publisher of Her Campus Media—said her business came about after she noticed a gap in the female media market. “There were all these magazines for high school girls and then magazines for women.”
But where was the targeted content for college-age women? After many bumps in the road, Her Campus was born, and is now the #1 global community for college women with over 240+ college chapters. “There are a lot of opportunities out there, but they will not fall into your lap,” Western said. “Be relentless.”
Fitness expert Adam Rosante told the story of writing and publishing a book when no one thought he could do it. “I stayed focused on my end goal,” he said. Rosante advised creating a clear vision of your dream, and make a list of small, actionable tasks that you can do every day to move toward it. “Work backwards to reverse engineer a plan of success,” he said.
6. Dress the part, but dress like you.
In the magazine industry, it’s super important to understand the brand you’re working for. Your clothes are an opportunity to demonstrate that you fit in with the publication but also know who you are. “Understand what the company is, and dress appropriately, but be yourself,” said Anne-Marie Nelson-Bogle, vice-president of marketing for Maybelline. “Represent you. You are your brand.”
Pretty Little Liars star Shay Mitchell added to be wary of trends: “Just because it’s in, if it doesn’t suit you, don’t rock it.”
7. Pitch smart
Fun Fearless Life would not have been complete without tips from the ultimate Cosmogirl herself, EIC Joanna Coles. When asked about pitching ideas, Coles said she wants to be able to envision the concept. “We’re looking for the idea, executable,” she said.
As for interviewing potential Cosmo editors, she said she can sense when candidates bring their anxieties into the room, and that the best thing an interviewee can say is, “I can do this job for you.”