By Katherine Louie
On Wednesday, March 22, throngs of women packed the stadium seating at NeueHouse Madison Square to drink wine, eat pizza, and celebrate the release of The Big Life, a powerful new book by Ann Shoket.
The Big Life: Embrace the Mess, Work Your Side Hustle, Find a Monumental Relationship, and Become the Badass Babe You Were Meant to Be was born out of Shoket’s desire to guide young women as they navigate some of the most difficult years of their life.
Shoket engaged the audience in a provocative conversation about millennial women, both in the workplace and at home. She touched on topics like the pay gap—and how to close it—finding your monumental relationship, and how to achieve your version of “the big life” without having to sacrifice your values.
Having worked with young women throughout the majority of her career, Shoket is no stranger to the ambitions of young professionals. She noted that young women, more than ever, want a career with meaning. They want the freedom to work when they want to and where they want to.
But how do you create a career that you’re passionate about on your own terms? Shoket’s advice was to tread into unknown territory, make your own adventures, and embrace the mess. She also recommends that you cultivate hobbies outside of your nine to five job. You may have a job that you enjoy, but rarely does a job encompass all of your interests or talents. Cultivating these hobbies, or “side hustles,” might lead to your next big break. Building a unique set of experiences will expand your horizons and give you the confidence to ask for what you really want. Let yourself be hungry, ambitious, and hopeful.
As an editor, Shoket commands authority. She successfully navigated the magazine publishing industry, and was among the first editors to adapt to the digital space. She was the Editor-in-Chief of Seventeen from 2007 to 2014 during which time she re-positioned the magazine to reach broader audiences and dominate the young women’s category.
Prior to her time at Seventeen, Shocket worked at CosmoGIRl!, Parade, and The American Lawyer. Through her career it is evident that Shoket is a fierce advocate for millennial women, and has worked to develop programs that allow young women to feel beautiful, healthy, and independent. Shoket has also made guest appearances on a multitude of shows such as The View, Good Morning America, The Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, and Access Hollywood in addition to being a guest judge on America’s Next Top Model for four seasons.
As a young female trying to carve out my place in magazine publishing, the idea that stuck with me the most from her talk is the idea of female collaboration in the workplace. For a long time, I didn’t engage in healthy relationships with other females. I was brought up with antiquated views of how women should act in the workplace and in relationships. Other women were seen as competitors; someone to climb over in pursuit of my dream. I constantly compared myself to those around me, silently evaluating who was my biggest threat. I feel ashamed, even now, admitting to these feelings. It wasn’t until I met other young women at my first job (my current job) that I began to understand the importance of positive, mutually beneficial female relationships.
The women that I work with are phenomenally collaborative. They constantly encourage me to ask questions, learn, and push myself into unknown territory. When I make mistakes they don’t criticize me or make me feel incompetent; instead they help me learn what I did wrong in order to correct myself.
These female friendships have taught me about myself. They have encouraged me to grow without judgment and, perhaps most importantly, they have provided me with the deep confidence that comes from knowing that I am supported by other women. Millennial women understand this better than past generations, Shoket enthused on Wednesday night. They have replaced the idea of competition with collaboration, and have built each other up while simultaneously chasing their idea of “the big life.”
Top: Katherine Louie with friend Caroline Brindle. Bottom: Shoket with her book.