Tips from the Trenches: Q&A with Mikki Glass of WITH YOU

I have two rules in my business.  Tell the truth and do what you say you are going to do.  I find that if you adhere to those, you will be way ahead of the game.  – Mikki Glass of WITH YOU

 

The crowd-funding site Kickstarter continues to gain traction and buzz thanks to the ingenious, outrageous and downright outstanding things that have come to fruition as a result of being featured on the site.

Clearly there are some ups and downs when preparing to put yourself “out there” to attract funding for a business or idea. So, we talked with Mikki Glass – CEO of WITH YOU, a jewelry company that is in the process of procuring funding via Kickstarter — about her thoughts on investing in yourself and your community, and why this business could be a breakthrough on a variety of levels:

 

Mikki_OliviaWhat is WITH YOU and why are you doing the Kickstarter campaign?

WITH YOU is a new jewelry line featuring lockets that allow people to carry loved ones “with you.”  While we are just officially launching now, it’s a concept that has been with me for almost a decade.

I hatched the idea around my sister’s wedding when I was looking for a way to make sure my dad — who had died a few years before — could “walk” her down the aisle. I created a locket to hold his photos on a discreet anklet.

Then, about a year ago, WITH YOU kicked into high gear.  I was doing the commute back and forth to New York City for work and I was grappling with how limited my time [was] to be doing this commute with a then two-year-old at home. Like many working moms, I want to be there for my daughter when she gets home from school. In order to do that,  I needed to figure out a way to work closer to home. In addition, my husband retired from the Army and was looking for his next career move. After 24 years and three deployments (and four years as an embassy Marine), he, too, wanted to find a way to be closer to home and more connected to the community.

We knew we needed a boost and thought that Kickstarter was a great way to leverage our Facebook fans and raise some money for the production of the pieces. (They are semi-precious stones and precious metals, so not inexpensive to produce.)

It’s working! We’re close to our fundraising goal and we just got a shout out from Queen Latifah on her website and Twitter.  We were also chosen as Kickstarter staff pick — so things are really moving along.

KickStarterTitlePage_wBadge_640x480It seems like Kickstarter is typically used for funding films or techie stuff.  How has the experience been for you?

Kickstarter has a tradition of funding tech and artistic projects, but the idea of selling products is growing in popularity. The toughest part for us is that we live in the fashion category, one of the lower priority categories in terms of interest and engagement at Kickstarter. But we knew that going in and we built our marketing campaign around it – it’s our job to get the people there. We can’t sit back and rely on the Kickstarter community to discover us on their own. I’m happy to say that we’ve been successful in that way – over 72 percent of our backers are first-time Kickstarter contributors. And, 98 percent of our backers have come directly from our outreach.

 

What skill or technique have you, yourself, used to get ahead or get a job?

I am the ultimate “stay in touch”-er. Once you are in my life, I usually keep you in my life forever. It has always been part of my DNA.  It’s served me well. I’ve found people are willing to help me even years after we’ve worked together because I never truly go away — and not just because of social media. I was a huge letter writer as a kid. I loved being connected to people from an early age.

The experience with WITH YOU has been all about telling my story and getting people to understand it. And the response has been HUGE. We met with our manufacturer and after I told them my story, they immediately wanted to be a part of it and have been an incredible partner from that very first day we met. Getting my business partner Elizabeth — a top marketing expert — to sign on to work with me on a dream has been tremendous. I’ve been blown away by how telling a story about something that means so much to me personally has resonated with so many people.

 

Ultimately, what are your top tips for anyone looking to “kickstart” their careers – or a campaign?

I have two key rules in my business: Tell the truth and do what you say you are going to do. Those have always served my reputation of being a woman who will get things done and will work like a dog to make things right, even when they sometimes go wrong. I have a client who says that he hates agencies. But he likes me. He likes me because I tell him the truth, and I work like mad to honor my word.

Beyond that: Find commonality, bring news and value, and create moments of connection – genuine ones! When I left my last company, I found that almost every person I called for help was willing to do so because I had always given help myself.

For WITH YOU, it’s been the same. Kickstarter is about asking people who are important to you to support your dream, and I’ve been amazed by how many people in my life have seriously stepped up — no questions asked.

 

What’s an example of a time you failed and what did you learn from it?

This last year has been one of my toughest years in business and what I learned is that you have to seriously love and believe in what you are doing. I started WITH YOU to be able to channel my passion into something I always wanted to do – and couldn’t imagine not doing. And I believe it is the recipe for great success. I’ve had success in my life, but this is that moment I’m looking for great.

 

WITH YOU is in the final week of its fundraising campaign.  To learn more, go to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2130636646/with-you-reinventing-the-locket.

 

Tips From the Trenches: Jodi Arnold of Eloquii

 “Be clear about your mission and your value proposition and don’t waiver from that.” — Jodi Arnold, creative director, ELOQUII

When we first heard the story about ELOQUII, we were wowed.

It had all the trappings of one of those Hollywood tales: the underdog bouncing back from seemingly insurmountable odds.  The plus-size women’s clothing store is truly a “comeback kid,” having been shuttered by its parent company but then resurrected as a stand-alone entity thanks to its vocal legion of fans.  Eager to learn more, we spoke with Jodi Arnold, the brand’s creative director, who was on board throughout the entire adventure.

Jodi is a fashionista of the first degree.  Years ago, armed with a degree in Fashion Design from Baylor University, the Birmingham, Alabama native made her way to New York City and into the various positions in the fashion industry.  Then, over a cup of mint tea in Paris in 1999, she made the decision to set out on her own and launched the press and retail favorite contemporary line, MINT Jodi Arnold.  Her next move came after a successful designer collaboration with The Limited; the company hired Jodi in 2011 as Vice President of Design for their then-new plus-size line, ELOQUII.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Here’s what Jodi has to share about her beloved brand, standing out from the crowd as well as bouncing back from career challenges:

JodiArnold_ColorYou’ve gone through ups and downs with ELOQUII. What were a few things you learned from the process? There are too many to name but first would be the power of being small and nimble in a manufacturing business. Second, go with your gut. The plus-size business was one that made so much sense, given our knowledge of the average woman’s shape, and we could not understand why no one was catering to her. Third, be very clear about your mission and your value proposition and don’t waiver from that.

 

What would you like the plus-size women of the world to take away from the story of ELOQUII?
I hope that plus-size women will be inspired by the passion it took to re-launch this brand for THEM and to finally give them the fashion choices they deserve. Everyone on the team passed up other lucrative job offers and took a risk to do what we really believed in.

 

 

So many companies make significant missteps with regard to their online/social media presence. How did ELOQUII successfully negotiate those waters?
We try to be as human as possible and do everything we can to ensure our customers are taken care of. They are our #1 priority. We also stay really nimble – as little pre-scheduled content as possible so that we’re able to react to current events, or even priority changes on site. If she follows us on social, she knows what is happening on the site at all times, and even a few exclusive deals she can’t find anywhere else. Thanks to our in-house social media expert, Sarah Conley, we are able to interact with and react to our fans at all times!

 

Courtesy of ELOQUII

Courtesy of ELOQUII

What advice do you have for businesses or brands looking to harness their fan base like ELOQUII did?
If you genuinely care about what your fans have to say, let them know! We do our best to respond to every question and comment, most of the time in under an hour. We’re not going to be able to make everyone happy, but we want her to know that her feedback has been heard and we’re trying to accommodate all of our customers in the best way that we can. If they want personal shopping advice, we’re happy to help guide them in the right direction. If they want us to offer a certain style in another color, we’re going to give it serious consideration. It’s that level of attention to detail that will bring her back to us time and time again.

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Volunteering: How Helping Out Helps You Stand Out In the Workplace

Photo credit: www.careways.org.au

Last week was National Volunteer Week, an annual event that, since its inception in 1974, has raised awareness about the  growing role volunteerism plays in strengthening communities. But did you know that it can also help you stand out in a good way in the workplace?

LinkedIn recently shared that 1 million members have added charitable causes to their profiles and pointed out that over 60 percent of those members are Millennials who highlight their volunteer efforts as a part of their professional identity.

Some might argue that they can’t afford to work for free, but here are a few ways in which volunteering can help you land your dream gig:

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Tips from the Trenches: Q&A with Nicole Brydson, founder of Brooklyn,The Borough

“Losing a job always feels like a big failure, so in that sense I have failed, but I now know that failure is a precursor to success, and often, being open to failure leads to success.”– Nicole Brydson, journalist, creative strategist, manager, and founder of Brooklyn, The Borough

nbrydson-final-07In Be Your Own Best Publicist, we interviewed a number of smart, interesting people on how to build a brand and stand out. As part of our online series of Q&As, we recently talked to entrepreneur, strategist and blogger extraordinaire Nicole Brydson and got her to share a little about her professional evolution, the importance of being yourself — and  why she believes that you don’t have to start your entrepreneurial path outside of the traditional workplace.

 

Why is it so important these days to stand out in the workplace?

Successful ideas can help you stand out and can mean spinning off entire new companies by yourself or with your employer. I went out on my own to build BrooklynTheBorough.com, but I recently met the entrepreneur Nora Abousteit at a DIY Business Association event. Along with her former employer, the German publisher Hubert Burda Media, she turned their stodgy old sewing magazine into a social media sewing circle phenomenon called BurdaStyle. Then she left to build Kollabora – a site where you can buy materials. She’s proof you don’t have to start your entrepreneurial path outside of the traditional workplace, and that companies who seek to innovate well and invest in their talent will be rewarded for risk taking.

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Tips From The Trenches: One-on-One with Valerie Insignares of Darden

“I believe every day your actions speak louder than any words you say.  In fact, what others say about you is often times more important than what you say about yourself.” – Valerie Insignares

We meet a lot of powerhouse women in our day-to-day lives — women who are making a name for themselves in their industries and beyond. So, when we recently connected with Valerie Insignares, SVP/Chief Restaurant Operations Officer at restaurant company Darden, we jumped at the chance to get her perspective on standing out in the workplace.

Insignares is impressive  — recognized within her company (which owns Red Lobster, Olive Garden and The Capital Grille, among other multi-location establishments) for her record-breaking guest count growth as well as for her role in establishing the supplier diversity initiative — she’s made the “most influential” lists for key industry publications as well as Hispanic Business. Add to that her other role as one of this nation’s 30 million working moms, and her list of accomplishments becomes even more inspiring.

With all on her plate (restaurant pun intended), we were honored that she found a few minutes to share her perspectives about serving up authenticity and quality no matter the role and why we should look to Missy Franklin for inspiration:

Why is it so important these days to stand out in the workplace?

I’ve been with Darden for 15 years now, and we’ve grown into the world’s largest full-service restaurant company with more than 180,000 employees and 2,000 restaurants. As the company has grown, the organization has become much more complex and the environment is much more global. In order to stand out, you need to be more than a functional expert. You need to be viewed as a business leader. The way to do that is to view your career as a learning journey: (to) take risks and roles that will broaden your perspective,  be committed to evolving your leadership, and be open to relocation. Many more opportunities will be open to you if you are!

As a leader, it’s equally important to be known for how you do things as it is for what you do.  It’s important to demonstrate personal balance and commitment to your family and community.  Luckily Darden is a place that places equal weight on both its business and its values.

 

What’s the best PR advice you’ve ever received?

Play to your strengths.  We all come from different places and have seen or worked through all kinds of personal and professional experiences.  Remember that you bring a unique perspective to the table as well as a unique set of skills. It’s up to you, however, to deliver tangible value to your employer by using these strengths. At the end of the day, doing good work using your unique strengths is your best PR plan.

 

What’s an example of when you’ve been your own best publicist?

As a leader, I believe every day your actions speak louder than any words you say. In fact, what others say about you is often times more important than what you say about yourself. Do you behave in way that is positive and energetic? Are you consistent?

 

What are your top networking tips?

Networking doesn’t have to be something you do in addition to your day job. As a working mother, I have little time outside of my day-to-day schedule of work, family and exercise. My advice is to work connections into your schedule. Make genuine connections with people in your company, industry and community, and keep those relationships going. Simply checking in with these connections a few times a year can help maintain a strong network. Also, keep your commitments. A quick cup of coffee is easy to reschedule when your calendar is full or you have a full inbox. But it’s important to realize we’re all busy, and you’ll be happy you honored their time and your commitment.

 

How important is it to break through the clutter when you’re trying to stand out—and what’s the best way to do so?

Sometimes you don’t need to break out in a big way; rather, you need to demonstrate leadership qualities and let the result speak for itself. A good leader coaches his or her team and smartly allocates his or her resources in the best interest of the business. Making a true difference is the best way to differentiate yourself.

 

What’s your best tip for how to get what you want at work?

A great start is to really know what you want!  So many people ask me for career advice and say they want to advance, but when I ask them where they are trying to go they aren’t clear. When you’re clear about the types of opportunities you would be open to — lateral, cross functional, relocations, etc.– you are more likely to be top-of-mind when the opportunities are created. You also need to be very willing to do or change what it takes to get there and be ready to say ‘yes’ when asked!

 

 What do you think is the best/worst recent example of managing your reputation?

I think a strong example of reputation management was seen with the United States Olympians in London. Athletes like Missy Franklin, the 17-year old swimmer who at such a young age is expected to carry herself with the composure of someone twice her age. I think we can all learn something about staying calm under pressure and performing to the best of our ability.

 

 What do you think is the biggest challenge facing recent graduates now – and how would you combat it?

There is a lot of pressure on youth to figure out what they want to be when they grow up before they’ve had enough experiences to really know the answer.  My message to youth is that you don’t have to have it all figured out… but do follow your passion!  If you set yourself up for success by taking advantage of educational or mentorship programs and always keep learning and working hard, you’ll carve out a path to success – and that success may look a lot different in the future than it looks now.

I love the restaurant industry! I grew up in Chicago, wanting to be a chef. I’ve lived in Kentucky, Texas, and now, Orlando.  I’ve progressed from the purchasing side of our business to leading restaurant operations. I couldn’t be happier, and to realize this happiness, I had to be open to course changes during my career journey. The restaurant industry is truly an industry of opportunity.

 

What skill or technique have you, yourself, used to get ahead or get a job? 

For me, it’s strategic thinking: working with teams to identify and prioritize the work that will matter most to our business and our people. In fact, I use the same skill as a working mom to understand the events I really can’t miss at my girls’ school — like Mother’s Day celebrations, for example!

 

Have other tips from the trenches?  Share with us here, on Facebook and Twitter.

News We Can Use: Have We Become a No-Vacation Nation?

Happy almost Labor Day!

Are you heading off  — or have you already clocked out — for some much needed R&R?  If your answer is “no,” you’re not alone.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans left an estimated 226 million vacation days on the table last year. To put it into perspective — that’s almost $35 billion dollars worth of vacation days that went to waste.

The question is “Why?”.  Were those findings an outgrowth of what has been a challenging economy and very tight workforce? Are people just too overworked to take time off?  Do they not feel supported in using those days? If they do hit the road, did they feel the need to remain connected?

Some of those answers are featured in this great infographic created by Column Five Media for Rasmussen College.

But it made us curious: Will we see the same kind of numbers this year?

Help us out and take our quick survey and tell us how you spent YOUR summer vacation: 

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MFL95VS.

We’ll post the results next week.

In the meantime, in honor of this holiday season, we pulled together some top tips to help you stay in vacation mode — at least through the weekend:

  • Don’t check your email. The good news is that most people are off, so people should not be expecting a quick turnaround for messages.  Set an out of office message and plan to get back to people on Tuesday.
  • Step away from the phone. Are you guilty of spending more time with your mobile device (or computer) than you do with your actual friends and family?  This holiday, put down the phone and focus on play time. (To lessen the temptation: Change that setting on the phone so it doesn’t ping every time a message is delivered.)
  • Find a place with little to no connectivity.  Nothing like going off the grid for some peace and quiet.
 How are you spending this holiday weekend?  Tell us here, on Facebook or Twitter.

Finding A Cure for O.S.D. – Obsessive Sharing Disorder

(via msnbc.com // Illustration: Kim Carney)O.S.D., or obsessive sharing disorder – that’s what author and coach Peggy Klaus calls people’s growing tendency to offer up too much personal information at work. In this past Sunday’s issue of The New York Times, she extrapolated that this over-sharing is likely an extension of online behavior or, alternatively, the need to connect in a disconnected world. Klaus points out: Since we spend so much time at work these days (likely as much if not  more time than at home), it’s no wonder we look to  forge close connections with co-workers — and that ultimately blurs the line between professional and personal boundaries.

So, is there a cure for this common ailment (particularly among the Gen Y set)?  Yes!

In “Be Your Own Best Publicist,” we address the challenges of managing your personal brand both on- and off-line.  So, here are some things to remember when considering whether to share or remain silent about your personal life:

  • Who do you think you’re talking to? Just like our recent post about griping about past employers online — think about what the right forum is to share personal information, whatever it entails. Probably not a good move to share your personal issues with a boss or client,  lest they think those distractions will hinder your ability to do the job. Even offering up those private thoughts or questionable choices to co-workers could significantly affect your trajectory at work, so consider your audience before plowing ahead. We recommend holding your tongue –and comments– until you’re outside the workplace (and with trusted friends or family), just to be safe.
  • Will it help or hinder?  Remember that nowadays, in particular, everything you say or post can and will be used “against” you. Whenever we are communicating with a client or a media person, we consider the impact of our words because once a statement or sentiment is out there, it’s impossible to take back (ahem, Congressman Akin!).  Ever try to hit the recall button on a email?  Exactly.  Consider your words carefully in advance. Ask yourself: Will what I say move the situation forward?  How will it color the way my conversation partner perceives me?
  • When in doubt, leave it out. Wondering whether you should share the story about your crazy weekend in the Hamptons or perhaps some details about a love affair gone wrong? Less is more — particularly in the workplace.  Editing yourself can be the hardest, yet most valuable skill you can learn whatever your career. We all need to hit the pause button once and a while. Consider your goals and key messages before blurting any old thing out. General rule of thumb: When in doubt — you got it — LEAVE IT OUT.

How do you deal those “suffering” from O.S.D. in your life?  Tell us here, on Facebook or on Twitter.


 

 

 

Nice Girls Go To Heaven, Bad Girls Go Everywhere – and Other Lasting Lessons Learned from the Legendary Helen Gurley Brown

Helen Gurley Brown believed that self-confidence and smarts would take a woman far.

Monday marked the passing of a publishing legend: Cosmopolitan magazine editor-in-chief Helen Gurley Brown who, at 90 years old, still came into her leopard-print and pink corner office at Hearst Tower nearly every day. While Meryl only admired her spunk and sayings from afar, Jessica, who has run PR for Hearst Magazines for over a decade, knew Ms. Brown personally and was able to admire her up close.

Ironically, a story Jessica had been working on for months about the power of Cosmo as a global brand, ran in the New York Times Magazine just last Sunday and paid homage to Brown and the influence she had on the 100 million readers of Cosmo around the world. The “Cosmo Effect,” as it has been called, all started with the publication of Brown’s bestselling book, Sex and the Single Girl, much of which is still relevant today. If you haven’t read it, you should.

In light of this significant loss for the magazine world and for women in general, we wanted to take a moment to share some of our favorite lessons gleaned from the author/businesswoman/editor’s life well lived and well spoken (if not controversial at times):

-“Nice girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere.”  Brown wasn’t technically a “bad girl” but she was a risk-taker and she had the confidence to be her own best advocate to get ahead instead of fading into the background.  Yes, she started as a secretary but quickly rose the ranks of the advertising world, then conquered the magazine landscape with her bold, frisky version of Cosmo.

-A handwritten note goes a long way. Famous for her handwritten and typewritten notes, Brown sent them to everyone she met. In fact, a book of select notes she had written, Dear Pussycat (her preferred term of endearment), was published in 2004 and is filled with quippy, thoughtful, interesting messages from her to people such as Joan Rivers, Barbra Streisand, Barry Diller and Steven Spielberg, among many unknowns. We simply don’t hang on to people’s emails like we do a handwritten note and it really makes an impact when you send one. In fact, Jessica still has the note that Brown wrote to her in 2003 saying, “You were such a busy person and you took such good care of me…I was wildly impressed!” — and she cherishes it to this day.

 -“Beauty can’t amuse you, but brainwork—reading, writing, thinking—can.” Brown did not consider herself beautiful; in fact, she referred to herself as a “mouseburger” (the feminine version of “milquetoast”). But, boy, was she whip-smart and that –even more than looks–was (read: “is”) sexy. The brainier you are, the more beautiful you get!

-“My success was not based so much on any great intelligence but on great common sense.” Being book-smart is one thing, but being street-smart is often more important in getting ahead. Common sense is an innate skill and if you listen to it. It will help guide you in the right direction. Trust your gut. Helen Gurley Brown did and look where it got her.

-“Never fail to know that if you are doing all the talking, you are boring somebody.” In Be Your Own Best Publicist, we talk about how listening can often be even more important than speaking. It will give you insight on people that you wouldn’t get if you just blathered on about yourself. Brown understood this and was gifted at reading people –both women and men– and identifying what they wanted.

-“Nearly every glamorous, wealthy, successful career woman you might envy now started out as some kind of schlepp.” We interpret this phrase to mean that everyone has to start somewhere. A lot of young people these days don’t want to take an unglamorous entry-level or administrative job; they want to get to the top quickly. But Brown started in the secretarial pool, worked hard, networked and moved up. But she never turned her nose up at getting into the trenches in order to get things done. Even when she had reached the top, she often stayed at Cosmo’s offices until midnight to make sure everything was just so.

-“What you have to do is work with the raw material you have, namely you, and never let up.” She believes that every woman can be successful and sexy, even if they don’t have traditional good looks or natural style. Like we address in our book, finding your personal style is about playing up your best features, creating a signature that people will remember you for and presenting yourself with confidence.

Helen Gurley Brown was truly ahead of her time. She believed in the power of women and encouraged them to shoot for the moon in all aspects of their life, from relationships to career. The world is a little less interesting without her in it.

How do you think Helen Gurley Brown changed the world? Share with us here, on Facebook or Twitter.

Creating Buzz on a Budget: Our #SXSW Bid to Help Start-Ups Stand Out In A Good Way

You have a great idea, a website, a business plan and maybe even some funding. Now what? It doesn’t mean anything unless people are talking, sharing and buzzing about your brand.

For most start-ups, publicity typically falls to the bottom of the expenditure list. Yet, in this day and age, with so much competition for coverage and attention, it can be the thing that connects the dots, raises your profile and attracts consumers, advertisers, partners and investors.

That’s exactly why we’ve proposed a session at SXSW (a nice follow-up to our involvement last year) to help start-ups learn how to kick off the drumbeat about their brands through press coverage and social media buzz, even if they are in bootstrapping mode.

Help us help them by voting for our session: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/1680.  Vote and then send us the screen shot of your vote online —  you will be entered to win a signed copy of our book. (Winner chosen at random.)

**Added incentive: The person who gets the most of his/her friends to vote for us will get an hour-long coaching phone session with us.  (How to show that your friends voted: They email you the screen shot; you then forward to us at Bestpublicist (at) gmail (dot) com.) **

Thanks – and here’s to being your own best publicist!

Life Lessons Learned from the Films Director John Hughes

This past Monday marked the three-year anniversary of the untimely death of 80s film director John Hughes. And, while many of us who grew up with his movies learned a lot about our personal lives, there are lessons that can translate to our professional efforts as well. Some of those include:

  • Don’t put anything in writing you wouldn’t want read. (Sixteen CandlesAs Samantha found out when she filled out the quiz that fell into the wrong (read: Mr. Right’s) hands, everything is on the record — and that is even more clear when you put something in writing (or post something online).  Sure, things turned out great for her (complete with birthday cake and happy ending) but most of us mere mortals need to be cognizant that everything we say, write and post can and will be used against us. In our speaking engagements and workshops for Be Your Own Best Publicist, we remind people not to put anything in writing you wouldn’t want your grandmother, boss or rabbi/priest/shaman/spiritual guide to read.
  • Help can come from the least likely of sources. (The Breakfast Club) A criminal…a princess…a brain…a jock…a basketcase….What started as a group of strangers turned into the ultimate powerful network by the end of the film. And what they learned as their detention day rolled on is that, despite their surface differences, they could rely on one another for advice (Claire giving Allison makeup tips), to help dodge a bullet (Bender distracts while the others get back to the library), for attention (Andy listens to Allison) and to communicate the message (Brian writes the pithy note that summarizes the film). In work, too, support can come from anywhere. Don’t dismiss the people who seem less powerful than you (i.e. security, mailroom workers, secretaries) because sometimes they’re the ones who can help you most. Be nice, lend a helping hand to others and be open to making connections wherever you go.

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