In a world heading toward gender equality, there's one question that seems to come up time and time again: from a career to a social life to a family, can women actually have it all? According to Ann Shoket -- author of the upcoming book The Big Life: Find Your Confidence, Live Your Dreams and Get Everything You Ever Wanted, On Your Own Terms; former Editor-in-Chief of Seventeen, and Millennial expert -- what she calls "the big life" is absolutely within reach, if you are determined to make it a reality.
Speaking to a room packed full of Millennial women (and a few brave men!) at MediaVillage.com's 3rd Annual 1stFive Summer Intern Experience, Powered by Turner, she remarked on the changing ambitions of young women -- a shift from the days of Lauren Conrad, which were marked by affluence and a desire to live in the moment, to a post-recession period, in which women were no longer certain about their futures and therefore became extremely motivated to succeed.
"This generation [of young women] is interested in career ambition and success in a way I've never seen," she commented. And yet, she added, current notions of success vastly differ from past generations' definitions and benchmarks. "Never has there been a chance for women to be as in control of their lives," she told the room, explaining that today's up-and-coming professionals have the opportunity to define success for themselves. You've got to be in "the business of you and your brand, instead of loyal to a company," she noted, even if corporations are slow to adapt to employees' shifting values and expectations.
So, how can a young person navigate a corporate world and find a career that feels like a passion? "In your first job, you should just get any job," Shoket advised the interns, remarking that one's first full-time role is all about learning the ropes -- figuring out the complexities of the workplace, polite e-mailing skills, and team interactions and collaboration. In most entry-level roles, "your boss is thinking about all the crap that they don't want to do," she joked, advising the interns to make the most of it by staying curious, meeting everyone they can and observing as much as possible. "Every step of your career, you will get a little bit closer to your passion ... Finding your voice is first about listening."
During the Q and A session, several interns asked how they could use networking events, like the one they were attending, to build meaningful connections. When it comes to networking, Shoket explained, "It's about quality, not quantity. You don't need to know the most people, but you need to have strong relationships."
In order to start building lasting connections, she laughed that we could all take a page from Bridget Jones' Diary. "Introduce people with relevant details," she quoted, noting that making a point to remember tidbits about someone's personal life will help expand relationships beyond merely transactional networking. As a huge fan of dinner parties, Shoket also recommended good food and wine to help stimulate dynamic discussion. She tasked her audience to look for the small groups of women in the industry who are interested in helping each other succeed. When it comes to networking, "It's about the giving, not just the taking," she said.
As the session wrapped up, she left the interns with a final piece of advice for landing their dream job: "No one wants their boss's job as it is now, everyone wants their career and life to be on their own terms," she concluded. "You have the phenomenal opportunity to put your life together the way you want to … and not [do] what other people are doing."
Now, it's up to the ambitious women in the room to go out and make it happen.
Photos by Christian Taylor and Elena Olivio. The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.com/MyersBizNet, Inc. management or associated bloggers.