Use Some Elbow Grease

How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World
Book Review: Chapter Three


Use Some Elbow Grease: I give seminars at colleges and universities around the country. Near the end of my lecture I always ask for a show of hands to see how many seniors have completed an internship or have had any job experience.

I’m always amazed at the lack of hands. You’d think I’d get used to it, but every single time I ask I get blown away by the number of soon-to-be college graduates with zero job experience on their résumé.

I was lucky because I didn’t have to work during college, but I knew that I needed some job experience on my resume if I wanted a shot at my dream job after graduation. Thank goodness for internships!

An internship is a great start to achieving career goals. Each of us have different dreams and goals in life and achieving those goals is what makes us feel successful.

Like actress Sarah Brown once said, “The only thing that ever sat its way to success was a hen.” Yes, it’s true. The only way to truly become successful is through hard work… and most of us have to start at the bottom and work our way up.

I had several different dreams and goals, but one of the biggest was to be a fashion stylist. I wanted to be published in magazines and work with celebrities, but I started in the industry as a minion. I was the one assigned to run errands, organize supplies, and to get the coffee. Heck, the closest fashion action I got was steaming clothes for hours on end.

I’ll tell you what though… I ran those errands as fast as I could, I organized the supplies to perfection, I never made a mistake with coffee orders, and I steamed those clothes until there were no wrinkles in sight. Eventually someone noticed and I was promoted. I continued going above and beyond in each position until I was promoted again… and the cycle continued. Now, I consider myself to be very successful. I’ve had my dream job as a fashion stylist even moved up to creative director.

No matter what your career field… have a goal, don’t be afraid or too proud to start at the bottom, and work hard with everything you’ve got.

Start Now

If you’re in school, sign up for an internship program as soon as possible. Do at least one a year (if you can). Update your résumé after the end of each school semester and at the end of each internship.

If you’re not in school and you’re having a difficult time landing a position in your field, you should look at the requirements for the positions you’ve been applying to. Check to make sure you actually have all of the listed skills and years of experience required. If you meet the requirements, make sure they’re listed on your résumé and reflected in your portfolio.

For Example

Let’s say you want to be a graphic designer and your dream job is to work on the editorial team for Marie Claire Magazine in New York. You’ll want to start by looking online at the job requirements and responsibilities for that position or for a similar job at a different company. If you meet the requirements then you should apply. If you don’t meet the requirements, start a list by using the requirements of your actual dream job as well as any related jobs you might need in order to work your way up to your dream job.

Be sure to also use an employment search website (like Indeed) to find the requirements of your dream job. Make a detailed list of the requirements and do everything you can to learn those skills. For example, let’s say the job requirements are:

• Able to make changes to layouts as directed by Design Director
• Able to communicate layout revisions to edit, art, photo, and production teams
• Skilled in Adobe CS6 including InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator
• Strong typography skills
• Two or more years of design experience at a magazine

Teach Yourself

If you’re unfamiliar with InDesign, then learn how to use the InDesign program on your own or by taking a class. If you don’t have any design experience at a magazine, then get some by volunteering or interning.

Paid experience is always a plus, so start by applying for jobs that’ll be financially beneficial to you and will help you gain the skills and experience you need for your dream job. Try getting a job as a salesperson at local store or waitress at a local restaurant. I know it doesn’t sound ideal, but your skills as a Graphic Designer would be useful in creating their sale flyers and newspaper ads. Plus, you’ll still be able to add the creditable experience to your résumé and tear sheets to your portfolio.

Another way to gain job experience and increase the skills needed for your dream job is to sign up with a temp agency that specializes in the type of positions you are interested in.

Update Your Résumé 

Be sure to frequently update your résumé and portfolio. One important thing to remember about updating your résumé is to phrase your new experience using terminology found on your dream job’s description and requirements. Keywords are super important because that’s what the online application system uses to filter which applications make it to a real person in the Human Resources Department and which ones don’t.

Keep Applying

Whether you’re employed, unemployed, or a student… keep applying for your ideal position and do everything you can to network in your field. Be sure to continue to build your portfolio during your free time by volunteering to design signs, flyers, or t-shirts for local businesses, schools, theater departments, churches, or your local YMCA.

Mom and pop shops and restaurants are the best places to ask if they’d like free help in designing Facebook banners, flyers, or newspaper ads. They typically can’t afford high quality work and usually don’t know how to do it on their own. Plus, who can say, “no” to free stuff?!

Be Proactive

So, maybe Graphic Design isn’t your field… that’s okay. No matter what your dream job is, find out what skills and experience are needed by searching the internet and employment websites. Once you have the list of criteria you need to meet, be proactive in learning the skills and get creative in the ways you can gain experience. Whatever you do… don’t forget to update that résumé.

As Jordan Christy pointed out, “There’s going to be a lot of long hours, sacrifices, and crying. You’re going to have to cancel a few dates with the boyfriend, neglect a concert or two with the gang, and probably eat a few meals out of the vending machine.”

It’s hard work, but success is worth it!

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