My upbringing wasn’t exactly exciting. I grew up in a sleepy seaside town, famous for having the longest average life span in the UK (71 years old, in case you’re wondering). My father worked as a mailman and my mother is an immigrant from an impoverished part of Sao Paulo, Brazil. When I wasn’t finding ways to skip class, I was daydreaming about how to move to the city; the only internship opportunities for miles were at a local newspaper and an accounting firm (both of which rejected me several times, FYI).
But I persevered. I sent out emails. Woke up at crazy hours. Commuted. Worked a telesales job selling solar panels. Saved up to move to the city. I sent out more emails, and then I sent out more emails. And sure enough, that tenacity eventually paid off: I landed my first internship at a small magazine.
It was here that I started learning the skills that would eventually take me from unpaid Vogue intern to Senior Manager at a top tech company in just four years. It wasn’t easy, of course, but this is the real takeaway: You don’t need family connections or an Ivy League education to build a well-paid career you love in your twenties. The road might look different (and difficult), but it is possible. Whether you’re starting from the beginning or starting over, I’m sharing the LinkedIn tips that got me noticed, the interview skills that got me the job, and how I progressed once I got there:
Make your LinkedIn profile work for you
Even if you love your current job, your LinkedIn profile should always be updated.
Let’s start with the basics: you need keywords, stat. LinkedIn SEO is real, y’all. But rather than referencing the job you currently have, tailor your headline to the job you want e.g. “Sara Elliott | Copywriter | Copy Editor | Content Manager.”
Other important things to add to your LinkedIn to-do list: a concise, first-person summary and job descriptions filled with bulleted lists of achievements, not just responsibilities. It’s all about your achievements.
Learn how to interview like a pro
No matter what industry you’re in, take a portfolio with you. It’ll help guide your thoughts and show you’re prepared. (Plus, let’s be honest; a prop is always helpful!). Eight to twelve great examples is the sweet spot.
Next step: When describing your achievements, reference your impact in numbers; for example: “My subject lines saw open rates increase by 40%.” To progress, you need to be both creative and commercially-minded.
Also, make sure you ask curious questions—not about company culture or working hours, but actually useful, considered questions that show you’ve done your research.
FYI, the best question you can ever ask a hiring manager is: “What is your biggest problem right now and how I can help solve it?” Thank me later.
Know your worth and land a salary you deserve
Pro tip: You don’t have to disclose your exact currently salary. Seriously, you don’t! Instead, play it like this: “For my recent roles, I’ve been paid in the $50,000–$60,000 range, and I’m looking for $60,000–$70,000 to move.” Think big. Their offer will often be lower, so make sure you’re starting somewhere high.
Always close with an actual, pre-rehearsed summary statement, too. An interview is like brokering a deal: you need to close it, girl.
Know that attitude is everything
Enthusiasm, adaptability and emotional intelligence were the three traits that earned me my recent promotion.
A can-do attitude will have a major impact on the trajectory of your career. Why? Because times have changed. You don’t get ahead just by doing your job well; you progress by making things happen that are beyond your job description. Do, ask, do, ask. The same goes for constantly educating yourself and being collaborative, not competitive.
Never tell your boss you can’t do something. You can, trust me. Say you’ll figure it out and then do so.
Show up to your life before you’re ready
High achievers do things before they’re ready.
When I applied for my first managerial job, I was entry-level and totally unprepared. The salary was almost double what I was earning at the time (yes, you read that correctly!), and yet I decided to take a chance.
You have a choice: you can either sit around waiting for something to happen or you can make it happen. Change your mantra from “Why would they choose me?” to “Why the f*ck not me?” Be the girl who decided to go for it. I promise you won’t regret it.