Are You A Dangerous Woman?

Photo of Pat Mitchell reading to an audience at a book launch party.
JZ’s photo from a book party in Park City, Utah at the Susan Swartz Gallery

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on November 25th, 2019.

I just finished reading Becoming a Dangerous Woman, and let me tell you, it left me a little fired up. With a title like that, how could it not? The book is the autobiography of Pat Mitchell, a woman who has become a cherished friend, mentor, colleague, and confidante to me over the years. She is not only one of the great trailblazers in media over the past several decades, but she is also one of the most authentic, steadfast champions for women and underrepresented people that I have ever had the honor of knowing. Simply put, Pat is the real deal.

Despite this, I know that this book was not easy for her to write, and it took many, many years for it to come to fruition. Ironically, Pat is known for helping so many other people tell their stories, and yet it was not until the age of 76 that HER incredible life story is finally out in the world. As she tells it, “my life began in an unlikely place; on my grandparents’ small cotton farm with no electricity or indoor toilets.” In the book she talks about growing up in the south, and goes on to chart her incredible personal and professional journey that has covered many decades. It is an extraordinary story, so let me give you some highlights.

Pat began her career in media as a news reporter and news anchor, and went on to shatter one glass ceiling after another over the course of several decades. She became the first woman to host and produce a nationally syndicated day time talk show in the 1980s called Woman to Woman. In 1993, she became the first female president of Turner Original Productions and CNN Productions after having been recruited by Ted Turner himself. The story of their first encounter is well documented in her book in the chapter entitled “Taking My Shot”, and it was the chapter she read aloud to a group in Park City at one of her launch parties. She went on to become the first female president and CEO of both PBS and the Paley Center for Media, and in 2010, she helped co-found TedWomen and remains a curator to this day. In just two weeks, Pat will be giving her first TED Talk after years and years of coaching countless people to do theirs. Along the way, Pat has been recognized with 37 Emmy Awards, 5 Peabody Awards, and two Academy Award nominations. She has been named one of the most powerful women in Hollywood by the Hollywood Reporter, and in 2009, she was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame.

And then there is the non-profit work that she has done and continues to do. She currently serves as the Chair of the Women’s Media Center, an organization dedicated to advancing women’s representation in the media, and in 2012, she was awarded their Lifetime Achievement Award. However, her commitment to positive social change extends beyond media, as she is actively involved in numerous nonprofit organizations and foundations throughout the world, including the VDay movement to end violence against women and the Acumen organization, which is dedicated to ending poverty. Close to my heart is her work with the Sundance Institute, where I am honored to also serve as a Trustee. Not only is Pat Chair of the Board, but she is also out in the world, championing for the support of independent artists, with a particular focus on marginalized groups who are so often underrepresented.

The above is truly an incredible list of accomplishments, but what is special about Pat is her character. Not the what, but the how. I’m reminded of David Brookes book, The Road to Character, where he talks about resume virtues versus eulogy virtues. The latter, of course, being the ones that truly matter. Ones like kindness, generosity, bravery, all of which Pat has in spades. This is evident in how she wrote her book. It couldn’t just be her story. No, instead she has punctuated it with brief interviews of other dangerous women, including Christiane Amanpour, Ava DuVernay, Ruth Ann Harnisch, Zoya, and many more. Similar to the ridiculously fabulous Gloria Steinem, Pat’s story has to ALSO be about other women’s stories. In the chapter describing Pat’s tenure as the host of Woman to Woman, she talked about ending every program with the mantra, “Woman to woman, that’s how we learned, that’s how we change, that’s how we support each other.” Heck yes!

So why the title, Becoming a Dangerous Woman? For her it means that “at whatever age or place in life’s journey, to embrace risks and engage with renewed passion and collective purpose in the truly dangerous work of making the world a safer place for women and girls. …For me, it doesn’t mean being feared but being fearless; it does mean speaking the truth when silence is safer; showing up for one another even within the patriarchal construct that encourages us to compete and compare; and it does mean speaking out about the politics and policies that diverted us and diminish our individual and collective power. It also means optimizing that power to be effective in allying with those who don’t have access to opportunity, influence, or privilege. It also means, for me, sharing our stories as women have done for generations to survive, thrive, and move forward.” Again, heck yes!

This is a book for anyone and everyone, but it is especially applicable for women navigating the separate, yet inseparable spaces of career, home, and community service. For Pat, it was not always easy, nor it is for most women, and she openly shares how her choices for prioritizing one over the other came with consequences. At the end of day, we all must own our choices, while also understanding that those choices are informed by things that happen to us along the way, but over which we have no control. Pat, like so many other children, suffered the pain of incest, and her choice to share this story was made to “help raise awareness of the vast number of women carrying the lasting wounds and pain of it.” Brave? Heck yes! Hmm… maybe the title of this article should have been, Heck yes!

Pat is clearly an extraordinary individual, and I’m thrilled that even more people will now know about her and celebrate her accomplishments with the release of this book. More importantly, I hope it inspires others, and in particular women, at all stages of their lives to be dangerous women themselves.

Shop the Dangerous Woman Collection

You can pick up your own copy of the book HERE. Farasha Style and Zenzee have partnered together to create the Dangerous Woman Collection. Products are created by women-led, sustainably minded companies, and all proceeds go towards the organizations mentioned in the book. This is truly shopping with a purpose in time for the holiday season. My favorite pieces are the dangerous women red scarves and the sustainable bamboo straw/utensil kits. To shop, please click HERE.

What If

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As published on LinkedIn Influencers on November 7th, 2019.

I don’t remember who first told me about the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling, but it was when I was in high school, some 40 odd years ago. Soon after I typed it out on my typewriter, I folded it neatly and carried it around in my wallet. Every home I have lived in, every office I have worked in, I have had this poem somewhere on the bulletin board. It remains my go to poem to this day. It is who I aspire to be in this world.

Why am I posting this today? Because over the past few weeks I have been re-entering the world post my gap year of sorts. It feels like a new beginning. A new chapter. And front and center is not only WHAT I will be doing, but HOW I will be doing it. The below is a great framework for the how.

Calm. Kind. Confident. Patient. Honest. Humble. Grateful. Thoughtful. Risk-taking. Reflective. Resilient. Generous. Inclusive.

Enjoy.

If – By Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

 But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

 Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with triumph and disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

 And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run—

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man (Woman/Person) , my son (Daughter/Child)*!

* My Additions

If you have a favorite poem please share. Have a great day.

Finding a Job Post Graduation


As published on LinkedIn Influencers on July 27th, 2019.

Last month I watched as my oldest child graduated from college. Yes, my son is now officially a college graduate, and no, I don’t know where the time went. What I do know is that I am one proud mother. My son is in full-time job search mode, and watching him go through this process has been eye-opening for me. I’ve been trying to offer advice, but it has been 30 years since I was in his shoes looking for my first job, and a lot has changed since then. That being said, it’s also remarkable how much has remained the same.

When I graduated from the University of British Columbia back in 1988, I was lucky because I knew what I wanted to do: enter a career in finance. I was also very lucky in that a number of firms, including Goldman Sachs, came to my campus to recruit. That made everything a lot easier. When a graduate takes a well-trodden path, such as banking or consulting, a university can be a big help. But if you’re taking the path less taken, not so much. It makes me wonder whether universities are ranked in some way by the support they give in helping their graduates find work. If not, they really should be, especially considering the investment these young people are making in their education. You would think that that would be an important benchmark.

Regardless, my son is not heading down a well worn path, and naturally, I want to help. But, and I can’t stress this enough, I want to help in a positive way. A recent study revealed that 40% of employers have had parents interfere in their child’s career. Employers have reported parents submitting resumes on their child’s behalf, calling the company to lobby for their child to be hired, and even sitting in on their child’s job interview. If you are a parent, do not, I repeat, DO NOT be one of these parents. Not only does it reflect badly on your child, but studies have shown that these helicopter parenting tactics do more harm than good. Give advice, sure, leverage your network, sure, but then let your child figure out their own path.

For myself, I decided that my way of helping and giving advice would be to do some research on the current job market and strategies on how to get a job in today’s connected world. Hopefully I can give him some helpful information and he can take it from there. Given my inclination to share, share, share, below is what I have learned. I invite you to have a read, and please share your favorite tips and resources in the comments below for all graduates to read and use.

First, some stats.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, American colleges and universities will award 1.0 million associate’s degrees, 1.9 million bachelor’s degrees, 780,000 master’s degrees, and 182,000 doctor’s degrees for the 2018-2019 school year. 

At the same time, 19.9 million students were projected to attend American colleges and universities in fall 2018. My youngest child will be one of them. 17 million students will enroll in undergraduate programs, with 2.9 million enrolled in post-baccalaureate programs.

Your first job matters. According to a 2018 study by the Strada Institute for the Future of Work, 43% of college grads take positions that don’t require a degree. This study also found that 10 years after graduation, 1 in 5 college grads still weren’t working in a position that required a degree, meaning that once you’re underemployed, it can be extremely difficult to get out of that hole. This can impact your career and future earnings, so choose your first job carefully and strategically.

What about salary expectations? According to new data by College Pulse, analyzed by LendEDU, students expect to make $60,000 out of college, but in reality the average is $48,400. They analyzed over 7,000 responses from current college students from over 1,000 different schools for these numbers. Another study, the NACE’s Fall 2018 Salary Survey, stated that the preliminary average starting salary for the Class of 2018 graduates stands at $50,004, which is 2% less than the preliminary salary for the Class of 2017 ($51,022). This study also included eight main college degree categories and their estimated salaries, which would be worth benchmarking against in your own search for potential salaries.

Some good news. The unemployment rate for recent college grads was 3.7% in December 2018, just ahead of the overall 3.8% unemployment rate for the US at large. The job market, generally speaking, is strong. That said, somewhat alarming is the fact that when adjusted for inflation, the median earnings for recent grads today is no higher than for recent grads in 1990. With costs of living increasingly going up, that’s a worrying statistic for any parent. No wonder so many kids end up living at home for a while after graduating.

Know thyself.

It’s one thing to know what field you want to enter, but it’s another thing entirely to find the position that best suits your strengths and talents. One way to help this process along is to know just exactly what those strengths and talents are. I recently put in the time to more fully understand myself in this way, and it has been so helpful. Below are some of the tools that I would recommend for getting to know yourself better.

The Strong Interest Inventory is a good tool to help determine your work personality. It was first developed in 1927, and now has over 80 years of research behind it. This tool will help focus your job search on the positions and careers most tailored to your specific areas of interest.

Another great tool that I’ve personally used myself is StrengthsFinder 2.0 from Gallup. Similar to the Strong Interest Inventory, this is an assessment tool that helps to determine where your natural strengths and talents lie, as well as which areas need improvement and how to have more self awareness about both.

Job Sites

So now you understand what you want and what you might like to do. What’s next? How do you actually find a job? The good news is that there are a lot of big sites that amalgamate thousands of job postings, such as IndeedCareerBuilder, and Monster, meaning you have thousands of options at your fingertips. However, if these big sites seem overwhelming, the good news is that there are plenty of other sites that provide more targeted listings. Dice, for example, posts jobs specifically for those looking to enter the tech industry, while Cool Works specializes in outdoor job postings. One of the most highly recommended is The Muse, where they pair every job posting with insider information on what that company’s culture and employee experience is like. The Muse also has the largest database of career advice online, including career and coaching options.

Another great site is Idealist, which lists thousands of jobs for those looking to work in the non-profit sector. When I worked for Women Moving Millions, this was the site we used the most when recruiting. Finally, another great tool for recent grads is College Recruiter. This site is tailored specifically to graduates looking for their first job, and helps to identify good entry-level positions. There is even the opportunity for job seekers to have an expert critique their resume at no extra cost.

And of course, LinkedIn. It’s estimated that up to 70% of all job postings are never publicly published, meaning that your network of contacts is extremely important. Over the years, LinkedIn has become the top site for making business and career connections, so a professional, up-to-date LinkedIn profile is a crucial part of any job seeker’s inventory. LinkedIn also has a community of thousands of business professionals who publish daily content full of advice and practical knowledge. The site even has its own job board and listings, so when it comes to landing your first job, LinkedIn is an invaluable tool.

Some additional information.

According to Zippia, a company whose mission is to empower people with the information and tools needed to achieve their career aspirations, these are the “best” 10 entry-level jobs for college graduates in the United States:

  1. Cartographers and Photogrammetrists
  2. Computer Systems Analysts
  3. Management Analysts
  4. Web Developers
  5. Film and Video Editors
  6. Sales Engineers
  7. Technical Writers
  8. Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators
  9. Multimedia Artists and Animators
  10. Credit Counsellors

Finally, I am a member of an awesome network called The Li.st, and I reached out and asked the members for some advice. Here are some highlights:

Nisha Chittal, Engagement Editor, Vox.com – As someone who’s done a lot of hiring of recent grads, my biggest tip is that cover letters are really important. We do read them. And in cover letters, candidates should demonstrate two things:

  1. Why you care about working at *this* specific company.  I see a lot of cover letters that aren’t tailored to the company and look like they could have been copy-pasted and sent to 100 different companies. This is not a good strategy. Most hiring teams want to know that you know something about their company, you understand what they do and what their mission is, and why you want to be a part of that mission. While copy-pasting the same cover letter 100 times might seem more efficient, you’d do better to take 10 minutes customizing your cover letter for each position and company you apply for — that will make you stand out far more.
  2. What value you would bring to the company. I also see a lot of cover letters, particularly from recent grads, that talk about how “this job would be the ideal opportunity for me to take the next step in my career.” While this is nice, what hiring managers really want to know is what value and skills you will bring to their company and how your skills will help them achieve their goals. So frame it the other way. Instead of talking about how this opportunity would be great for you, explain why you would be great for the position, and talk about what value you will bring and what you can help them do.

Nadja Blagojevic, Director of Content Strategy, Axiom – When I was a hiring manager, there were a bunch of traits that I would have LOVED to have seen in an entry level candidate. These were really basic qualities like being punctual, detail oriented, reliable, having a good attitude while learning the ropes, being organized, etc. I remember thinking that if I could find someone with those basic attributes, I would hire them in a heartbeat. For hiring at a junior level, I sort of assumed candidates were not going to actually know anything, and I would focus on hiring smart people who I could teach, and who would have a great orientation towards work and a learning mindset. 

Some other great books, articles, and resources from The Li.st members and others:

How to Win Friends & Influence People & How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age by Dale Carnegie

The 31 Most Common Interview Questions (and how to answer them) The Muse

The Best Cover Letter Examples for Every Type of Job Seeker The Muse

Your Step-by-Step Guide to Making the Perfect Resume (With Examples!) The Muse

16 Tips Every College Graduate Needs to Hear in 2018 Forbes

8 Ways Generation Z and Millennials Will Differ in the Workplace Forbes

I hope you found this useful, and remember, please feel free to add your tips in the comment section below. If you are looking for your first full-time position, good luck!