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Glamour honored its 2014 Top Ten College Women with the help of L'Oreal Paris last night, topping off an awards ceremony with career panel moderated by the magazine's EIC, Cindi Leive. Titled "How to Get Your Dream Job in 2014: Secrets of Success From Women Who Know," the panel was comprised of Orange Is the New Black's Danielle Brooks (aka Taystee), actress/writer/producer Greta Gerwig, MAKERS founder and executive producer Dyllan McGee, comedy writer and producer Colleen McGuiness (whose credits include 30 Rock), and presidentially-recognized Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist Gina Keatley.
Discussion and questions from both Leive and the audience lead to nuggets of advice that went beyond the trite "do what you love" (so very easy on paper) and "be the first in and the last out." How the ladies have dealt with set-backs, jealousy, and success, after the jump.
1. Take the jobs other people don't want.
Upon presenting one of the awards, L'Oreal Paris' Mora Neilson dropped this advice bomb: Take the crappy jobs. Her reasoning? This is where you'll learn the most, work the hardest, and connect with people you might not otherwise meet. While kind of counter-intuitive to the "dream job" end goal, many of the panelists echoed the sentiments in recalling formative forks in their career paths. Gerwig noted that she actually has a ton of technical theatre experience because, "People won't let you close to theatres if you say you want to be an actor but they will if you say, 'I'll program your light board for free.'"
2. Failure is fuel.
Leive asked Brooks about the auditioning process and how, frankly, you don't get downright depressed being told no, no, no. Brooks admitted that it's really difficult, and shared a story of her roommate at Juilliard—the only other African-American female in their class of 18—booking every job they both went for. Eventually Brooks reached two important realizations with regards to rejection. Firstly, half of the time rejection isn't about you, it's about external influences you can't control—you've just got to show up and do your best. Second, you have to believe there's a greater good for the jobs that you don't get.
Gerwig laughed at Brooks' Juilliard comment, saying she didn't even get accepted to the school (nor NYU), but used the rejection as motivation to try other aspects of drama and film making like writing/producing (and apparently light board operating). And when all else fails? Get angry. "Failure is the best tool you have. Failure makes you angry and anger pushes you," said Keatley.
3. Have integrity, but don't be "precious" with your work.
After college, Gerwig moved to Chicago with a group of filmmaker friends. Everyone worked day jobs to support their true passion, and they took the films they were making very seriously, but also with no expectations. Of the work they were doing, Gerwig explained, "[It wasn't] a calling card for something else. It was the thing." She stressed the importance of being involved with people—a community—that shares your dedication.
A question from the audience prompted Gerwig on how to expose creative work, "assuming that it is industry-ready." Her advice? "Just put it out there. The industry is changing all of the time. There is nothing you win from being precious about your work." She said her film maker friends, including Lena Dunham, were always quick to post their work on YouTube, and she loves that you can follow the "digital trail" of someone's work. Basically: Embrace the fact that anything you put out there will be forever indexed and archived by putting out work that you believe in.
(It's not a bad idea to keep that "forever archivable" bit the forefront of your mind. McGuiness said of working with Tina Fey: "Tina taught me how to be appropriate and be professional. You can't dig up any dirt on Tina Fey because she doesn't create any.")
4. Success is a moving target.
A number of the panelists spoke about comparing themselves to others, career-wise. "Envy is the only one of the Seven Deadly Sins that isn't any fun," Gerwig winked.
McGuiness says she defines success these days as wanting what you already have, and shared an important piece of advice she got early in her career: Timelines are bad for the soul. Keatley echoed the sentiment, stressing that you need to, "Achieve your goals and still be able to live with yourself. Sometimes you're presented with shortcuts and that's compromise—some you can live with and some you can't. Trust your gut."
Success will always be a very personal quest, and one that you will change the definition of with time. And while on the hot pursuit for whatever it is that you've defined as success, Neilson hopes that you'll "live in the now, even while dreaming."
5. Maybe you can't "have it all," but you can have what matters to you most.
An audience member brought up the age-old "Can women have it all?" quandry, specifically looking for Leive's answer. The magazine editor smartly answered that she doesn't think she can have it all, but she can have what matters to her. Best case scenario in her book? Have a work life that feeds you personally.
McGee—the only panelist beyond Leive who has children—keeps afloat by saying no to anything that isn't her family or her work. She admitted it was hard, at first, to not volunteer at her kids' school or in her community—there's a lot of pressure for women to tack on these extracurriculars. "You want to make a documentary? That I can help you with."
· 2014 Top Ten College Women [Glamour]