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How She Got There: Gretchen Carlson, Acclaimed TV Journalist & Female Empowerment Advocate

Name: Gretchen Carlson
Age: 51
Job Title and Description: Acclaimed Television Journalist & Female Empowerment Advocate 
College Name/Major: Stanford University, Organizational Behavior 
Website: GretchenCarlson.com
Twitter Handle: @GretchenCarlson 
Instagram Handle: @TheRealGretchenCarlson

What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

GC: After filing my sexual harassment lawsuit last year, I’ve been doing five full-time jobs! Writing my new book to empower all women called Be Fierce (out October 17 and available here), starting my “Gift Of Courage Fund” to financially help female empowerment organizations, doing advocacy work on Capitol Hill to end the secrecy in employment contracts that keeps issues like sexual harassment in the shadows, touring college campuses to spread the movement of bring fierce (Drexel, Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Duke), and kicking off the Gretchen Carlson Leadership Initiative to help underserved women become more civically active in having their voices heard in politics and on issues like domestic violence and sexual harassment.

What is the best part of your job?

GC: I know I’m making a difference to inspire women of all ages to stand up and speak up about any injustice in their lives. It’s enough already! And I’m donating all of my book proceeds to my “Gift Of Courage” fund to continue to help women.

What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?

GC: My first television reporting job was in Richmond, Virginia. I got it by cold-calling the news director there. He told me he probably wouldn’t be interested in me because I was a former Miss America!  But I persevered and decided to fed ex him a tape of my work anyway – and he hired me. Lesson here: never give up and always be fierce!

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

 GC: “One woman can make a difference, but together we can rock the world!” – Anonymous

“Carpe Diem” is my life motto and I do seize every day!

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” – Maya Angelou

“The Devil whispered in my ear, ‘You are not strong enough to withstand the storm.’ Today, I whispered in the Devil’s ear, ‘I am the storm.’”

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

GC: Not taking enough risks in my reporting early on. I don’t mean taking risks to make mistakes with facts or getting information wrong. I mean thinking more out of the box in the way I would report the news or put together a story. I think we often feel like we need to do things “perfectly” or like everyone else because there is a standard or a certain way.  But once someone encouraged me to develop my own style and take a few risks here and there with trying different things, it really liberated me into coming into my own as a journalist and developing my own unique style. Mostly, it’s building that confidence to feel secure enough to try something new!

What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

GC: Well, without a doubt, deciding to jump off the cliff all by myself July 6, 2016, in deciding to come forward with sexual harassment claims. [It was the] biggest professional decision of my life and every day since has been surreal. I could have never known what each day would bring, but the most important thing was realizing I had taught my two teenage children what courage is all about. And what I’ve found out is the giving the gift of courage is contagious! It just takes one person to start the chain of inspiration.

What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

GC: Work ethic, willingness to try anything, positive attitude, team player, risk taker, [and] hunger for a job.

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

GC: It’s so important in journalism to get an internship; first and foremost to see the business of TV from the inside and decide if it’s really what you want to do. You have to be so passionate about it because it can be hard to break through in the beginning. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve mentored who thought they wanted to get into TV to be on camera because it was glamorous!  There’s not much glamour about it really! It’s hard work to start in a small market and work your way up. There isn’t a lot of money in journalism in the beginning, so you really have to love it.  Often time, my mentees have decided they don’t really want to go into the business after all or they change what they thought they wanted to do, like be a producer instead of a reporter. But many times, after doing an internship, young people have also just become surer television news is for them! I got help along the way, so I have always responded to young people who’ve reached out to me for advice and/or help. It’s important to help others when you can.

What’s the one thing that’s stood out to you the most in a resume?

GC: Being honest about a learning experience. Sometimes resumes are lists of activities we’ve all done and been a part of, but often times it’s hard to see the learning experiences through it all. I’ve always been interested in seeing those attached to the achievements. I’m also a big believer in giving back, so seeing that a person has spent [the] time to help others is important to me.

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Claire Biggerstaff is a senior at Davidson College where she's pursuing a major in English. Since her sophomore year, she's been heavily involved with Her Campus and has written for her school's chapter, interned with Her Campus Media, and eventually became the Editor in Chief of her home chapter. Her work as also appeared on publications like Babe.net and The Odyssey. When she's not researching news stories or holding editing workshops with her writers, you can find her enjoying an episode of The X-Files and thinking about how much she loves autumn.