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How She Got There: Molly Ford, Founder of Smart, Pretty & Awkward

Name: Molly Ford
Job Title and Description: Marketing Manager at Hearst Corporation and founder of Smart, Pretty & Awkward
College Name/Major: B.S. in Finance and Entrepreneurship/Northeastern University and M.S. in International Marketing Management/Boston University
Website: www.smartprettyandawkward.com 
Twitter Handle: @itsmollyford

 Tell us about your current job.

Molly Ford: My professional career is centered on marketing and writing with a heavy digital influence.

Marketing-wise, I’m a marketing manager in the entertainment division of Hearst Corporation. I focus on the digital marketing, partnerships, PR and licensing opportunities around Hearst’s entertainment talent and properties.

Writing-wise, I blog at Smart, Pretty & Awkward, a website that gives three pieces of advice for each post: how to be smarter, how to be prettier, and how to be (less) awkward. I also have a column in Parade magazine and write a book recommendations print column, which appears in about 70 newspapers across the U.S.

Marketing and writing have a lot of overlaps; it’s great to be able to write to sell ideas, and it’s good to be able to market your writing. I also really love that both of my roles are digital-based, as I absolutely love the online world.

What is the best part of your job?

MF: The Internet! I think it’s so fascinating to have the connections and opportunities that come from the web, whether it’s connecting fans to brands they love or starting a blog—anyone with an Internet connection can have the chance to share their ideas directly with an audience with no middle-man. 
What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?

MF: I moved to New York City two weeks after college graduation, and my first job when I arrived was a summer internship where I wrote for a nonprofit’s blog and did other random admin things for them (think: once I had to go pick up a fog machine at a party supply story way, way, way deep into Queens). For living arrangements, I subletted an apartment with four other girls for the summer.

My thinking was that if I didn’t have a full-time job by the end of the summer, I’d have to leave the city, which was pretty much the last thing I wanted to do. So I was very motivated and applied like crazy to entry-level marketing jobs. In the middle of July, about a month after moving here, I was offered a job at a start-up marketing agency working on building and managing marketing teams for clients with a big focus on digital pitching and outreach. (Read: lots of cold emailing and cold calling.)

I got the job by applying to it on Craigslist (yes, really). The office was in the middle of Times Square and I loved it—I could even walk to work from my sublet, which I ended up extending for another two years, which was great because I was terrible at taking the subway! I also made some really close friends from that time in my life—it’s easy to bond when you are being hung up on constantly during cold calling and sharing one shower with many other girls.

I stayed for about a year in that first job before switching over to a larger e-commerce firm, still in a marketing role.

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?

MF: How important it is to have a LinkedIn account! I should have started one earlier than I did, which wasn’t until my second job. Now I love LinkedIn and recommend to everyone to join while still in college so you can make connections early in your career.

Smart, Pretty & Awkward is an absolutely amazing site! What’s your number one tip for young women hoping to start a blog?

MF: Thank you! My number one tip for starting a blog is the “three month rule.” When you start blogging, for three months don’t tell anyone. The benefit to you is that a cone of privacy allows you to refine your topic, writing and site layout, but most importantly it allows you time to decide whether or not you really like blogging without worrying about what readers think.

The benefit to readers of waiting three months is that once you start promoting your site, new readers have a whole backlog of posts to read. No one falls in love with a blog from only reading one or two posts – you fall in love when you find a blog and can read 50 or 60 entries at once. Waiting to promote means you get privacy while you refine your blog, and your readers can fall in love with your writing more easily when you do start promoting.

You wear so many different hats on a daily basis, like being a full-time marketing professional, running your blog, writing for Parade Magazine and sitting as co-chair of the organizing committee for the 40 Women to Watch Over 40 awards. How do you manage your time, and what lessons in terms of productivity have you learned along the way?

MF: Well I am still learning everyday how to be more productive, but probably my best advice is to identify time sucks and skip them. Common time sucks are television (try to limit the shows you get invested in) and not being firm with boundaries on your social life. If you don’t want to go to an event, just say not this time. Or if you don’t want to grab drinks with a potential business partner, ask to do a phone call instead.

My other piece of advice is to not write things on your to-do list that take under two minutes—just do them. If it takes 15 seconds to write something on your to-do list and 120 seconds to do it, then just do it!

Oh, and one more piece of advice—the faster you respond to an email, the shorter the response can be. If you respond within 20 minutes with “Looks great, thank you so much!” people will love that you are so responsive. If you respond 5 days later with “Looks great, thank you so much!” people will think you’re a jerk for taking so long to respond. The faster your respond, the better you’ll look and the shorter your response can be!

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

MF: It was pretty special to me to be featured in Forbes.
What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

MF: I would not hire someone to work in digital marketing or anything writing-based if they didn’t have a website, blog or other web property of their own. Knowing how to create content for the web, build an audience (even if the audience is small—it just needs to be something they have practice with) and leverage social media is a required skill for marketers and writers going forward.
What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

MF: If you want to live in New York City, move to New York City. I really think things happen here that don’t happen anywhere else. So if you get bitten by the New York bug, embrace it and do it. Of course, this same advice can be repeated for anything you desire—it’s always, always, always better to have tried and failed than to spend the rest of your life wondering about trying. 

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Lily is a member of Wesleyan University's class of 2016, where she double majored in government and sociology. She's a writer, editor, and social media manager, as well as co-founder of The Prospect (www.theprospect.net), the world’s largest student-run college access organization. In addition to her work with Her Campus, she also serves in editorial roles at HelloFlo and The Muse.