How I Learned a Lifetime of Career Advice in One Day

Last Saturday, GW Women in Business held their 6th Annual Spring Conference at George Washington University. GW Women in Business, also known as GWWIB, is a very prominent student organization on campus that primes the future leaders of the business world. They are a widely respected group of women in the GW community as well as the professional world. Their first Spring Conference was first held in 2010 and keynoted by Elaine Karp-Toledo, former First Lady of Peru. Since then, their event has gotten a ton of buzz and has had the most inspirational presidents, CEOs, founders and editors-in-chief of some of the biggest corporations come speak to its attendees. This year's conference featured over 80 panelists from around the country and had over 300 attendees from GW and the DC business world. What's really special about the conference is that it's designed by students for students and provides people in attendance with the tools necessary to spearhead their futures with confidence. The Spring Conference Committee co-chairs Hannah Levick and Kathleen McCarthy said that they "hope that hearing from such successful thought-leaders inspires attendees to be bold and courageous in their journeys in the workforce." 

Aliza Licht, SVP of Global Communications of Donna Karen International, was this year’s keynote speaker. Mastermind behind the Twitter handle DKNY PR Girl, she talked a lot about smart social media usage and how it can make or break your reputation in the professional world. Here’s some of her best advice:

•   Aliza emphasized that you should build your network before you need your network on social media. For example, she likes to ask a lot of open-ended questions on Twitter and have her followers tweet back their responses. By creating a personal dialogue with her followers, she builds trust with her audience on the platform and can count on them to generate traffic for the brand.

•   A lot of employers check your social media accounts before they even read your resume, so it’s important to treat yourself as a brand and make sure all of your platforms properly reflect the person you want employers to see.

•   On that note, Aliza mentioned that having a private Instagram or Twitter can seem a little fishy to employers. What are you posting on these accounts that you don’t want people to see?

Each attendee received an advance signed copy of Aliza Licht’s book Leave Your Mark, which comes out on May 5th.

The women who pioneered Ivanka Trump’s #WOMENWHOWORK campaign spoke on a panel together. Ivanka’s brand reflects the way young women really dress, act and live in today’s world. Lizzie Tonkin, Melanie Materson and Johanna Murphy worked together to make the campaign a huge movement and reach as many people as possible. They had some great advice about making connections in your industry after working on a team that was based purely on connections these women made earlier in their careers. Here’s what they had to say:

•   It is important to understand the difference between networks and relationships.

•   When you first meet someone, you should try to establish a personal relationship and connection instead of just worrying about networking.

•   Always have a theoretical dream team in mind, a group of people you would ideally love to work with if given the chance to build a team, just in case.

The Fashion and Beauty panel consisted of Heather Park from NARS, Jamie Lewin from Piperlime, Swan Sit from Estee Lauder and Elizabeth Arden and moderator Lacey Faeh of A Lacey Perspective. These experts from the beauty and fashion industry had some great advice about inspiring creativity and working in entry-level positions.

•   Everyone has his or her own creative process. As long as you get all of your work done at the end of the day, do whatever you need to do to get inspired.

•   Good ideas can come from anyone and anywhere.

•   Creativity without purpose is meaningless.

•   Creativity is about trust and it is important to create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their ideas.

•   Be lovely to everyone.

•   You will end up working with the same people again in the future, so leave every job with a positive attitude and don’t burn any bridges.

•   Even in a low-level job, put in the time, effort and work ethic you’d put into a top position.

•   Anticipate the questions and needs of others in your workplace.

•   Our generation has a bad reputation for being very entitled; so don’t act like you’re too good to do any small tasks asked of you.

•   Always ask for more work when you finish your assigned duties.

•   Don’t be overwhelmed if you don’t know how to do every single thing at your new job. Your bosses wont expect you to be an expert on day one. 

Gillian Gorman Round was the last speaker of the day. She started out her career selling shampoo to salons out of her car, and is now president of the Lucky Group. She is a strong advocate against planning your future and made the good point that you aren’t going to be the same person in three years, let alone in 20 years. Trying to plan out your future, whether it’s your career or personal life, only distracts you from living in the moment and making the best of the opportunities you have in front of you right now. Here’s what else she had to offer:

•   Gillian reiterated the point made in the Fashion and Beauty panel about leaving jobs. She said to always leave a job with grace and humor because you never know when you’ll see those people again.

•   You’ll learn more from horrible bosses than great bosses. You’ll have a good understanding of how you don’t want to treat people or make them feel.

•   Don’t be close-minded about taking on new tasks; it's not bad to be taken out of your comfort zone.

•   You can’t plan your future, but you can set yourself up and prepare for the future.

•   Before you go in for an interview, make sure you do your research and have an excellent grasp on the company and person interviewing you. She noted that simply reading press releases and skimming a company’s website does not count as sufficient research.

•   Listen and ask smart questions.

•   Don’t panic when you are feeling overwhelmed, make a mistake or don’t see yourself being promoted as quickly as other employees.

•   Embrace your failures and learn from your mistakes.

•   On that note, always admit when you do something wrong and try to find a solution to the problem. Don’t point fingers at others or expect someone else to clean up your messes.

•   Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy your time and position at a company.

Dean of the George Washington University School of Business Dr. Linda A. Livingstone made some closing remarks for day and had some advice of her own to give. She said that you don’t have to be the best at something to peruse it as a career. It’s okay to be average at some things; you’re not going to be the best at everything. 

The GWWIB Spring Conference was a truly inspiring experience. Hearing these successful women talk about their careers and their tips for finding success in the business world was so moving and made young attendees excited and confident about entering the workforce. Plus, there were also some pretty awesome gift bags, stuffed with swag from sponsors like Chipotle, SoulCycle, Skinny Girl and Drybar, just to name a few. GW Women in Business holds the conference every spring, so if you happen to be in the DC area next year around this time, we really reccommend attending their event. You don’t have to be a GW student to attend and it’s such a unique opportunity to take advantage of. Be sure to follow GWWIB on Twitter, like them on Facebook and check out their website for information about events like this and stay up to date on all things GW Women in Business. 

All photography credits go to Alexis Clark and Shannon Brown.