There is one career story from my life that I love telling others. I call it my Elle Woods Moment.
Three years ago I was interning in New York City at a small PR firm. The Bucknell Career Development Center sent out an event for collegiate women at the UBS Corporate office and on a whim I decided to sign up. Pretty much all I knew at the time was that an author was coming to discuss her book about finding a career after college and that there would be free lunch. I was sold! I knew next to nothing about UBS besides the fact that it was a similar company to where my father works. I was not at all interested in finance, but figured that since the event seemed more focused on the speaker rather than the company it could be interesting!
Since it was a corporate event I decided to break out my favorite internship outfit, a hot pink pencil skirt, a white blouse, and black open-toed summer heels. I felt confident and professional as I click-clacked through the massive lobby and checked into security. I was directed to one of the many elevator banks and rode up to the 35th floor. As I stepped out of the elevator, I suddenly felt all eyes on me. There was a line of about 30 other collegiate women checking in at the sign in table dressed in head to toe black, in nearly identical suits. The only variance I noticed was whether or not they opted for a black pencil skirt or black pants. I took a deep breath, smiled and in my head laugh that I was an Elle Woods in a sea of Vivian Kensingtons.
After check in, the event began with a buffet lunch where I was able to interact with the other collegiate women who were attending this event. I think that I am pretty good at interacting with people and can talk with pretty much anyone about anything. However, I quickly realized that many of these women were solely focused on the finance industry and it was difficult to keep the conversation flowing.
To escape my increasing boredom I decided to head to the bathroom between lunch and the speaker/main event. As I was drying my hands in front of the vanities, a woman (who I assumed worked for UBS) walked in and immediately complimented me on my outfit. She loved my use of color and thought it was fun and perfect for summer. I laughed and said “Yeah, I feel sort of like Elle Woods.” Her compliment instantly made me feel more comfortable, as I felt very much like the black sheep of the group (ironic, since I was the only one not wearing black!) As I left the restroom I was immediately shepherded into a small auditorium. A few minutes later, I watched as the woman who complimented my outfit was introduced as Lindsey Pollak, aka the speaker, the author of the incredible book Getting from College to Career: Your Essential Guide to Succeeding in the Real World, and the Millennial Workplace Expert. I had to actively stop my jaw from dropping. It was one of those “Wait this is not real life moments.”
I was stunned that this incredible mentor, speaker, author, and LinkedIn guru was the woman I just had a casual conversation with in the restroom. As Lindsey spoke she gave us all tips and tricks to landing a job out of college. She is actually the reason I created a Twitter account! I never thought there was a purpose behind people tweeting random things about their days, but she explained how companies use it to post about jobs and industry news. At one point she asked if someone would volunteer to stand up and say a mock introduction aka:
Hi, My name is Allison Shook, I go to Bucknell University. I am double majoring in Political Science and English. I hope to have a career in media, journalism, or television.
So I decided to be ballsy and raise my hand. I was given tips from her and the audience on what I could improve upon and what I did well (they all loved my fun use of color in my outfit, but that I probably should have worn a blazer since it is a financial firm, and I should speak more slowly). It was a really informative session and I don’t think I have ever been so inspired to read a career book before.
I spoke with Lindsey afterwards and thanked her for all her helpful advice. I also followed up via email, which was the first time I realized the impact of following up. Although I have not kept the connection as strong as I should have, I am so thankful for all of her advice. Her book truly became my career bible over the next two years of college. (I truly cannot recommend Getting from College to Career enough and plan to write a post detailing all of my favorite career books!) I think it should be required reading for all college seniors about to embark on the job search journey.
I often look back and laugh at my “Elle Woods Moment” and remember all the important lessons that day taught me about transitioning from college to career. It is crazy to think how much has changed since that day, but I attribute many of my career goals to the lessons from that afternoon session.