The Ambitionista
 

Should You Take An Unpaid Internship?

Heidi DTLA Maxmara Multi Scarf 6 edited

When someone hears the words “unpaid” and “work” in the same sentence, the first reaction is usually to turn the other way. Foregoing a paycheck, for an internship, may not fit everyones budget (considering living expenses, car payments, etc). However, sometimes the opportunity presented seems to good to pass up. The company might be one where having their name on your resume is enough to trump a paycheck- for a period of time, of course. It can be a daunting dilemma to decide if taking an unpaid internship is worth it. So to make a clear decision, lets consider pros and cons on taking an unpaid internship.

PROS:

Gaining Experience & Networking

There are seemingly few benefits to taking an unpaid internship. However, they are still important ones. The experience you gain from interning at any particular company is great to put on your resume. The work is completely valid, whether paid or not. Another positive aspect to an unpaid internship is that you will be able to network and make connections that can later be used as references. Although both can be said for a paid internship, an unpaid internship is the next best option if you’re more focused on getting experience vs. payment.

Heidi Collage

CONS:

Working For Free

This is probably the biggest disliked aspect to an internship that doesn’t pay. You work, a job, without the benefit of getting paid for your work. Many people feel that this is completely unfair, considering that companies are benefiting from free labor and that they essentially exploit unpaid interns to get free work.

No Employee Protection

Another downside to unpaid internships is that they don’t offer protection against employee discrimination or sexual harassment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees, however, does not have protective provisions for unpaid interns or “trainees” in regards to discrimination and harassment. This is a big aspect to consider before diving into any unpaid position. You want to always take into consideration your safety and protection. If you feel that you are (or would be) unsafe, discriminated against or harassed, its best to remove yourself from that situation.

Unpaid Internships Are Often Illegal

Yes, you read that right; Illegal. In June 2013, concerning a case of two interns working on the film, ‘Black Swan’, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that the interns were classified as employees rather than “trainees” according to the Fair Labor Standards Act. For an intern to be classified as a “trainee”, their relationship with the employer adhere to the criteria of a six-part test, which explains the nature of an approved intern-employer relationship.

Heidi DTLA Maxmara Multi Scarf 1 edited

The unfortunate thing about an unpaid internship is that is can be very easy to be taken advantage of in that situation. However, if the opportunity of a paid internship does not present itself and if willing to take the risk, there are benefits that can help you gain the experience needed to help fuel the advancement of your career.


Essential Tips For Nailing Your Interview

Heidi DTLA Green Floral Skirt 3 rsz

Interviews can be an exciting, yet anxiety-inducing event. After all, those 20-45 minutes can determine whether you are embarking on a new venture within your career or whether you continue your search for the perfect position. The last thing you want to do is go into an interview blindly. It is crucial that you cross all your I’s and dot all your T’s before entering, as well as after, an interview. Meaning? Well, there are essential steps to take before and after the interview process to show you are the best choice for the position. Master the following essential tips to nail your interview!

1. Research The Company

Do thorough on the company you are interviewing for. Become familiar with company, its inspiration, values and history. Absorb this knowledge and use it in your interview. Expressing your interest/ knowledge about the companies values will show the interviewer how much interest you really have in the position and the company as a whole.

2. Prepare Beforehand

A few days before your interview, review your resume and have a mock interview (with someone else or solo). Act as if you are at your interview and answering questions that the interviewer would inquire about. Practicing beforehand will help you relax and develop a smooth delivery in your actual interview.

Heidi DTLA Green Floral Skirt 6 rsz

3. Dress Thoughtfully

Be wise about what your wear in an interview. Wear dress pants or skirt that is knee-length or longer. Wear a simple blouse and dress shoes (not too high). Keep your makeup simple, your hair neat and wear minimal jewelry.

Green swt Floral skt

4. The One Question You Must Nail

“Why are you the right candidate for this position?” This question may seem daunting but its actually the perfect setup to sell yourself and your skills to the interviewer/ hiring manager. When answering this question you want to include 4 things: that you can a) effectively accomplish the work, b) you will deliver excellent results, c) that you’ll really fit in with the team and d) that you’re a better hire than any of the other candidates.

Heidi DTLA Green Floral Skirt 8 rsz

5. Answering The Weakness Question

“What Would You Say Is Your Greatness Weakness?” The worst answer you can give to this question is, “I have no weaknesses”. The answer you give will tell the interviewer a lot about your character. They want to know that you are aware that you make mistakes. Managers know that no one is perfect. They want to know what your weakness is and how you overcome it to get the job done. They also want to know how you’ve handled obstacles in the past and how you will handle them in the future.

6. Body Language

Your body language says a lot about you and it will give insight to the interviewer, as well. Show confidence by having good posture. Sit up, high and straight in your chair. Give good eye contact. Not too much to where you’re staring them down but just enough to show you’re focused and interested in the interview. Lean in when listening to the interviewer. This is shows that you are engaged in the conversation. Lastly, smile and show enthusiasm- give the impression that there is nowhere else you’d rather be.

Heidi DTLA Green Floral Skirt 5 rsz

7. Follow-up Promptly

Before you leave the interview, ask the interviewer what happens next, this way you’ll know the appropriate time to follow up. If the interviewer says they’ll be contacting candidates within a week, you should follow up a few days after that. You don’t want to be annoying or pushy, but you want to be on the interviewers mind and show them you’re continual interest in the position.


After following these tips on nailing your interview, get ready to take on your new dream job!


10 Ways To Stand Out In The Workplace

Heidi DTLA 6 rsz

Most of us have an established routine we follow everyday. Day in and day out, we wake up, get to work, and anticipate for the moment we can go home and have a glass of cabernet sauvignon and relax. I love a nice glass of wine just as much as the next girl, but take it from me, if you want to get ahead in your career and get the promotion you’ve been dying for, take your thoughts off the vino and put your focus into your work. The workplace is not the time to be the unmemorable wallflower, with an average job performance. When you set foot in your place of work, that is the time to show how dynamic of a worker you are and how serious you take your career. Luckily for you, I have the 10 essential ways to do just that. Follow this mini-guide on how to stand out in the workplace.

1. Always Represent Your Brand

Have a passion for your company and what you do. Not only will your enthusiasm for your company show in your behavior but this will heighten the quality of work you do and, ultimately, impress your employer (and clients).

2. Dress The Part

When you’re at work, you want to look the part and dress in a professional manner. The last thing you want to do is look underdressed, revealing or unkempt. Dedicate time to establish a solid and stylish wardrobe for work – which over time will become automatic and effortless.  If you wear a work inform, always make sure your uniform is clean, your hair is neat, avoid chipped polish ( I use gel-polish as it lasts longer and I know some busy ladies who now just buff their nails at home which is less high-maintenance but equally polished) and make sure that your makeup is not overboard. These same rules also apply to those without a designated uniform, as well.

BlkWhite DTLA Collage

3. Contribute Regularly In Meetings

When in a meeting, many find it easy to simply sit and agree to what is being discussed. However, your employer is looking for those that speak up and have something to contribute to the issues at hand. Go into a meeting prepared and understand what topics are going to be discussed. Convey your ideas in a simple manner, but with enthusiasm. Show that you are in-tune and interested with whats being discussed by asking intelligent questions.

4. Be Proactive

Being proactive entails taking the initiative to take control of a situation and its outcome, i.e. to find the solution to any obstacle before a problem arises. Therefore, keeping any issues at bay. As a boss – I find that the my most valuable team members are those that not only see problems – they provide suggestions on how to overcome said issues.

Heidi DTLA 13 rsz

5. Take The Lead When Possible

Exercise and develop your leadership skills (yes its a skill – and anyone can develop them with time and practice) by taking the initiative to take the lead every once in . a while. Offer to take the on a new project or  spearhead the planning of the company’s annual picnic. It may not be the most prestigious or glamorous assignment but, whatever it may be, find an activity that needs to be done and accomplish it. In fact, taking on non-glamorous and low-key projects is best when you its your first time taking on something as a lead. Look for projects that will showcase your skills, as well, this will be a plus when the time comes for your evaluation.

6. Go Above & Beyond

It’s amazing to me that 80% of the time – most people are just doing the minimum at work. Leaders and oustanding employees are always continually striving to improve. Do this by listening to the feedback you receive from your employer or co-workers and actually apply whats being said to your performance. Soon you’ll realize that all the areas they would need to correct your work, no longer need correcting. This will save them the headache of extra work and impress them, at the same time.

Heidi DTLA 4 rsz

7. Be A Team Player

Don’t be the lone-wolf kind of worker. Being a team player will help you develop necessary and valuable relationships with your co-workers and show your employer that you get along well with others- which is essential in the workplace.

8. Be Friendly and Kind, Without Being A Pushover

Similar to be a team player, being friendly and kind to those in the workplace will help you to build good relationships with those you work with. Take an interest in your co-workers. Be available to help them when they need assistance. However, don’t let anyone take advantage of you and your kindness. Don’t become the person everyone thinks they can dump their work on when they don’t want to do the work themselves.

Heidi DTLA 2 rsz

9. Own Up To Your Mistakes

Don’t be the person that tries to place their mistakes on others or shift the blame onto someone else. Be honest and own up to the mistakes you’ve made. Your co-workers and employers will appreciate you for it.

10. Communicate Effectively

From experience, a lot of friction at work is actually due to miscommunication or words said in anger. I find that just repeating what someone has told you in your own words, or discussing (in a friendly way) about vague issues resolves a lot. Be aware when your emotions are taking over – when I am feeling angry, I try to hold off saying anything or emailing anyone for a couple of hours. Anger and frustration can stop you from thinking clearly and saying things you will later regret. Being a great communicator is one of those skills that will help you in all aspects of your professional and personal lives -which is why, it’s also the most valuable skill.


Let’s Conquer The World, In Style.


How To Own The Room

how-to-own-the-room

Everyone has the potential to be an irresistible, room-captivating rockstar- even if they don’t know it yet. I recently saw the beautiful and talented Jazz singer, Ariana Savalas, perform and what I found inspiring about her is that she knows how to captivate and own her audience, flawlessly. Her style and charm is very reminiscent of the former days of sophisticated stardom; channeling the charming, sultry and witty, glamorously clad legends of the old hollywood era. What better way to learn how to ‘own the room’ than from the woman who could enter a room, without saying a word, and still steal the hearts of everyone in her presence? Follow these 6 tips, from Ariana herself, on becoming a room-captivating maven.

Ariana Savalas IV-2

1. Start small: Working with smaller crowds allows for you to really stand out amongst those around you. You are in turn allowed to introduce yourself (always use your first and last name), and be able to converse in a well-versed manner, all of which all sets the stage for people to know and remember who you are.

2. Slowly expand your crowd: Ariana started performing in front of family and close friends during her formative years. In other words, she had a tremendous amount of practice before she was comfortable performing in front of larger crowds. Once you become comfortable with practicing in smaller groups, you can transition into working with large ones. By starting small, you’ll notice how much more comfortable you’ll become in front of larger groups.

Ariana Savalas V-2

3. Practice makes perfect: You are certainly not going to be great at owning the room first time around (which is why tip no. 2 is so important). You might get nervous, fumble your words, or not know what to say… Just remember to breathe and be yourself. If your first time out doesn’t go as expected, try again! Practice really does make perfect and you’ll be confident, owning the room in no time.

Ariana Savalas I-2

4. Be well rested and focused: No one has ever owned a room when they’re looking and acting as if they just rolled out of bed. If you are planning on attending an event, be sure to rest well, drink plenty of water, and keep your head clear to remain completely focused and in the moment.Basically don’t plan a wild girls night out ( or girls night in, for that matter) when you have a big company presentation at 9 am the next morning.

5. Know your crowd: Ariana knows how to reads her audience well. She states, “It’s like a first date – you try to find out their background, room atmosphere so that you can know whether to amp up the jokes or tone it down.” This is an excellent tid-bit of advice. Even if you have never met the people who surround you, you can learn a great deal about them. A great way to do this is by watching the conversation-styles and listening to the topics being discussed by those around you, prior to diving into a conversation. Learn your audience, then you can take them by storm!

Ariana Savalas III-2

6. Give credit where credit is due: This is particularly important if you are sharing the stage with others (your friends or partner perhaps).  “You want them to help you out and giving you their best,” says Ariana. Be each others support system and own the room together. Be prepared, the results may turn out even better than expected!

Pretty simple, right? Now that you have the 6 steps necessary to ‘own the room’ and and engage an audience, put them to use! You’ll be able to successfully mingle and make new connections, whether for work or play. The benefits to learning to own the room are essentially endless!Now if only I can rock a rocking animal print dress and 6 inch heels to my next meeting.


My Dream Job is Now a Drag

Dear Heidi,

I landed my dream job about two years ago. It was fantastic. I finally had the chance to what I dreamed about since I was a kid — an animator at one of the top companies — and I was really passionate about what I was doing. That lasted about a year until the reality of office politics and the toll of a 9 to 5 (let’s be real, 7 am to 9 pm) work day hit me. Now I’m bored, frustrated and worst of all, unhappy. What do I do to get out of this slump? Is it just a phase or should I call it quits?

— Shattered Dreams

dream-job

Uh oh. The honeymoon phase at your “dream job” has come to an end.
On the bright side, deets on this outfit coming soon.


Dear Shattered Dreams,

A quick reality check: Office politics and big companies go together like bad botox on an episode of RHOBH. There is no separating the two. In fact, the bigger the company, the more office politics there will be. So if you think going to another company will get rid of office politics, it’s not going to happen.

So how do you handle office politics? You don’t. Just accept that it’s part of adult life and working with a big company, or don’t work with a big company. Also, define what you mean by being “happy.” Often, not being happy is the result of not knowing what you want.

So you’re an animator at a big company. Ask yourself: what’s the point? Did you want to become an animator to inspire people to look at the world differently 24/7? Or did you want to become an animator because you think you can work for a big company doing something you like… but just from 9 to 5 ?

As for “the toll of working 7am to 9 pm” daily, well,  the PC answer is for me to tell you to get your work-life balance figured out. The real answer is, it’s more realistic to aim for work-life integration instead. Sometimes, there really are can’t-wait-’til-tomorrow deadlines. At times, you’ll have to decide which is more important: work ambition or personal time. Tough love, darling.

Being bored and frustrated at work is very normal. I can’t tell you how often I feel like calling it quits and just sit at home playing with kittens. Then I get emails from readers telling me how much they love my blog or asking me for help on a fashion or work issue… and I remember why I do what I do. So, take a minutes (or hours, days) and try to remember why you wanted to be an animator as a kid.

As a quick fix –  I suggest watching quick 10 min clips of House of Cards anytime you feel your work politics getting the better of you. You’ll thank your lucky stars that you don’t have the Underwoods in your office.


Photo by Josefina Andrés for Vogue


New Kid in the Boardroom

One of the many wise things my dad told me when I started my first job was to never forget that as the new hire, you are constantly being assessed.

In fact, according to bestselling author Michael D. Watkins, the first 90 days at a new job means everything. So if you’re the new kid in the boardroom, don’t even think about hitting cruise control before the 3-month mark. (In general, don’t hit cruise control ever unless you’re on vacation.) To paraphrase Watkins in his book The First 90 Days:


Research shows that what you do early on during a job transition is what matters most. Your colleagues and your boss form opinions about you based on limited information, and those opinions are sticky—it’s hard to change their minds. So shape their impressions of you to the best of your ability.


new-career

So, what exactly should you do to make your first 90 days count?

1. ALWAYS PUT IT DOWN IN WRITING.

Because I have been on both sides of the equation—I  have quite a few people working for me in addition to clients that I report to—I’ve found that making sure all parties understand what is wanted/needed from each other is key to favorable first impressions. The best way to achieve this? Put everything in writing. This could mean deciphering your boss’ rambling emails into 3 bullet points of things that you need to achieve by end of this week, sharing a Google spreadsheet with everyone clarifying individual responsibilities or acknowledging a client’s email with a “I read your email below, and will get back to you by next Tuesday” response. Putting things down in writing not only helps eliminate any misunderstandings or vagueness, but it also creates the impression that you have it together. Both things are crucial when forming a great first impression.

2. BE EARLY AND LEAVE LATE

I know this sounds like a cliche but just like most cliches, it does have some basis in truth. Besides, since you’re a newbie, there’s a lot you need to catch up on when starting out. Perhaps you’re an ambidextrous speed-reader blessed with photographic memory who can do the job of 3 people. Clock out at 5 sharp later. For now, arrive early and stay back at least until your boss leaves. Use the time to either complete work way before its due date, come up with ideas that will benefit the company (see No. 4 below) or read up on work-related materials that will impress your boss/colleagues when appropriate. Because a “Last week, WSJ did a piece on how a chat-based customer service system is about 40% more efficient and twice as user-friendly compared to a phone-based system. I’ll send you the article if you like” is a million times better than a “Yeah, um, improving our phone customer service sucks. Hope you can figure it out” sympathetic yet empty response.

3. GET TO KNOW YOUR COWORKERS

When it comes to getting to know the people you work with, put in an honest effort to create a strong relationship with your team. You don’t have to make everyone your work BFF, but do remember everyone’s names and listen when they talk about themselves. Getting to know your team members helps you see things from their point of view. When I was first promoted to lead a diverse group of junior investment bankers years ago, knowing my  team’s personalities and understanding office politics helped me immensely when I started to delegate tasks. Getting to know your colleagues can be as easy as going out to lunch with them 2-3 times a week or sending a friend request on Facebook.

4. TAKE THE INITIATIVE

Be proactive at work. Just completing the tasks you are assigned on time is fine, but it won’t get you anywhere. To really shine, you need to adopt the mindset of “What can I do to help the company/my boss/the team/the client?” For example, a few months ago, I was hired as a fashion copywriter. It was supposed to be temporary and was a great little side gig where I was paid a good hourly rate to do something I really love and I secretly wanted to do it on a more permanent basis. Immediately after starting the job, I noticed that the company did not have a manual that would explain the Do’s and Don’ts that would help everyone on the team create uniform copy. So I created one without being asked and on my own time. It was 10 pages long and took me about 5 hours. Once I presented this to the client, she was quite pleased and offered me a permanent role as their main copywriter. Constantly think of ways to do things better/easier/cheaper and you’ll soon be considered an asset to the company.

5. ALWAYS EXPAND YOUR SKILLSET.

To get promoted/get paid more/evolve you need to constantly improve by trying new things and accepting new challenges. As a fashion blogger, I find that more and more, I’m being asked to host fashion events. At first, I was deathly afraid of public speaking, but I knew I had to conquer this fear if I wanted my blog to evolve. So I joined the local Toastmasters and started inviting 8-10 blogger friends to my apartment to talk about what we do. This was more than a year ago. Since then, I’ve gotten the chance to speak in front of a crowd of 200 people and host high-profile events with dozens of cameras pointed right at me. If I had let my fear of public speaking get the better of me, I’d still be hiding behind my Miu Miu purse.


PS: I still get a bit nervous right before speaking in public.
Photo by Umberto Barone for Vogue


How to (Politely) Decline When Someone Asks to ‘Pick Your Brain’

Dear Heidi,
I work in publishing and (I say this in danger of tooting my own horn) in the last year I’ve done really well for myself. As people in my network start to take notice, I’ve been getting a lot of invites to “grab coffee,” which I’ve come to learn is code for “pick your brain.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I love chatting with other creatives and bouncing ideas back and forth. However, when acquaintances I haven’t talked to in years ask me to grab lunch or coffee out of the blue, I hesitate. I don’t want to be rude but at the same time, I don’t like the idea of having my brain picked while I eat my tuna salad. How do I say no without coming off as a schmuck?
Not a schmuck

office-politics

Hello Schmuckless Darling,
I’ll confess that I cringe every time I hear the phrase “pick your brain.” The entire notion of seeking expertise under the guise of a Starbucks latte is much too contrived for my liking. However, I understand your guilt at turning someone away when at some point in your career, you most likely sought (and maybe still seek) similar advice from those you admire.

If it helps, you’re not alone. Many experts in their fields have even started charging for these so-called “lunches” at a cost that’s much more than your tuna salad.

“I offer free advice, when appropriate, but I feel it should be my call, not theirs,” says Steve Cony, president of Communications Counselors, tells NYP. “When someone asks to pick my brain, I bristle. My brain is how I earn my living — would you ask a plumber to unclog a drain for free?”

So, the next time you encounter an unsolicited brain picker, politely tell them that “I’d love to, but unless it’s for a consultation, I’m afraid I’ll have to pass. My rate is ___, if you’re interested and if so, we can figure out a time that works for both of us.” Don’t know how much to charge? There’s an app for that.

Of course, make sure you make time — free of charge — for old friends, those you want to curry favor from later and your most die-hard fans.  And even for these pro-bono sessions try to go by these 3 rules.

If you have to do any kind of research/study, or really rack your brain to come up with solutions to help, forget it.

By the way, a tuna salad is too messy to eat in public. I’d suggest some portobello mushroom fries.


Photo by ICON