There's a new career guide coming to town: Mogul founder and CEO Tiffany Pham has written a nonfiction book for teens interested in getting their careers off the ground early. Girl Mogul won't hit store shelves until April 2019, but you can read an exclusive excerpt below.
Founded in 2014, Mogul is a women's networking platform that offers users the opportunity to connect with jobs around the world. With 18 million users and listings in 196 countries, Mogul "is a social enterprise that enables women worldwide through information access, economic opportunity, and education."
Directed at teens and young adults, Girl Mogul offers Pham's experience and insight to readers who want to blaze their own trails. In addition to the Mogul CEO's guidance, the book also contains words of wisdom from other female entrepreneurs — the Mogul Mentors — and correspondence with real, average girls who wrote in asking Pham for advice. If you know an aspirational teen who's destined for the big leagues, or if you just want to make sure you're doing everything right in today's weird economy, Girl Mogul is the perfect book to help.
Read an exclusive excerpt from Girl Mogul by Tiffany Pham below, and be sure to pick up your copy when the book comes out on April 2, 2019.
We all have those people that we look up to, respect, and dream of one day meeting. Whether it is your favorite singer, a writer who you love, an activist who motivates you, or a politician you see making important changes in policy, it is essential to have people who inspire you. Role models give us something to strive for and the opportunity to dream big. One of the reasons that I built Mogul was to ensure that girls around the world have access to role models, no matter how their society tries to limit women. I knew how powerful it was for me to have someone to look up to, to show me what was possible.
Whether it is your favorite singer, a writer who you love, an activist who motivates you, or a politician you see making important changes in policy, it is essential to have people who inspire you.
You’ve heard the phrase It never hurts to ask. I’m here to tell you that not only does it not hurt, but asking is one of the most powerful things you can do.
1. REACH OUT TO YOUR ROLE MODELS
The first time I attempted this tactic, I was in high school. I emailed a fan letter to Kari Kimmel, a singer-songwriter whose songs have been featured in hundreds of films and television shows, such as The Office and Keeping Up with the Kardashians. A popular American Idol contestant named Kimberley Locke had selected Kari’s song “I Could” as one of her first singles when she landed a record deal, and upon listening to it on the radio for the first time, I was hooked. I found Kari’s site and sent a note to the email listed, letting her know how much the song lyrics had meant to me and asking her if there might be ways in which I could spread the word about her work.
At first, I was scared that my absolute adoration of her artistry would make me come off as young and silly. Instead, my enthusiasm made her feel appreciated. I was shocked when she responded with a kind note and shared how much it meant to her. As we continued to correspond via email, I decided to take things a step further and ask again, this time more specifically: Could I help you in any way whatsoever? Is there anything you may need at the moment that I could support you on? I wasn’t entirely sure what I could do, but I knew I loved her work, creativity, and drive. I wanted to be a part of it, even from my bedroom in Plano, Texas.
Just a few days later, she responded with an offer for me to begin to manage her website and fan letters — years before I’d ever received fan letters of my own.
I worked night and day, answering and organizing each fan letter immediately, displaying attentiveness, dedication, and enthusiasm. Kari was greatly impressed. She respected my work ethic, and subsequently gave me more responsibility. From this experience, I developed early skill sets in website development, branding, and marketing, as well as customer support. My offer to volunteer turned into a collaboration that turned into a long-term partnership. And we are still friends to this day.
So, who do you look up to? Who is working in the industry you aspire to join? Gather the courage to reach out. Ask if there is a way for you to get involved in what they are doing. What could you take off their plate to make their lives easier?
When you get your foot in the door by helping out with something (anything!), it allows you to begin to build a relationship — with that person, their staff, and their organization. By helping them, you inevitably open yourself up to an amazing learning opportunity.
This is an approach that has been incredibly helpful for me throughout my career as I’ve sought out mentors and advisors. I have never been focused on what they could give me. Instead, I approached these people with an attitude of generosity. Was there anything I could do to help them? When you stay focused on what you can bring of value, you’ll find that people are more likely to say yes to your offer. And that will become your best way to learn.
And don’t worry — you do have something of value to offer. Your value could be your skills as a calligrapher, and you could offer to help address invitations. Your skill set could be web design, and you could offer to work on their website or create ads for them. Your talent could be creative social media engagement, and you could help manage their social media presence.
And don’t worry — you do have something of value to offer.
But sometimes, just a willingness to step into any role is what is most needed. Offer your help broadly and see what happens.
2. USE YOUR CONNECTIONS
Another strategy you can use to connect with potential mentors is to look within your current circle of contacts to see if there is someone who can connect you personally to one of your idols. I call this a “warm connection” (as opposed to the dreaded “cold call”). In college, one of my best friends was Lizzi, and I knew that her father, Rob, worked in entertainment. After I graduated, I worked up the courage to ask Lizzi whether she would mind providing an introduction to her father and letting him know that I was looking for ways to get involved in the industry. She was thrilled to help, and before I knew it, he and I were connected via email. He told me that he was developing an off-off-Broadway musical called Volleygirls. Would I be interested in reading the script and sending some feedback?
I said yes, of course. I was thrilled! I was just out of college, looking for inroads into the entertainment industry, and this was perfect. As soon as he sent it to me, I read through the entire script twice. By the end of the evening, I’d sent back detailed edits.
That relatively straightforward job — providing edits on the script — led to sitting in on an in-person read-through of the show, where I befriended another one of the producers, NBC TV star Monica Raymund (now one of our Mogul users). Rob had invited me to the read-through likely not expecting me to actually show up, given that there would be little for me to do other than just listen. But I did show up. And that showed my commitment.
Next, once the show went into previews, Rob asked me to be the check-in girl. I knew I was supposed to keep track of who attended, in the hopes that Rob might be able to secure their support for the show thereafter, and that doing this job well was incredibly important. So I showed up that first night with my laptop and an Excel spreadsheet, and I more than checked people in — I created an entire database of potential partners for the show. When I sent that first file to Rob, he couldn’t believe the level of detail and organization I had brought to the job. And just a few weeks later, he promoted me to general manager of the show.
I was in my early twenties and working two other jobs at the time, but it was such an incredible and unexpected honor to be named a general manager of a musical in New York City. It stemmed from a warm introduction through a good friend, but it would have stalled out if I hadn’t overdelivered on every task I was given. I went above and beyond on every job Rob gave me so that he could see that I could handle more responsibility.
If you want to be a professional fangirl, you can’t just admire. You’ve got to truly bring value to those people you end up working for.
I wish I could say that I achieved great success solely based on hard work and a lot of moxie. But I know firsthand how important finding the right people is for opening doors to opportunity. Once you find them, if you are good to them, kind to them, respectful, and hardworking, they will recommend you to others. This is another example of the path of reciprocity. So always be kind, generous, willing to help, and willing to go the extra mile.
3. FRIENDSHIP FIRST
Over the years, my approach as a fangirl has always been to remain focused not just on building a professional relationship with someone I admire but also on creating a true friendship. From the start, I always remember to be respectful, and share how and why I appreciate their work, but once we meet, I treat them as a friend. Okay, so maybe not always like my friends my own age. I never try to gossip about crushes or anything like that. But even now, I make sure to ask my mentors about themselves — about both their job and their life — in a warm, polite, and respectful way. My main goal is to get to know a person, not to “get” something from them. People feel the difference between digging for information and a genuine interest in who they are.
My main goal is to get to know a person, not to “get” something from them.
This approach is different from typical “networking,” what many call meeting people in a certain industry just to find a connection that could lead to a job or promotion. While I’m all for staying connected and meeting new people, I’ve never liked the term networking, because of the suggestion it carries of being focused on getting something out of an interaction. I recommend building actual relationships with people who could become friends, collaborators, and partners. Networking can be perceived as cold, transactional, and short-term, whereas friendship is warm, focused on teamwork and support, and long-lasting.
Once I’ve made a connection with someone, I work to keep that relationship strong. And it has led to me working with many of the same people over and over throughout my career.
4. EMULATE—DON’T IMITATE
So have you identified someone you can reach out to yet? The time is now. Thanks to the power of the internet, it doesn’t matter where you live. You can help anyone, anywhere, as long as you have a strong internet connection. But remember that you are looking to learn, not follow their footsteps exactly. Your path won’t look just like theirs, nor should it! Don’t try to be the next so-and-so. Try to be the first and only you. That uniqueness is what will allow you to find your place in the world.
Still, I know firsthand how connecting with the right mentors can really help you forge your own path. Your learning can start today. You can do work in the hours you have between school and bedtime, or on weekends. And here’s another secret: If you find the right people to shadow, it never feels like work! It just feels like hanging out with incredibly cool people, doing amazing stuff, and developing a ton of new skills that you can apply to whatever it is you dream of doing.
This has been adapted from 'Girl Mogul: Dream It. Do it. Change the World' By Tiffany Pham.