Meet this month’s Young Woman to Watch, Whitney Meers from New York City. Whitney is a writer and freelancer, helping companies and individuals tell their stories through digital media. She’s also a digital marketing career coach with General Assembly.
Like many young professionals today, Whitney’s career path changed course when she realized what she studied in university wasn’t the career she wanted to pursue. Read her open, honest and funny blog post about how she gathered the courage to make a satisfying switch.
Join us in #NYC on 6/30 for a networking event with Whitney: http://bit.ly/1q4aISB
- What brought you to New York and what is your current role?
I came to New York to go to law school. Some people have very long and satisfying careers in in the legal profession, but law school was an expensive way to find out I’m not one of those people! But the great thing is that law school took me to New York, and it was here that I discovered a love for storytelling in all forms. I worked in a law office while writing at night and working on film sets in my spare time. I was eventually hired to do some work with DailyCandy, which is owned by NBC Universal, where I developed the foundations I needed to become a strong marketer. I built those skills even more by enrolling in the digital marketing program at General Assembly, which felt like an expensive investment at the time but has paid off tremendously! The move into a strategy focus is more recent – basically, it’s taking those same storytelling skills, pairing them with the analytic skills you learn in law school, and aiming to help generate real results for your clients.
- How much courage did it take to transition from law to digital media?
At the suggestion of one of my instructors, I went to a career counselor. The counselor said I seemed to light up when I talked about creative projects, where I seemed bored and distracted talking about the law. She suggested I spend a week pretending I wasn’t going to be lawyer after school, just to see how I felt. It was like a huge weight was magically lifted. It definitely took courage to change my course, but it’s also a matter of perspective – I’m definitely much happier in the role I’ve chosen. And, it’s a huge relief to never have to look at another legal document again!
Since most of my work is freelance, there’s never any real security – but the better you get, the more you develop the confidence to work only on projects that can actually help you grow. And, ultimately, if you’re not growing, then what’s the point of any of this? Even when things seem risky, working with collaborators you trust and respect really helps ease the fear of failure. So ultimately, it takes a lot of courage on a daily basis, but without that fear of failure you can never really know success.
- What challenges do you face as a freelancer? What are your triumphs?
As a freelancer, there are definitely times I have to spend weeks chasing down payments! There’s also the challenge of learning when to say “no” – to a client request, a time-consuming project or anything else that doesn’t seem to add value toward my life goals. In terms of triumphs, I tend to be very achievement-oriented, so when a new project launches or a concept shows real results, it’s always a great feeling. The constant learning and the numerous teaching opportunities also drive me on a day-to-day basis.
- How do you set your schedule and ensure work/life balance?
In a lot of ways, they’re one in the same to me. I exercise in the mornings, allow myself to take breaks when I need them and make time for my friends, all of whom are wonderfully weird people in really neat industries doing awesome things. On nice days, I’ll work outside or take a long walk to clear my mind. If things get too stressful, I’ll remember relief is usually a few deep breaths and a chai latte away.
When things at the workplace are really tough, communication is key. These days, most employers realize that an overworked employee is less useful than a relaxed, focused one. When I’m struggling, I aim to be transparent – what are the roadblocks? Why are they causing problems? And, most importantly, how can others help me get the job done?
- Who/what inspires you?
I’m always inspired to see people doing interesting and creative things, particularly women, who don’t always get the accolades they so rightfully deserve. Even just remembering to be aware in the moment is a way to reflect and find inspiration in unexpected ways.
On busy days, even little bouts of creativity throughout the day can help keep me going, like seeing an interesting Google doodle or checking out a funny video. If I’m ever feeling low, I know that there’s nothing a YouTube video of an adorable dancing hamster can’t cure.
- What would be the most important work lessons you’d like to share with other young women?
Don’t be afraid to take risks, and use failures as learning opportunities. And, support others doing great things. A little bit of healthy competition is good, but at the end of the day, there’s enough room for all of us to succeed. And, be nice to everyone… we live in a world where it’s entirely possible for your clueless intern to become a tech millionaire overnight.
Also, don’t be afraid to speak up. You’d be surprised how many things I’ve gotten simply by being confident enough to ask for them.
- Would you do anything differently?
I’d focus more on my relationships with others, since these solid relationships are the cornerstone of most of my work prospects. People always want to work with someone they know or who comes highly recommended. I’d also spend less time stressing and more time living. I’d probably also drink a lot less Red Bull – it’s so important to get a full eight hours of sleep at night! And if I’m being totally honest, I’d also splurge a bit more on fancy cheeses and fine wines – sometimes you just have to treat yourself!
8. What will the next 5 years look like?
In five years I’d like to have written a book, a funny-yet-informative business book based on stories from my own crazy life. I’d also like to own my own business – I have a solid education-based startup idea, but I’m keeping it a secret until I get my millions in funding! As long as I’m still teaching and still learning every day, I know I’ll be happy.