professional advice

Professional Advice from ModCloth’s Leading Ladies

professional advice

Getting adjusted to a job, like most things, takes time. It requires mistakes to be made, and then learned from. It calls for confidence when self-assurance is sparing. It is humbling, but worthwhile. I’ve been a copywriter at ModCloth for over three years, and I still find myself learning all the time, namely from the incredible women I’m privileged to call my colleagues. These ladies slay in the workplace, and have generously shared their insights and secrets for following in their successes. They inspire me every day, and I’m certain they’ll inspire you, too.

Do you have any role models that shaped your approach to life in the workplace?

Honestly, I get huge inspiration from Disney cast members. I’ve gone to the Magic Kingdom a couple times with my family, and have been thoroughly inspired by their level of exemplary care. They are always friendly, always conscientious, and always full of helpful information. I want to bring Disney’s game to ModCloth and provide that same level of love and appreciation for our community.”
Chuck, Customer Care Advocate

“I have been so lucky to have been developed by some seriously amazing women at ModCloth! A couple really stand out. My former boss, Nicole, taught me all about work / life balance. She’d work so hard but would do it while listening to Carly Rae Jepsen, and she always found the time to take a break and pet the office dogs. I strive for that balance every day, especially as it relates to puppies. She also taught me that less is more when it comes to writing emails: everyone is busy, so being clear and concise is key!”
 -Kelsie, Senior Brand Manager

“I’ve been so fortunate to have many wonderful mentors at every stage of my career, both women and men. They have opened doors for me, given me sound advice and encouragement, pushed me to excellence, but most importantly each and every one of them believed in me. Their leadership has inspired me to be the person I am today and for that reason I believe in paying that forward by being a similar mentor to others. Although my mentors have been peers, family members and senior managers, I have also learnt and continue to learn from people in all different positions, departments, and stages at the workplace. Strong role models to me are those who have a sincere heart and passion for the work they do, and a genuine interest in your success.”
-Janey, Head of Technology Product

professional advice

 How did you cultivate your professional confidence?

“Confidence is a funny thing, and I find it to be constantly changing. I would classify my professional confidence level as currently comprised of 40% accrued skill/knowledge, 30% stubbornness, 25% peer support, and 5% faking it. When you start your career and suddenly realize that all the theory learned in school, or your perceptions of an industry from the outside, are so insufficient in actually doing the job, your confidence will plummet — now you’re not just trying to get over the learning curve and the battering ram at work, but also trying to keep yourself together. I credit my confidence and success to the mentorship of the women and men whose work ethic and professional persona I have admired. If you can’t figure out who your ‘best self’ is right off the bat, watch those around you and those you look up to closely to see what works.”
-Jenn, Director of Sourcing Operations

“A super-accomplished female Fortune 100 CMO once told me, ‘Fake it ’til you make it.’ That it is ‘a work in progress’ even at her level. Not feeling super comfortable or confident is totally okay — it’s part of the process. But most importantly, I think confidence comes from getting your hands dirty. I’m all about rapid prototyping. Go out there with a solid goal and idea, and try it! A few different ways, if you can. Practicing your craft is the best way to build confidence.”
-Helen, Social Media & Influencer Lead

“At the onset of my career, I learned very quickly that if you don’t say it, someone else will. I can remember ah-ha moments, or a potentially great idea that I shyly kept to myself. You’ve GOT to have confidence in your unique creativity, and find a timely, well-thought-out manner to share what’s on your mind. Once you push yourself, it will get easier!”
-Allison, Senior Manager of Site Operations

What’s your secret for being a skilled communicator in the workplace?

“A big part of communication isn’t just talking, but about listening and being open to other ideas. Listening and asking questions helps you to get to know your audience and allows you to better tailor your message to them. Also, remember that you aren’t always going to have the answer, and that’s okay. Be as informed as you can, but be honest when you don’t know something, and just say that you’ll look into it and get back to them (and then actually do it). Your coworkers will respect you more if you’re honest with them.”
-Shelby, Senior Experience Manager

“Empathy. Whether you are presenting to the CEO, colleagues, or students from Girls Who Code, you have to put yourself in the shoes of the person you are communicating with — and tailor the information to them in a way that makes sense for them.”
Helen, Social Media & Influencer Lead

Any advice for navigating personality differences at work?

First, it’s acceptance. It’s having an open heart and understanding that people come from different backgrounds and experiences that contribute to who they are and how they act. If you fundamentally believe the people you work with are not out to harm you and their actions are not personal, it’s easy to dismiss personality differences and stay focused on tasks you need to accomplish.  Sometimes someone’s just having a bad day. Second, it’s empathy.  Taking the time to get to know someone often breaks down misunderstandings and wrong assumptions that inflate differences or perceived differences in personalities. Last, it’s about being aware of when a personality clash will prevent you and the other person from getting your work done. If it gets to that point, the best thing you can do is have a conversation with that person. Reiterate your common goals and ask how you can best partner with him or her so you both can move forward.”
-Janey, Head of Technology Product 

“Kill ’em with kindness! This is a constant thought on my mind, and has never steered me wrong.”
-Allison, Senior Manager of Site Operations

As a product manager, I work with almost every department. That means working with a variety of personalities and backgrounds. I think the thing that has helped me the most is knowing that people have good intentions. With that in mind, I’ve learned to ask more questions to get down to what the person is really trying to say or why they feel a certain way. Everyone has different reasons and experiences that led them to their perspective.”
-Shelby, Senior Experience Manager

professional advice

Think of a workplace challenge specific to women. How have you overcome it personally?

“Imposter Syndrome can be crippling to so many women, and especially those women working in industries lacking  diversity in thought and background. It’s that feeling you don’t deserve your job, or someone else would be better suited to it, or they’re gonna ‘catch you’ at not being the best version of your role, so they’ll swiftly boot you out. This is exactly where my 5% of confidence from ‘faking it’ comes from. I wouldn’t say I’ve fully mastered it, but I can tell you that if you’re feeling like an imposter and are that good at coming up with worst case scenarios, then you are just as good at coming up with the best case. Get good at breaking down your fears into little tiny lines, then put those on your to-do list. Is it mentorship from a peer? A leader diagonal from you? A technical skill you should be spending your weeknight evening on instead of rewatching The Office for the 6th time? How much of an imposter would you feel like if you knocked every single one of those lines off your list?  You wouldn’t — you’d feel like a badass.”
Jenn, Director of Sourcing Operations

“I can’t remember who originally gave me this advice, but as soon as I heard it, I realized I was guilty of apologizing for myself — apologizing for my ideas, apologizing for speaking up, apologizing for anything and everything. It’s easy for us to default to saying sorry, but before you do, think about a way to reword what you’re saying and turn it into a positive: ‘Thanks for your patience.’ ‘I appreciate your taking the time to consider my idea.’ Stop undermining yourself, and start putting your best foot forward!”
-Turi, Lead Copywriter

professional advice

What tips would you impart on someone just getting their career started?

“First: work hard and be nice! People appreciate kindness, especially in office settings, where things can sometimes get tense. Ask people how they’re doing, and really listen to their answers. Your coworkers will remember your thoughtfulness. Everyone also appreciates folks who just dig in and get to work. It’s obviously important to work hard on the core functions of your job, but you should also ask questions about how you can make a bigger impact. If you see a team member who needs help, or if there’s a project that you’re interested in, ask how you can get involved. That way you’re tackling both ‘work hard’ and ‘be nice’ at once. Lastly, remind yourself every day that your opinions matter. As women, we’ve been socialized to hang back and doubt ourselves. Don’t listen to that voice that tells you to stay quiet. Speak up! The more you practice having opinions and voicing them, the better you’ll get to know yourself and the better you’ll be at communicating your perspective. You were hired to be you, so don’t be afraid to show up and stand out.”
-Kelsie, Senior Brand Manager

“Practice self awareness. Know what you’re good at and bad at, what you like and don’t like. If you pay attention, you will start realizing what you’re into as you start your career. The most successful people tend to be those who play to their strengths.”
-Helen, Social Media & Influencer Lead

“It’s okay to try things, and it’s okay to be uncomfortable, and it’s okay to fail. I tried journalism, teaching preschool, and marketing before I found my way to being a product manager, and they all taught me valuable lessons along the way. I had successes and failures along the way too, and what I’ve learned is that failure is only truly failure when you don’t learn something from it. Be open to trying new things. That may mean trying different jobs or continuing your education, but it also can mean taking on projects or new responsibilities within your current role. It may make you uncomfortable sometimes, but that usually means you’re learning something and growing.”
-Shelby, Senior Experience Manager

“This is your prime time to build stellar relationships. You never know who you’ll cross paths with again in the future, and where those folks may lead you. To that end, never turn your nose up to an unexpected opportunity that presents itself, as those chances are few and far between!”
-Allison, Senior Manager of Site Operations

professional advice


How do you overcome the communication challenges that arise between our different offices?

“Be a human. Pick up the phone or walk over. Our brand marketing team is split across three offices. We are a lean team and emails can get piled up. Things can get lost in translation over Slack. It’s worth just walking over to someone once in a while and asking a question.”
-Helen, Social Media & Influencer Lead

“Honestly, the way I approach any challenge or conflict off the bat is the same: humor. If you can’t laugh about work, you’re doing it wrong. Also if your meeting could have been an email information blast instead of an hour-long powerpoint read, you’re doing it wrong. My best advice is to leave space in your meeting agenda for questions and relationship building (and jokes!). The pace and trajectory of a face-to-face, coffee-slamming, lunch-eating meeting you’d have with business partners you see daily in person just don’t work digitally. If you’re leading a video conference meeting, get good at vocalizing questions for cues you may read in person. The worst you can do is rush through a half-hour sync to blast through a tight agenda with no room for feedback, and your quieter attendees couldn’t get a word in edgewise. The purpose of most meetings is to reach a consensus or conclusion, so making room in your timeline and in your communication style may make your calendar look crazy, but being inclusive and effective also means leaving room for everyone you’ve invited. Our fantastic team may be sitting in different cities, but our shared purpose sets a foundation for effective meetings. Fun is a nice by-product of that — and who doesn’t want to visit with their business partners when they travel?”
-Jenn, Director of Sourcing Operations

+What’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given?


About Savannah

If something's happening on stage, you can probably find Savannah there, from house shows and dramatic theater productions to faraway metal gigs and full-on festivals. Otherwise, she spends her days elbows-deep in carb-heavy meals, rattling about years spent overseas, and testing the creative limits of an all-black wardrobe.

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  1. Avatar
    Christen 07/13/2018 at 5:27 pm #

    This is awesome. So many gems in here! I’m so lucky to work alongside these ladies and I’m inspired by them every day.

  2. Avatar
    Carms 07/17/2018 at 12:03 am #

    This is impressive! So helpful. Got some tips additional tips though.

    Dress sharp, be polite and have excellent people skills/command of language. I’ve found that your ability to present yourself appropriately and maintaining a professional attitude is the key.

    Also follow current events, become a skilled conversationalist, learn a little bit about everything. Small talk is important, and make sure to never swear.

  3. Avatar
    Caylin White 07/19/2018 at 11:24 am #

    Love this!

  4. Avatar
    Phoebe 07/25/2018 at 12:19 am #

    Your post inspire me alot and help me calm down and think positively about life. Thank you so much!

  5. Avatar
    Dixie Zumwalt 08/18/2018 at 3:48 pm #

    I am retired now but there are some great ideas and comments here. I’d like to add two thoughts, one from the late Aretha Franklin, RESPECT, start with yourself but give the same to others. If you don’t respect yourself no one else will either, and if you don’t give respect to others you’re a hypocrite. Which brings me to my second thought, there has never been a better strategy for success than “the golden rule” if you truly treat people the way you would want them to treat you, with empathy, kindness, concern and respect rarely will you have a real problem with an associate.

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