“Vigilance is key,” says Emma Gray, Executive Women’s Editor for The Huffington Post.
At The Huffington Post, Emma oversees content covering topics from career advice, social justice, feminism, wellness, and beyond. However, she doesn’t stop there – Emma has appeared as an expert on the Today Show, The Insider, Good Morning America, and more. In addition she co-hosts “Here To Make Friends,” a podcast intertwining comedy with feminist commentary and ideas around ‘The Bachelor.’
So the question is how, at age 28, Emma Gray already made it so far up the career ladder? Read below to learn what Emma had to say about finding her own path, getting her first in, and how to make the most of opportunities.
Naturally drawn to the world of writing backed by academic interests and a righteous passion for social justice, Emma fearlessly dove into the world of digital media despite not having any previous editorial internships or experience. Yet regardless of whether or not she had the “ideal” amount of professional experience under her belt, Emma believed in her writing abilities and drive, to share her stories with the world.
Soon after college Emma packed her bags, traveled to New York, and began writing as much as she could and for however many people would take her. And so was her process of the grind, endlessly applying for job after job, meeting as many people as she could.
“Once I got my foot in the door and started meeting other people and making human connections it just got so much easier,” she said.
It was while she was working for a small news organization called Patch, that The Huffington Post became acquired by AOL. So what did Emma do? She banked on her timing and took a risk.
Emma asked for an interview with The Huffington Post. Due to her honest, respectful relationship with her higher up, her impeccable timing led her to an opportunity. What is so important about Emma’s story is that it works.
Take Initiative and Never. Give. Up.
There is one trait that separates everyone into one of two groups – those who take initiative and those who do not. In countless conversations with successful leaders, over and over again, the issue of people failing to take initiative always arises. True, it is important to respect boundaries and read signals, but it is also key to be fearless and reach out!
As Emma describes, “Once I was at the Huffington Post I started as an assistant editor and really worked my way up. I started going to any media event I was invited to, reaching out to people, just going for drinks, and going for lunches, and promoting the hell out of my work.” It is easy to assume we’re not good enough and raise others on a pedestal, but what will keep you grounded is remembering that anyone who has the job you want is just another human being too.
Yet, as over anxious, perfectionist millennials, we so quickly become disappointed before truly even taking that big risk, let alone encountering rejection. What Emma instead points out is that it is all about taking risks, making connections, and letting your work speak for itself, but most importantly – never giving up.
This applies to your work and your persistence to connect. Take emails or informal interview requests: “I am bombarded by a million emails,” says Emma. “Don’t be afraid to follow-up on an email that you haven’t gotten a response to. If someone follows up a second or third time I’ll realize I haven’t read it, I’ll take the time and read it and try to respond as best as I can.”
Don’t Be Afraid Of Social Media
“Social media is an incredible tool for making connections,” Emma explains. Don’t underestimate its power. Whether Twitter, Instagram, or more, never turn your nose down at the chance to make a human connection which can later transform into a professional contact!
One strategy Emma used? “I identified the people that were a level above me when I was trying to break into the industry and went to their LinkedIn pages, looked at their history, and said, ‘Where did they start?’ And I then started reaching out to all those publications, saying, ‘Hey, can I write something for you?’” Sure, LinkedIn is great for making connections, and finding out who works where, but it is also an amazing tool for carving your own path and pool of resources.
Be Fearlessly Brief
There are three things to remember when chasing dreams – consistency, vigilance, and brevity. When aiming to get your email read or your name heard, remember to always be brief and direct. “I think it’s imperative to have the subject line be pretty specific as to what you’re sending. If it’s a pitch for a blog post, say ‘writer pitch’ in the subject line. If you’re reaching out to make a connection for an interview, write that in the subject line,” says Emma. It’s key for you to believe in your ideas and what you have to say: if not, how can you convince anyone else of the same? However, it is not just enough to believe in your ideas, you also need to plan critically on how you will share your work with the world.
Work From The Heart
“Personal writing is some of the most inspiring reading I’ve ever read,” says Emma. “Especially when there’s a personal way in that is backed up by a larger point. You need to have research to back up your assertion, but if you can put a personal twist on it, other women will be able to connect with that.”
Especially within the digital media industry, the best writing is fueled from passion; whether it’s in the format of a list, op-ed, or a government break down, the work you represent yourself with needs to be fresh, whole-hearted, and completely in your own voice.
Know Your Market and Find Your Balance
When asking Emma how she best maintained a level of professionalism throughout her work and personal social media accounts she explained the following:
“First of all, it’s knowing your audience, and in working [within] digital media there is more leeway. When I was first starting out, I was more careful about what I was posting on Twitter regarding personal items. You don’t want any of your social media to read as your diary!”
Whether it be cursing or offering personal anecdotes, they need to be thoughtful – not just carelessly inserted into your work, but instead used for purpose and clarity. A hiring manager is going to see it all, so you have to be mindful of what you’re putting out to the world.
“Once you’re in a company you can understand what the company’s culture is and you can navigate that line of what’s professional and what’s going over that line,” Emma explains. “Always err on the side of caution, but also don’t be afraid to have a little fun and show your personality as a writer, because that is what is really going to make you stand out.”