There are hundreds of career tips out there on how to command a higher salary, make better connections, and get ahead in your career. However, not all of them come from some of the boldest (and most successful!) women in business.
Carrie Kerpen is a keynote speaker, columnist for Forbes Inc., CEO and co-founder of Likable Media, an award-winning content studio that achieved Crane's sixth "Best Place to Work in New York City." She's the author of the new book Work It: Secrets of Success from the Boldest Women in Business.
I recently interviewed Kerpen for the LEADx Leadership Podcast, where she discussed the journey in writing her book, and one of her favorite bold career tips. (The interview below have been lightly edited for space and clarity.)
Kevin Kruse: How'd your new book come about?
Carrie Kerpen: I run a social media agency that I co-founded with my husband in 2007. In 2013, I took over as CEO and it was a really scary experience for me, if I'm being honest. I'm an operator and somebody who can really hold stuff together, but having that actual “vision” was terrifying for me, especially because in 2013 as a social media agency, it's a much more crowded landscape. At the time, what I decided to do was use the fact that in social media, most of the founders and most of the leaders were very loud, very extroverted, and male, and they were all talking about themselves all over social media. I felt like, "How am I going to grow this business? I don't want to do that, and I'm definitely not a male, and I don't want to be talking about myself all the time."
I decided that to grow the agency, instead of telling my own stories, I would tell stories of other women in the industry. I would focus on people who worked at the brand level and expand my own networking capabilities. I invited great guests on the show and asked about their business challenges, and then we'd be friends and then eventually we'd do business. It'd be great. I started a podcast called ‘All the Social Ladies’, and what I found was that I wasn't just interested in my own selfish reasons like, I was also fascinated with their career tips. I was like, "Wow, this could really work well for young women and people midway in their careers.” When I was approached by Penguin Random House to do a book, I thought that this was an excellent opportunity to give these stories more voice. That's really where it came from, and I expanded beyond just social media, which is primarily what the podcast is about, to be about life lessons.
We need more than just one philosophy, I think. I believe ultimately that you have to hear lots of different things from lots of different people to get your own inspiration. That's what the book tried to do.
Kruse: Give us a couple of the secrets that stand out to you.
Kerpen: There's a few around networking that I think are really key. One story that I love came from Sandy Carter who has been at many Fortune 500 companies, and who lead social change at IBM, among others. What she talked about was very early in her career, she would sit at her desk during lunch, keep her head down, and get her work done. Because she was racing, right? One day, a supervisor came to her and said, "Do me a favor: go down to the cafeteria and see who's down there," and it was all men. The reason it's all men is that they understood the power of networking with one another. I think that women are like, "Oh my God, we have to be so competent. We have to get our job done, we’ve got to get it done." I think they don't take the time to network as much.
I think those tips around using networking as a part of your job versus "Something I need to do later" is key. That all links back to a lot of the stories in the book, which are around women focusing on being the best at their job. Competence versus having confidence in the ability to talk about what they do. The confidence is as important as competence, so there's tons of stories about that that can really help women. There's a lot around "How to listen to your gut," and things like that, but I think the practical stuff around how to have confidence is what's key. Also good stuff about making money, too. That's good.
Kruse: What’s a tip to make more money?
Kerpen: When you're on a phone interview, ask, "What is the salary for this position?", and then hit mute. Force yourself to put the awkward part of a negotiation on somebody else. That doesn't just work for salary; that works for anything. And don’t just mute on the phone, learn how to use your mental mute. If you learn how to use your mental mute, you can negotiate for a lot more. "How much is this project going to cost?" Mental mute. "Where do you see me going in five years at this organization?" Mental mute. You name it, just learning how to mute yourself, to own that feeling and learn to the feeling of awkward, then you can become really good at getting more money. I love that tip.
Kruse: When you’re quiet, people will start to tell you what they really think.
Kerpen: Yes. You have to get comfortable in silence. I think that that's key on a lot of things. If you're comfortable in silence with yourself, it can help you better channel your gut and learn what you really want. I believe when you're able to listen to your gut, you're able to make decisions better and faster, and a lot of that is just sitting with yourself in silence.