Thursday, July 28, 2016

We need to stop telling women, "Get a mentor and you will excel." Instead, we need to tell them, "Excel and you will get a mentor."

What a weekend! I'm back from my second trip to NYC for the year, and it was so, so amazing. After attending Her Conference, I'm feeling refreshed, motivated, inspired, and confident.

Her Conference is the annual conference in NYC put on by Her Campus. As you probably know, I am the Editor-in-Chief of the University of Iowa chapter of Her Campus. This year was the fifth annual Her Conference, and I am so glad I went! Four of us from our chapter went, and it was such a great bonding experience for us.

The first event of the weekend was Friday night at Rebecca Minkoff's store in SoHo. At the event we got to mingle with girls from other Her Campus chapters across the country. It was fun to look around the store and chat with the other girls. Then we actually got to meet Rebecca Minkoff! She was so kind and so sweet, and it was a great way to start off the weekend.

It was really exciting to get to meet girls from other HC chapters across the country. I'm part of a Facebook page with all of them as well as a group chat with about 10 others, plus I follow many of them on different social media platforms. But to actually meet them in person and talk to them and exchange ideas and encouragements was so, so cool. I love my HC friends!

The next day we got up, got ready, grabbed our coffee, and headed to the conference. We arrived at the conference and began an amazing day. We checked in, grabbed some complementary breakfast, and walked into the lounge, where there were some booths from sponsors and a ton of HC girls. It was basically heaven. There was a rose wall with over 3,500 roses set up by Tinder, an Ulta Beauty touch up counter and headshot station, an informational table for The Diva Cup, and a raffle table with tons of prizes from dozens of sponsors. We ate and walked around to the booths a little and then headed into the forum for the first keynote of the day and of the whole conference.

Over the two days of the conference, we had six keynote speakers, four panels, and two workshops.

Our first speaker on Saturday morning was fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff. Rebecca talked about her experiences in the fashion industry and how she got to where she is today. She talked about the chances she took and the things she's learned. It was fascinating. And she looked amazing, of course.

The afternoon keynote on Saturday was Andi Dorfman. Andi is a former ADA of Atlanta, appeared on "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette," and is the bestselling author of "It's Not Okay: Turning Heartbreak into Happily Ever After." Andi talked about perseverance. She talked about how she persevered through not knowing where her life was going to take her next, through heartbreak, through failure. She always gets up, keeps going, and tries again.

Joyce Chang, Editor-in-Chief of SELF magazine gave the evening keynote on Saturday. Joyce gave us a whole bunch of excellent advice. She talked about how when you mess up or fail, changing direction is okay because it's just your GPS rerouting you. She talked about how while we all want to get to the top, it's lonely at the top, so you need your people with you. She talked about how your career isn't about your byline, it's about making an impact {one of my favorite lines of hers}. And she talked about how journalism is the best job, especially when you're trying to figure out what you want to do, because it's your job to meet people and ask questions. Also Joyce said she 110% could've gotten to where she is today without going to grad school, and everyone in the room cheered. Amazing.

Vanessa DeLuca, Editor-in-Chief of ESSENCE magazine, opened up day two of the conference. Vanessa gave us her ten secrets to success, which included knowing what you stand for and not resting on your laurels. So inspiring. And now I'm ten secrets closer to a successful future!

Our afternoon keynote on Sunday was non other than Nastia Liukin, U.S. Olympian, fitness advocate, and author. Nastia talked us through her journey to the Olympics, starting from when she was a little girl. People told her she couldn't, shouldn't, wouldn't. But she didn't listen, and now she is an Olympic champion, gold medalist, all around amazing person. She reminded me to stop competing against everyone else and just be the best ME. She said to stop worrying about what everyone else is telling me I can't do and worry about everything I'm telling myself I CAN do. And she told me to never quit on a bad day. Also, she told us that we all must read "The Secret" because it changed her life, so I'm going to go add that to my Amazon cart quick...

The final keynote of the entire conference was by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power. She reminded us to use our voices, to fight for change, to not stand for injustice. We're all capable of changing things, but we have to do something in order to create that change.

The panels I attended over the weekend were: "Does the Devil Really Wear Prada?: Life in an Entry Level Editorial Position," "Freelancing Fiends: Life Outside the 9-5," and "Social Superstars: How to Make Social Media Your Full-Time Job."

But my favorite panel that I attended at the conference was called "Blossoming Bookworms: Opportunities in Book Publishing." Just listening to what the panelists do in their jobs every day, how they get to work with books and authors for a living, it really ignited something in me. I always thought that maybe I would want to be a book editor, but this panel really inspired me to maybe actually do it. And it opened my eyes to other jobs in the book publishing industry.

I also attended two workshops over the weekend. The first was "Pretty in Pink: How to Keep Your Chapter Strong." This past spring semester, our University of Iowa Her Campus chapter achieved a Pink Chapter Level, which is the highest level you can achieve as a chapter. Chapter levels are based on website traffic, social media followers, and number of members. Reaching the highest chapter level in only my second semester as Campus Correspondent and Editor-in-Chief feels so amazing. It's probably one of my biggest accomplishments to date. Anyway, in this workshop, we talked about ways to keep our chapters strong and how to continue to grow them even though we've already reached "the top." So motivating.

The other workshop I attended was called "Building Your Instagram Empire & How Your Mom Can Help." The leader of this workshop was Kate Siegel, who runs the Instagram account "Crazy Jewish Mom" (which is super funny, so you should follow her). She basically talked about how to develop a brand on social media that people will recognize, connect with, and follow. Also, she was just super funny, and it was a really fun session.

Overall, it really was such an amazing and inspiring weekend at Her Conference. I learned so much, met so many amazing women, and became so inspired. I have so many ideas and goals now that I just want to jump into and accomplish.

Thank you so much, Her Campus, for putting on such a spectacular conference. I'll see you next year!

Lots of love,

Sheryl Sandberg, "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead"