With the wealth of business books out there advising women how to get ahead in the workplace, I’m increasingly concerned that one, very important, message is getting lost: you have to work really hard if you want to succeed. Sounds obvious, right? Yet so many would-be successful young women seem to have missed the memo.
I started my proper career (for ‘proper’, read ‘paid and with an actual contract’) in the digital division at Condé Nast. I got to write for the online editions of amazing brands like Vogue, Glamour and GQ, albeit at a time when most of the editors of those brands didn’t even realise they had a website.
A small team of us squirrelled away on the seventh floor of Vogue House, and I got to work at 7.45am every morning, without fail. (Side note: I’m pretty sure half the employees at Vogue House didn’t realise there was a seventh floor. The lift only went as high as floor six.)
I didn’t complain about the early start time. I was delighted I had a job doing something interesting. Someone was paying me to interview celebrities, review beauty products, spend my evenings at film screenings or store launches, and learn about this amazing innovation called the World Wide Web.
I also didn’t ask to leave early, or take time off in lieu for the early mornings. I knuckled down, worked hard, and was duly given more responsibility, until I was headhunted by Marie Claire to launch its digital offering at 26.
But my point isn’t just about hours worked. It’s about going above and beyond what is asked of you every single day. Let me make it super clear: I am not in favour of anyone staying in the office late, just for the sake of staying in the office late. My team will tell you, I leave on time pretty much every evening, but I’m also on time every morning.
And I don’t start work at 7.45am any more. I’ve learnt how to manage my time efficiently and work smarter, but my advice to every young graduate, male or female, is that you have to put the time and effort in if you want to be noticed.
Today, managing a large team at the trend forecasting company WGSN, and previously as the editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post UK, I wouldn’t think about promoting someone who just ticks the boxes when it comes to their responsibilities, I want someone who exceeds what they’re required to do, and not just once, but all the time. That to me is a valuable member of staff and one who should be rewarded.
Blowing cold on hot-desking
It’s the end of the office as we know it. Come 2020, we’ll all be hot-desking in co-working spaces, selling our expertise via online portals, and every meeting will take place via FaceTime.
We might not need to wait until 2020 for the shift – even traditional media stalwarts like the Telegraph have announced they’re embracing flexible working. And while Telegraph Media Group CEO Murdoch MacLennan admitted that ‘smart working’, as he called it, was as much about saving costs as a ‘modern, employee-friendly approach’, the move marks a significant shift in the British mentality to the office.
This is, however, one future trend I’m not 100% on board with. While flexible working makes complete sense to me for those jugging family commitments – and by that I don’t just mean young mums, but dads, too, or people caring for elderly parents – being in an office environment has enormous benefits, and we’re in danger of losing those in the rush to shrink the square footage of our offices.
Think about all the great things you get from your colleagues: new ideas, team support, different ways of tackling a problem, not to mention the building of relationships, culture and collaboration.
Yahoo boss Marissa Mayer got a lot of stick when she reversed the company’s flexible working policy, but on this, I think she got it right. Make the most of your co-workers and office space – they might not be there for very much longer.
The end of the suit?
On my list of career goals as an ambitious teenager were two things: a) write for a living, b) don’t wind up somewhere you have to wear a suit.
I might not be in favour of working from home, but I have nothing against wearing the outfit you’d be in if you were. At WGSN, trainers are de rigueur, so much so I’ve pretty much forgotten how to wear heels.
My amazing mix of journalists, designers, forecasters and analysts rock up in leggings, shorts, jumpsuits, dungarees and the like. You’d have to be pretty out there to receive a second glance – although when our male denim editor arrived a few weeks back in matching floral-printed jeans and jacket, he received a standing ovation.
This team predicts the future of fashion, and if they’re anything to go by, the suit will be consigned to the history books, and my teenage self will be delighted.
Carla Buzasi is the global chief content officer at trend forecasters WGSN and was the founding editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post UK. She was one of MT’s 35 Women Under 35 in 2015. See this year’s list.