Who do you look up to?

Beyonce

After a few recent conversations with journalists, PRs and friends, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about success, and specifically successful women – how they get there, and how they treat others once they’re there. I’ve started to think about who I look up to, too; thanks to a mixture of social media, my career progression and my many goals, it’s changing all the time, but one thing that remains constant is that I look to other women for my inspiration. What’s different, though, is that I used to see power, status or a job title as motivational, whereas now the women I aspire to be like are the ones who have got my back.

I grew up in a house full of women; with two sisters and my mum around me my poor dad barely got a say in anything (yes we will be keeping the kitten and can we please instruct you on how to move our bedroom around yet again?). I’ve always been a girl’s girl and aside from some light schoolgirl bickering it never occurred to me to compete with other girls – they were my friends, my sisters, my mentors, my idols. I wanted to be like every one of them and for them to want to be my friend too.

Working in the beauty industry, you get used to working with women; though my first job was in a place run by men in sharp suits, it was the women who managed the teams that I struck an instant bond with – supporting, motivating, understanding without an ounce of being patronising despite their broader experience, I’m proud to count them as some of my closest friends today and have relied on their advice and shared mine in times of stress at work and beyond. And beauty isn’t bitchy in the way that I expected it could be; sure, you get the odd person who likes themselves more than they like being nice to others but for the most part the beauty birds are made up of throughly good eggs.

It’s this that makes me love my work. I’ve met so many incredible women through it – thoughtful PRs, helpful interns, talented writers, inventive designers and smart editors, who without this career I might never have met. And girls may be girls, chatting and gossiping and sharing and conferring, but unlike school the ones you remember and look up to are not necessarily the coolest; not the prettiest or the most popular; not the ones with the most money, followers or the best wardrobe (though many have all of this and more, the sods). The women who stay in my mind and who I look forward to meeting again, or who I hope to work with one day if I don’t already are the kind ones, the smart ones, the ones who are generous with their time and who treat you as an equal. The ones who want to cheerlead your every accomplishment and buy you a glass of wine for your every disappointment.

Through Twitter and my job I’ve had the chance to meet and talk to women who have done just that – who’ve picked up the phone when I’m having a work wobble or who give their honest advice on everything from freelancing to half-hearted book ideas to this very blog. I can honestly say this is the most important thing I’ve learned in my career – to get ahead, you need support and to be supportive; from the intern at the bottom of the ladder who helps their team to nail a project to the editor who recommends that intern for their dream job.

We live in a time where comparison anxiety is rife; I have to remind myself daily to stop analysing my successes on the basis of others’, which is damn hard in this writing game where every day you hear of another person five years younger getting a book deal, or a job which you’re still working towards. No good can come of comparison, though, and frankly I’m happy to be the girl who works her ass off that nobody really knows, rather than the one who reached the top but who nobody wants to work with.

Social media doesn’t make this easy – we can all see a curated view of how someone is doing in their career and we all know it can cause jealousy, but on the flip side it’s also the place where we can champion each other’s achievements, recommend others and share what we learn as we go. It’s so true that the media and the opportunities within in it are very much about who you know… but that needn’t make it exclusive. You’ll never regret helping someone else out, be it with a contact or advice on their next pitch; and those you help will never forget that you did. Hopefully, they’ll follow your lead and will pay it forward next time someone needs that boost. That’s pretty inspiring in itself.