'Leave Your Mark' - straight talk for the young professional

People love dishing out career advice. There is SO MUCH out there. What do you trust, what do you ignore? The reality is a lot of people calling themselves "experts" don't know how to dish out actionable lessons.

Last week I spent some time digging into one of 2015's top releases by PR expert, Aliza Licht. Leave Your Mark has been described as "mentorship in 288 pages." I like to think of it as a collection of "what I wish I knew at 22" stories.

Leave Your Mark by Aliza Licht
Leave Your Mark by Aliza Licht

“Mix three cups of success with a pinch of failure." - Aliza Licht, SVP of Global Communications, Donna Karan International


Let's be clear - this is not another self-help book. Licht relates all of her advice to her own encounters. I found myself laughing out loud as I joined her rise in the fashion industry - from intern to communications exec.

This book speaks all women on the cusp of their careers in a way that makes it clear she doesn't know it all. Thank goodness for that. The last thing we need is someone who's made it to the top telling down at us that we're the broken generation, right?!

Points of Genius

  • We’re asked to make decisions that will affect us forever so early in life, and often we feel pressure to stick with the decisions we’ve made... I had to be honest with myself and admit that it was OK to make a mistake…Sticking with medicine would have been the easy path, actually. No explanations necessary, no feeling embarrassed about my mistake.” This hit home, hard. Why do we make decisions based on what those around us label as acceptable? We so often compromise going with our gut to avoid facing our fears. Licht reminds us that "successful" people didn't always have a band of supporters.
  • “The key to a good resume is to include the content that will be relevant to the employer or position you are going for.” Thank you, Aliza! Seriously, one of the biggest mistakes I see among job seekers is listing on their resume everything they've done since high school and expecting that to get them an interview. Reality: you should only include those pieces that are relevant to the job you're applying. It's hard cutting out information, but do as Licht suggests - go through each section of the document and ask yourself, "Why would they care about this?"
  • “…an interview is an employer’s opportunity to see if she wants you, it’s also equally as important for you to consider if you actually want to work for her." Just because you don't have a lot of experience doesn't mean you should take a job as soon as one is offered. I know there's a lot of pressure to be employed, especially if you've been searching for a while, but taking a job that isn't a good fit is going to hurt you more than it will help in the short term.
  • As long as the experience is related (and I mean loosely related) to your passion in some way, it’s worth your time and effort." What she's saying here is don't discount an opportunity for growth. Just because an internship or job isn't with an internationally known company doesn't mean you won't be able to advance your skills. Often times having the opportunity to polish your skills is just as important as having a company's name on your resume.
  • "Branding on a personal level is the art of aligning what you want people to think about you with what people actually think about you.”  In a society that values new, improved, different, it might feel strange talking about yourself the same way again and again. But this is how you become known for something. As she puts it - repetition is reputation!
  • “It’s sad when you have to pull the plug on what you thought would be your dream job-but it’s better to be honest with yourself and move on than hang around wait for the shit to hit the fan.” All too often I hear parents telling their kids to just tough it out, bide their time, and something good will come of it. In some circumstances that's just not true. As the great Kenny Rogers said, "You've got to know when to hold 'em. Know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away. And know when to run."

Missing Pieces

  • Minor disagreements on application procedures. I think objective statements on resumes are an outdated concept.  If you really want to list something at the top, include a summary statement of your skills and qualifications. Licht suggests saving your resume in .doc format. Unless you are submitting to an application you know uses keyword scanning technology, please save in PDF format! There are too many formatting things that can go awry when sending in word.
  • Building confidence when you aren't confident. Licht is a confident woman, but she doesn't share how to build confidence when you aren't so sure of yourself. Also how can introverts put themselves out there in a way that feels just a little scary (uncertainty is scary for all of us) instead of debilitating?
  • Identifying your strengths when you aren't sure what those are. Throughout her narrative, Licht shares that she knew where she wanted to go from pretty early on. What if you don't know what you want to do at all? If you don't have direction, how can you move forward?
  • Money, honey. It's one thing to go after something you love when you know it will make you a good living. What happens if your thing might not pay well? How does negotiating in your very first position affect your pay for the next several? It's one thing to say that you should negotiate. It's another to narrow in on your monetary value.
  • Balancing a career with children. She mentioned a few times in the book that she had two children and a husband, but the book led me to believe the decision to grow her family was an easy one. Only one line in the book touched on this - “People were happy to see some career/life balance.” - but she didn't expand at all on how to achieve this. Deciding when and if to have children as you build your career is a very real topic we women struggle with and this book would have been a perfect platform for such a discussion.

Final Verdict

I was IMPRESSED with this book. It’s not often someone can share tangible career advice nestled in a good story. Aliza Licht did this well.  And for the shortcomings I listed above, no one book can have it all. Perhaps these weren’t relevant to her target audience. Maybe they just didn’t fit in this time around.

Bottom line:Buy it. Put it on your holiday list and start practicing what she preaches.

What are some other great books for the passionate career woman that you've read? Please share with me below as I'm on the hunt for the next good one!