I tell stories in books like my award-winning novel and a book of creative nonfiction—meaning true stories told as if they were fiction. I love telling stories so I want to share one with those who subscribe to and visit Gilda Evans’ Girl Talk blog.

When I was only nineteen I applied for a job at Good Housekeeping Magazine. I was new in New York, green. Young. Right out of Utah. It was long before computers came on the scene, but even then the scrapbook I had made out of construction paper in lieu of a portfolio was…mmmm…unusual to say the least. I pasted my clips from the Salt Lake Tribune where I had worked before (white school paste!) into it and decorated the pages with little posies, fashion sketches and (gasp!) hearts. Very unprofessional. And not that brilliantly artistic, either.

I was hired and later my editor told me that she had been impressed with the “organized” approach to my clips. Looking back, I can hardly believe it. If she’d said, “creative,” I might be able to understand it, but I’m sure I remember her saying “organized.”

The point here is that at times, making ourselves stand out among the crowd is more important than “doing it right.” In marketing circles, something akin to this is known as branding. We all brand ourselves (which means we are all marketers—must be marketers!) Think of how you choose the proper attire for an interview. Or even how you might choose your outfit for a day at school, according to who you’ll be seeing that day or the kid you have a crush on who sits across the aisle from you. That’s branding and knowledge of this skill can be expanded to serve us well no matter what we’re doing in life.

More recently I had an interview with a newspaper as a fashion columnist. She, too, wanted clips. I no longer had the old handmade scrapbook (which would have been faded and crisp by that time anyway) and could only find one newspaper clip (which was yellowed and with curled corners). The date on it was 1958. That was hardly current. I wasn’t feeling confident, considered canceling. Finally I just grabbed it and left the house for the interview. I hadn’t even bothered to mount it. I got that job, too!

It couldn’t have been my organization that got that job. Or even my branding. My editor later told me she liked the way I addressed the article to the second-person you—the reader. That way of writing features had gone out of style in journalism circles. But things cycle. Times change. Apparently it was b-a-a-ack. Or just seemed novel and original to her.

Trying to draw a lesson from this experience, I decided branding and organization are definitely desirable attributes in life and in career-building. But the biggest advantages a person can have is 1. Persistence and 2. Confidence—or at least being naïve enough that you don’t let fear keep you from doing what you need to do to succeed.

 

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a multi award-winning novelist and poet. She is a former journalist and publicist and now shares expertise gleaned from her former careers as the author of the HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers (www.howtodoitfrugally.com) that includes the newly formatted, updated, and expanded The Frugal Editor.  She was named Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment by members of the California Legislature and was given her community’s Diamond Award by the city library and Arts and Culture Commission. Tweet with her @FrugalBookPromo and friend her at http://facebook.com/carolynhowardjohnson.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Instructor for nearly a decade at the renowned UCLA Extension Writers’ Program
A
uthor of the multi award-winning series of HowToDoItFrugally books including the second edition honored by USA BOOK NEWS 
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