8 Things for Millennial Women to Know When Building Careers

With Zena Thomas of Her Savvy Career

zena quote

At the end of the Blog to Book session during May’s Blogger Week conference, a woman in the audience raised her hand to ask a question. She mentioned she had written a book, and the more she spoke, the more interested I became. I soon learned that the woman was Zena Zena, founder of Her Savvy Career and author of The Savvy Girl’s Guide to Getting the Job.

I bought Zena’ book right there on the spot, and we recently had a chance to get together on Skype to talk more about her career journey and what insight she would offer to young professional women building their careers. Zena, who started her own career at a Cingular Wireless call center after graduating from the University of Maryland, understands that there is no such thing as a linear path. Now a full-time human resources professional with Her Savvy Career as her side hustle, Zena wants to help women become successful in their careers while still finding ways to fulfill and express their passions. Here are 8 tips from Zena when it comes to millennial women building careers.

1. Maximize each job application.

“You only get one shot to make a first impression,” Zena said. According to her, the number one mistake millennial women make when searching and applying for jobs is not being strategic in their job search; this leads to choosing quantity over quality when it comes to their applications. Instead, Zena encourages women to consider putting together the best package possible each time they submit an application.

2. Lead from where you are.

Zena did not begin her career in HR. But, during a career move that took her to Enterprise, she proactively took on leadership roles. Zena translated her sales skills from Cingular Wireless into internal recruiting. Now she understands the value of choosing to be a leader, independent of your title or place on the corporate food chain.

3. Mistakes don’t matter as much as how you recover from them. 

“The way you handle mistakes is a true testament of your brand,” Zena said. She encourages women to recover from turmoil or setbacks at work by adjusting their mindset, learning from the individuals around them and deciding on a course of action going forward.

4. Successful career building is all about trial and error.

“Don’t be afraid to job hop or find the job that’s right for you,” Zena advised. Trial and error is about deciding what you like or don’t like, and then pivoting to adjust and create your path.

5. Successful job searching is all about preparation.

“Job searching is hard work,” Zena stated. So to better prepare for the task at hand, she encourages women to develop an organized job search, decide what types of companies they want to work for and determine their non-negotiables.

6. You may not be able to find a job that fulfills your passion, but you can create a path that does.

One thing I was eager to hear from Zena about was the concept of passion and how she juggles her full-time gig with Her Savvy Career. “You may need to create a scenario to fulfill and express your passion,” she said. She also said that it’s important to be realistic about what opportunities are available when it comes to your passion. Even though Zena said she has now been working in her passion for the past eight years, it was a windy road to get there.

7. Two separate social media accounts doesn’t mean much in the world of recruiting. 

While Zena says it’s OK to have two separate social media accounts, it ultimately does not make that much of a difference. In today’s hyper connected world, most recruiters can find anything once it’s online.

8. So when it comes to social media, be authentic, but don’t get too personal. 

When it comes to the million dollar question about professional women and their social media accounts, Zena said, “Don’t be afraid to [put it on your social media account] if you would be willing to have a conversation about it. Just remain cognizant of your career goals. Use it for networking and extend opportunities beyond the online platform.”

Zena Thomas is founder of Her Savvy Career and author of The Savvy Girl’s Guide to Getting the Job. Her Savvy Career strives to provide advice, information, commentary and counsel to women as they navigate through the work world. Zena is also a professional career coach who specializes in job transition and management development. To learn more about Zena and purchase her book, visit hersavvycareer.com.

Facebook | www.facebook.com/hersavvycareer

Twitter | @hersavvycareer

Instagram | @hersavvycareer

Take A Deep Breath. This Is Going To Be Worth It.

take a deep breath

Sometimes it feels like you’re standing too close to the edge. It feels like one wrong move, one wrong word, one little thing that someone says, and you could crack. You could lose it all. Because you can. Sometimes you do. Sometimes you’re holding all of the pieces and juggling all of the glass jars, and then a sentence that would have been inconsequential suddenly breaks your back. You find yourself fighting back piping hot tears because no one ever seems to fucking get all that you’re doing, all that you’re working toward, all of these glass jars that you are juggling.


It feels like you haven’t given yourself enough margin for error. You have not taken a break. You have not taken a breath. It feels like the beginning stages of building your supposed empire are filled with crippling fragility. Everything feels so delicate, so pivotal. The stakes feel so high. You are learning that success is a very lonely place, sometimes a lonely pit. Mediocrity is a loud and crowded bar; success is a quiet studio apartment.


No, really, breathe. The way you learned how to do the other day at Yetti’s event, not just an exasperated and empty sigh. A real, true, deep breath. The one that fills your belly and relaxes your body. The kind of breath that reminds you that ooh child, things are gonna get easier.

Stop letting yourself internalize so much. I know. It’s a byproduct of your age. And that is just as stupidly condescending as it is blindingly true. You look at the women ahead of you in their thirties, forties, fifties and sixties and there is an ease about their confidence that you have yet to acquire. They speak freely. They are unapologetic. Life has shaken them, shaped them and sweetened them all at once. You are waiting for that kind of confidence.


But, you are a byproduct of a generation that sleeps, eats and breathes what everyone else is doing. You know too much about too many things that are way too irrelevant to your journey. But, being in your twenties is like being asked to walk firmly in five inch heels on top of cobblestone. The ground is so damn shaky, so sometimes you are confident and other times you are sure you’re about to bust your ass. Sometimes you do bust your ass. And sometimes that feels better than pretending you know how to walk on cobblestone in five inch heels all by yourself.

So, breathe.

Breathe and trust that all of your hard work is not just being dumped into the void. Even when it feels like it. Even when it seems that things are not moving as quickly as you would like or people are not understanding you as much as you would want. Even when your success feels like it has isolated you more than it’s elevated you. Even when you doubt yourself or feel a nasty blister of envy suddenly swell inside of you because of the woman who says nothing and musters 1,000 likes. Unfollow her. No, really. Unfollow her. Don’t even try to reconcile with yourself about people whom you owe nothing to and don’t even know. Don’t even try to rise above it; just detach. Preserve your sanity, even if it’s perceived as being petty. Because you, my love, are here to work. You are here to leave something special on this planet. You are here to create and connect. You are here to drop gems, fill hearts, take risks, challenge norms and stand close to the edge.

So, take a deep breath. I promise this all is going to be worth it.


Bloggers And The Beat Recap: You Can’t Be Afraid To Fly


(Left to right) Karen Civil, Brandon "Real T@lk" Williams, me and Matcy and Breeze of Tha Shipmates
(Left to right) Karen Civil, Brandon “Real T@lk” Williams, me and Matcy and Breeze of Tha Shipmates

It felt sort of like an out-of-body experience. Sitting at my desk on Tuesday night with a bottle of wine next to me and my hands shaking, I didn’t recognize myself. The apartment was too hot. My bag wasn’t packed. I still had no idea what I was going to wear for the event. I could barely get myself grounded enough to write. That night I didn’t recognize a woman whose confidence, bravado and sometimes pure audacity were her signature trademarks. I felt like a scared puppy, unsure of myself and what I was getting ready to do.

Then I heard about the Illinois plane crash, and I felt myself crumble. The nerves that had been festering for weeks about taking a regional plane for the first time swung into high gear. I transformed into a piping hot mess. So, I called my best friend.

“Don’t think about it for an hour,” she told me. “Don’t pack, don’t prep, don’t do anything related to the trip. Just decompress.”

Surprisingly enough, I took her advice. And while the nerves didn’t fully subside on their own that night, a cosmic signal finally put them to rest. While digging through my disaster of a closet for a tote bag, I found my first tattered notebook. I’m on my third one now. You know, those books writers just carry and keep to capture any and every note so a thought never escapes them. I took the notebook out of an old bag and flipped through it. I saw a page from a coaching session I had with Demetria Lucas D’Oyley–years before she had appended D’Oyley to her name and weeks before I had started Twenties Unscripted.

I looked at the page and realized that the notes from that conversation had come to life. There was this little diagram with my blog as the center and things like events, collateral and speaking engagements as the spokes coming from the middle. There was a bullet that said, “No one is ever going to be as invested as you are.” And the final bullet said, “Don’t judge your start by someone else’s middle or end.”

I packed that notebook and took it with me all the way to Southern Illinois University.

The Universe always has these beautiful and unexpected ways of reminding us we are on the right path. And even though I was still scared shitless to board that tiny regional plane from St. Louis to Marion, IL the next day, I am more scared to think about a life without that opportunity.

IMG_1867I could say a lot about Bloggers and the Beat, a panel discussion I had the chance to speak at, hosted by the Student Programming Council at Southern Illinois University. I could say how refreshing and reaffirming it was to listen to the other panelists recount their early days as artists and entrepreneurs, and drop some powerful words of wisdom. I could say how much I loved the students, from the moment I was greeted by Quiana and Kia at the airport, to the second I sat down at the open mic event prior to the panel, to the post-event meet and greet. I could say how much each of them, full of such life, energy and passion, inspired me to continue on this beautiful and wild ride. But, most of all, I could say that you can’t ever be afraid to fly. And, sure, that goes for tiny and claustrophobia-inducing regional airplanes. But, really, it goes for taking that next step and leaning all the way the fuck in to what you are being called to do.

Witnessing your dreams manifest is an amazing, frightening and surreal sort of thing. Even as recently as January of this year, I was dying to start speaking at events, while simultaneously stomaching the rejection I had gotten after having panel pitches turned down. I was starting to think that maybe it wasn’t in the cards for me and the Twenties Unscripted brand to begin translating my work in that sort of way. And, then, poof. Here we are. And, it’s not really “poof” at all because it’s not magic. No, it is years of work and writing and days dating back to that coaching session with Demetria. It has been a long and trying road just to get here. But now that I’m here, my God, am I ready to fly.


Be sure to check out the work of my fellow panelists, Kia Smith–the amazing young woman who surfaced this opportunity for me–and SIU student Tierra of My Future Is Chic who did a great job recapping the event.

Fellow panelists

Karen Civil | www.KarenCivil.com | www.LiveCivil.com

Brandon “Real T@lk” Williams | www.realtalkraps.com

Tha Shipmates | http://www.audiomack.com/album/kid-breeze/tha-shipmates-present-the-ride

Kia Smith

Kia Smith | www.KiaSmithWrites.com

Tierra of “My Future Is Chic”

Tierra’s recap | “10 Lessons I Learned from “Bloggers and the Beat

Confessions Of A Woman Who Didn’t Know Her Worth (Literally)

Check my recent Google search queries and you’ll find a lot of things including, but not limited to: post nasal drip, what is Taylor Swift’s Instagram and how many times a day does a cat meow.

Do not even begin to ask.

But on one particular Friday afternoon I found myself searching for a different phrase: honorarium. Maybe that word should have appeared at some point in some vocab book along the way, but it had not. That word did not appear until a few weeks ago when I received an offer for an upcoming speaking gig asking what my requested honorarium was.

I figured it was probably unprofessional and utterly coon-like to return the message with “SAY WHAT!?”

But, no, really. Say what?

I won’t detail the rest of the exchange or where we landed on everything, because that’s not important nor is it anyone’s damn business. What I will say is that I grossly underestimated my own worth, both literally and figuratively. Also, I feel like now is an extremely fitting time to cue Alicia Keys’ “A Woman’s Worth”, but I need to forego sarcasm in favor of actually making a point.

I’ve been holding on to this story for awhile and for a lot of reasons. I’ve been painstakingly teetering on a tightrope between staying true to what we got me here and telling the truth about where I am now. Every day I see the stark similarities and distinct differences between both of those places. I see how beautiful they both are. I see how inflated they both are with potential and promise and sheer, unadulterated terror. I see how blindly vulnerable I made myself to start this thing and how deliberately vulnerable I have made myself to keep it. I see how much I want to stay true to my roots, never forgetting the person I was nor the kind of writing I did three years ago when it was just my sisters, my best friend and maybe one more person reading this thing. And I see just how much it is all a part of an amazing, absurd and rip-roaring journey.

This year is the first year where I have been asked to begin thinking about and attaching a dollar value to my time and my work. And it’s strange and difficult and never what I set out to do. But, it’s also flattering and exciting and, maybe, always what I set out hoping would happen. If another ask about my honorarium never came along, I would still be content to curl up on the couch or sit at my desk and bang out posts. But, I also know that somewhere along the line, I stopped just blogging. I started brand building. And the stakes got high, the opportunities got bigger and the business of it all came into play.

I often times return to the words of one of my mentors, words that I wrote about almost a year ago. “This is your life now.” That’s what he told me. When I wanted to shuffle my feet and crack jokes any time someone threw me a compliment, he stopped me and said, “This is your life now.” It’s easy to run away. It’s easy to talk yourself down or conceal your accomplishments under layers of self-deprecation. It’s easy to do that stupid “Wait, you want little old me?” thing that women are too often times conditioned to do. I did that for a long time. Sometimes I still do it. Because it’s much harder, but so necessary, to stand firm in the attention which you command. It’s a way more ballsy move to own that you are a powerhouse and substantiate that yes, you built that house brick by brick. You built that house even when tornadoes threatened to rip it apart. You built that house even when people scoffed at the color of the paint. You built that house even when you were low on resources and tapped out on faith.

Bitch, you built that house.

I never feel like I’ve “made it.” I never want to feel like I’ve “made it.” “I made it” is a phrase for people who don’t understand the poison of complacency. But, I do feel like I’m making it in a way that is most authentic to me. And that feels so fucking good.


Feature: Amber Aziza, Founder of The Aziza Group

This post is sponsored by The Global Millennial Conference, lead sponsor of the 2015 “See. Speak. Feel.” showcase.

Thank you to “See. Speak. Feel.” marketing and event assistant Roxene Edwards for pulling this piece together!

It’s one thing to dream from going to cube to your own corner office, but that is precisely what Amber Aziza, founder of The Aziza Group and producer for The Global Millennial Conference, has done. She started her company The Aziza Group to help bridge the gap between Millennials and corporate America and has been setting the world on fire ever since. Meet Amber.

Location: Toledo, OH

Age: 29

Amber Aziza
Amber Aziza, founder of The Aziza Group

Tell us a little about yourself.
I am an ex-corporate warrior who spent ten years helping organizations have happy and engaged Millennials. Now I focus on helping Millennials build careers and businesses of their dreams!

What inspired you to create the Aziza Group?
I saw that there was a void between Millennials and everyone else in the world and thought “I should fix this.” I spent tons of research on studying the relationship Millennials have with everyone from their parents to their co workers and created a method that helps them to adapt and excel in just about every environment!

What has been your biggest struggle when trying to develop your company/brand?
Getting Millennials to believe that they should invest in themselves.

What advice do you have for young professionals trying to break into corporate America?
Be yourself at all times during your interview. Authenticity goes a long way. Also, NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK!! Find events geared toward young professionals and meet people. Human connections are the best way to get your foot in the door.

global millennial conference
The Global Millennial Conference, May 15-16, Columbus, OH | www.gmc15.com

A lot of millennials have an entrepreneurial mindset, where they’d rather work for themselves instead of someone else. What do you think is the factor that sets millennials apart from older generations in terms of that entrepreneurial spirit?
I think our entrepreneurial spirit comes from necessity. When the majority of us graduated college, there were zero jobs and seemingly zero prospects, so we went to work for ourselves. Also, we are a generation that refuses to accept the status quo; the average corporate office just isn’t able to capture and keep our attention to make us stay.

the aziza group logo
The Aziza Group

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Being the next Oprah! Haha, honestly, I see myself being on Forbes’ “40 under 40”, running multiple businesses and jet-setting around the world to meet with clients. I want to have the world appreciating and loving Millennials and the Zillennials who are coming up right behind us!

You seem like you’re pretty busy. How do you relax after a long day of work?
Relax? What is that?!—I try to unwind by watching trashy television like Real Housewives (my guilty pleasure) with a glass of wine, seeing crazy drama like that makes me appreciate my drama-free world.

Amber has more than 10 years of Corporate Executive experience and traded her suits and Blackberry for flirty dresses and a laptop on the go! She’s dedicated to Millennial advancement and works every day to bridge the gap between them and everyone else.

www.theazizagroup.com | @TheAzizaGroup

Global Millennial Conference | www.gmc15.com