CNBC make it 2024-02-10 00:50:53

Singer Victoria Monét was told it was ‘too early’ in her career to be ambitious—then she won 3 Grammys

Earlier this week, Victoria Monét lived out the dream of anyone who’s been denied a promotion or otherwise struggled to make a professional breakthrough.

The 34-year-old R&B singer followed up a series of frustrating career setbacks with one of the most successful nights of her life, taking home three Grammy awards on Feb. 4. She won best new artist, best R&B album and best non-classical engineered album for her debut record “Jaguar II.”

Despite the label of “new artist,” Monét had been working behind the scenes for more than a decade, writing hits for other performers while record labels and executives declined to put her in the spotlight, she said in an acceptance speech.

“There was a binder that I made to take this really important meeting at a label, and I thought I was going to be signed. I was an independent artist with no team and I just thought, maybe my music would stand for itself,” she said, tearing up. “But that binder was left collecting dust in an office at that label.”

Even once her music gained a following, she experienced rejection.

In June 2023, her single “On My Mama” became her first No. 1 hit on a Billboard songs chart. The song resonated with listeners, some of whom launched a social media campaign for her to perform it at the then-upcoming MTV Video Music Awards in September.

Instead, Monét was denied a slot on stage by organizers who considered her too unknown for the event’s audience, she posted on social media platform X during the night of the show. “I see your advocation for me to have performed tonight and I’m so grateful to you!! Sincerely!” she wrote, to her fans. “My team was told it is ‘too early in my story’ for that opportunity so we will keep working!”

MTV didn’t immediately respond to CNBC Make It’s request for comment.

The myth of overnight successes

Monét’s career journey echoes a hard truth: Becoming successful takes time, usually far longer than you’d hope or expect.

Most so-called overnight successes take years and years of dedication. You just may not see the work that went into them — especially in today’s digital age, where people tend to post more publicly about their successes than their struggles.

“This award was a 15-year pursuit,” Monét said during her acceptance speech.

Instead of comparing your successes or failures to someone else’s, embrace the highs and lows of solely chasing your own goals, Monét said. You’re never actually running out of time, even if it looks like your peers have made a lot more progress than you, she added.

“To everybody who has a dream, I want you to look at this as an example,” said Monét.

Dealing with a lack of opportunity in the workplace

Monét’s experience wouldn’t be out of place in a more traditional career field: 63% of Black women say that they might not, probably don’t or definitely don’t see a pathway to advance their career within their current organization, according to a 2022 report from diversity, equity and inclusion consulting firm Every Level Leadership.

That’s usually not due to a lack of ability or effort, Every Level Leadership founder and principal consultant Ericka Hines told Make It in 2022. If you reach a point where you’ve exhausted all options with your boss, focus instead on cultivating relationships with colleagues across your workplace, she advised.

When you don’t feel seen or heard at work, they may be able to advocate on your behalf, said Hines. These people are also known as sponsors, and they don’t hesitate to mention your name for new opportunities at work.

“There is a need for colleagues who consider themselves to be allies to be willing to put some of their social capital on the line to advocate on behalf of their Black female peers,” Hines said. “How are they leaning into allying? How are they lifting them up? How are they going into the office with their Black women colleagues and saying this is a problem?”

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC’s new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay.

The No. 1 resume mistake, says ex-Amazon recruiter: You see it ‘all the way up to the C-suite’

Lindsay Mustain has looked at a lot of resumes in her more than a decade in talent acquisition.

“Literally a million,” she says. The former Amazon recruiter is now the CEO of career coaching company Talent Paradigm and has seen candidates include some mind-boggling elements to their resumes — like stickers and a picture of themselves holding a shotgun.

But there’s one mistake she sees jobseekers make over and over again, what she calls giving “Miss America answers,” or ones she’d imagine hearing in a pageant. These are simple statements that don’t give much insight into what candidates actually accomplished on the job.

DON’T MISS: The ultimate guide to acing your interview and landing your dream job

It’s happening from the junior level “all the way up to the C-suite,” she says, and it’s preventing jobseekers from standing out.

Here’s what Miss America answers are and how to avoid writing them.

Don’t write ‘a glorified job description’

When it comes to your resume, you want to mirror the language of the job description to the extent that it portrays your experience accurately. As you do, however, avoid general statements about the tasks you took on.

“I had stakeholder meetings with people” is an example of a Miss America answer, says Mustain. These kinds of descriptions don’t give a concrete sense of how you were able to move your team forward. They’re “like a glorified job description,” she says, adding that, “you just look like somebody who’s filling a seat.”

Instead of listing the tasks you were given, quantify and list your accomplishments.

“If somebody is fixing tickets on a help desk,” says Mustain, as an example, “I’ve solved 30 customers’ problems a day” is a good metric to start with. You can take it even further, though, and think about what you were able to accomplish in a year. Thirty problems a day, 20 days a month, 12 months per year is 7,200 problems solved altogether.

The “more metrics and analytics you can add to your resume, the more impressive,” she says.

‘Your eyes go straight to the numbers’

Quantifying your accomplishments is not just a matter of looking impressive.

Recruiters only have a few seconds to dedicate to your resume. They’re likely “handling somewhere between 15 to 25” job openings at once, says Mustain. “The average applicants per job is 250, which means they’re dealing with tens of thousands of applicants.”

The benefit of quantifying your accomplishments is that recruiters’ eyes “go straight to the numbers when we’re reviewing,” Mustain says. They’ll know how much value you added to your previous employers immediately.

Bottom line, if you want to move forward in the interview process, your resume has “got to be results-based,” she says.

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC’s new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay. Get started today and save 50% with discount code EARLYBIRD.

I quit my dream job at 32 and spent $34,000 to travel the world—here are my 4 biggest regrets

I was 28 years old when I landed my dream video producer job at CNBC. I would throw off the covers every morning, excited to dive into the work I felt I was born to do. I flew through the days, but often woke up in the dead of the night with a creeping sense of dread. 

I imagined time racing by at warp speed until I suddenly woke up at age 80, regretting that I lived to work, instead of working to live. After all, I’d spent most of my adult life focused on the future. Burned out and chronically anxious, I’d lost my ability to live in the present. 

So I quit my job at 32, bought a one-way ticket to Peru, and spent a year and a half — and $34,000 — exploring 18 countries across South America and Asia. Every day was a “choose your own adventure,” involving choices good and bad. I learned lessons the hard way about balancing preparation, productivity and play. 

Here are the regrets that taught me when to prioritize happiness in the moment, and when to sacrifice it for a better future. 

1. I worried about money so much, I missed out on once-in-a-lifetime experiences 

When I landed in Rio De Janeiro in December 2022, I immediately didn’t want to be there. I wished I were still in Buenos Aires, celebrating Argentina’s World Cup victory in the streets with my friends.

Instead, I sat alone in my Airbnb watching Instagram Stories with a pit in my stomach, because I’d booked my flight from Argentina to Brazil weeks in advance, for fear of prices going up. 

As soon as I arrived in Rio, I booked the cheapest flight to Bogotá, Colombia. That meant I left Brazil on my birthday, three days before Rio’s famous New Year’s festivities, and watched my new friends partying lavishly via Instagram Stories while alone in my hotel.

I was so obsessed with planning ahead to feel in control that I missed out on major life experiences.

From that point on, I kept plans open-ended, allowing new connections and discoveries to determine how long I wanted to stay. Now I start each day with a loose vision for what I’d like to accomplish and flexibility to pivot in response to the unexpected. I learned to live my life guided by joy rather than anxiety.

2. I spent a lot of my life savings, delaying other goals  

The $34,000 I spent on my sabbatical was a significant portion of my life savings. Now, at 34, I have very little saved for retirement, I’m far from a down payment on a house in my hometown of Los Angeles, and I’m not ready to have kids.

While I don’t regret my sabbatical or even how much I spent on it, I do regret that a lack of preparation in my young adulthood landed me in the position of having to choose between personal fulfillment and financial security.

By the time I graduated from UCLA, I could decode Shakespeare but had no idea how to pay my bills. I spent much of my 20s either unemployed or working low-wage internships, and suffered anxiety and burnout trying to catch up.

Had I studied personal finance and started saving, investing and career planning in high school, I believe I could’ve taken my sabbatical without significantly delaying other life goals. 

3. I stopped investing completely  

I began investing in stocks in 2020, exuberant as the market hit one high after another. But after the market declined in 2022 and I lost all my gains, I was scared to lose more. 

I stopped contributing to my Roth IRA and my brokerage account as soon as I quit my job in August 2022, and missed out on an opportunity to build wealth.

I wish I’d continued investing throughout my travels, putting $200 each month into a large-cap index fund. I could have afforded it, since I had enough savings left over after my sabbatical. But to ease my fears of running out of money, I also could have spent less on nice restaurants, clothing, daily lattes and cocktails.

4. I was careless with my belongings

At the lowest moment of my trip, I was crying hysterically on the side of a busy road in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Two minutes earlier, I’d been walking through a touristy area with my phone in my back pocket, lost in the music I was listening to, feeling carefree and on top of the world. 

Suddenly, I felt a hand reach into my pocket and snatch my two-month-old iPhone 13. The culprit fled on a motorbike and chasing it proved futile. I broke down, feeling helpless, alone and scared without my phone in a foreign country. I lost all my photos. The next day, I paid nearly $800 for a new phone.

I lost my belongings on more than one occasion, and it cost me a lot of money, time and energy. While I was meticulous about my to-do lists and flights, I was sometimes careless in other contexts.

The mistakes I made while traveling taught me when to let go, but also when to be more in control.

Helen Zhao is a former video producer and writer at CNBC. Before joining CNBC as a news associate, she covered residential real estate for the LA Business Journal. She’s a California native and a proud USC Trojan and UCLA Bruin. 

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC’s new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay.

Founder of $1 billion startup: This harsh money lesson from my mom ‘forced me to start hustling’

When Gregg Renfrew was a year out of college and racking up credit card debt, she called her mom for help — only to be told, bluntly, “Well, it’s time to get a new job.”

The tough-love lesson in financial independence pushed her to be more mindful of her spending and income, says Renfrew, 55, the CEO and founder of billion-dollar clean beauty startup Beautycounter. “Living in fear of not being able to pay my bills — having literally no idea — it forced me to start hustling,” she tells CNBC Make It.

Upon graduating from the University of Vermont in 1990, Renfrew’s mother gave her two gifts, she says: a monogrammed black briefcase and a check for $5,000. The check was enough to cover “first and last month’s rent on an apartment in New York,” along with some work clothes and other odds and ends for someone just starting a career, she says.

Renfrew was free to do whatever she wanted with the money, but her mother was adamant that she wouldn’t receive any more financial support.

Less than a year after moving to the city, she “immediately racked up credit card bills,” owing more than $1,000 on her American Express card, she says. Her mother, a real estate executive at the time, “absolutely could have bailed me out,” she adds.

Instead, her mom instructed her to find a way to make enough money to pay off her own debts. While Renfrew was “frustrated” with that response at the time, she now says she was lucky to get any sort of head start from her parents.

“I was fortunate to have a debt-free education and to receive any money,” says Renfrew. “A lot of people don’t have either of those things.”

Learning to hustle

The reality check worked. Renfrew “immediately sought a [new] job,” leaving her gig at an advertising firm to join the sales training program at the Xerox Corporation. Soon, she was selling copiers to businesses across Manhattan, paying off her debts and eventually becoming one of the company’s top salespeople.

Renfrew was still working at Xerox when she started a side business with a friend selling bridesmaid dresses. In 1997, they partnered with Nicole Hindrich to bring the British bridal registry business The Wedding List to the U.S., landing a $1.5 million investment from Nordstrom three years later. 

That business, which sold to Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia in 2001, wasn’t Renfrew’s first foray into entrepreneurialism.

As a college student who wanted to enroll in a “Semester at Sea” program, Renfrew was told by her parents she would need to pay for it herself. During the summer, she started a house-cleaning service in Nantucket, Massachusetts — even hiring a team of employees — to make enough money to cover the program’s cost.

The experience fit right into her parents’ child-rearing approach: They pushed her to be able to stand on her own, independent of anyone else, including any potential future life partner. Growing up, whenever Renfrew wanted to buy “material things” like a pair of jeans, she needed to earn the money to buy them herself, she says.

Her ability to be self-reliant helped lay the foundation for her future career in business, she notes: “I think that is a really good life lesson.”

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC’s new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay.

The No. 1 soft skill you need to get hired right now, according to LinkedIn

The difference between landing a job offer or a rejection can come down to how well you adjust to a fast-paced environment and interact with your colleagues. 

Communication is the top skill companies are hiring for right now, while adaptability is a soft skill that’s “increasingly in demand” across a wide range of industries, according to new research from LinkedIn. 

LinkedIn’s 2024 Most In-Demand Skills list, published Thursday, determined the hottest skills in the job market based on which skills appeared most in job listings on the platform between May 2023 and October 2023, as well as how many members who have been hired recently possessed this skill. For the second year in a row, communication topped the list. 

The job search and networking platform also looked at which skills were popular from May 2022 to October 2022 and compared it to the same period in 2023 to explore which competencies saw the biggest spike in demand, crowning adaptability as the “skill of the moment.” 

Here are the 10 most in-demand skills employers want to see on your resume right now, according to LinkedIn:

  1. Communication
  2. Customer service
  3. Leadership
  4. Project management 
  5. Management
  6. Analytics
  7. Teamwork
  8. Sales
  9. Problem-solving
  10. Research 

“Communication is one of the most widely needed, transferable skills, relevant to almost every job and industry,” LinkedIn career expert Catherine Fisher tells CNBC Make It

The need for better communication in the workplace, she adds, is the direct result of changes to the post-pandemic workforce: the rise of AI, the widespread adoption of remote and hybrid work as well as five generations, each with different communication styles and workplace jargon, now working together.

Employers want to hire people who can quickly adapt to these ongoing changes, says LinkedIn vice president Aneesh Raman. “Adaptability is the best way to have agency right now,” he notes in the report. “At the core of managing change is building that muscle of adaptability.” 

Now that hybrid work is the norm in offices across the U.S., employees are expected to communicate effectively with leaders, colleagues, customers and employees across an expanding range of channels and platforms, adapting to new tools and processes, Fisher explains. 

What’s more, as a growing number of employers experiment with AI, Fisher points out that they’re also recognizing its limitations, underscoring the need for workers that possess “uniquely human skills” such as communication to compensate for the shortcomings of of emerging technologies.

“At its core, communication is essential for connecting, inspiring, building trust and getting work done effectively,” she adds. 

In addition to adding these skills to your resume and LinkedIn profile, you can show a hiring manager that you are adaptable and a strong communicator by mentioning specific examples of how you’ve used these skills in your past experiences during an interview. Or, if you’re angling for a promotion or raise, be sure to practice these skills in team meetings, group projects and interactions with your manager.

Effective communication can include asking detailed questions during meetings, providing feedback or leading presentations, says Fisher, while adaptability can include learning new tools to improve productivity or reprioritizing tasks to help your team meet their goals. 

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC’s new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay.