Candid Conversations: The Intern Queen Shares Her Best Career Advice

Featured on Forbes.com for ForbesWomen. Written by Elana Lyn Gross, Contributor

When Lauren Berger was an undergraduate at the University of Central Florida, she interned at 15 companies. "Each internship taught me so much about myself both personally and professionally. When it came to finding these internships and learning how to make the most of them – I could never find any information," she says. In 2008, just two years after graduation, Berger used $5,000 of her personal savings to start the company she wished she had when she was in college.

Intern Queen has a job board, career advice articles and college ambassadors who write for the blog and represent the company on campus. It's free for students, but companies pay to post internships and to work with Intern Queen's campus marketing agency. Berger has written three books, including her most recent book Get It Together: Ditch the Chaos, Do the Work, and Design your Success.

Elana Lyn Gross: What was the pitching and writing process like for Get It Together? What advice would you give to other people who want to write a nonfiction book?

Lauren Berger: Get It Together was my third book, so the pitching process was slightly easier than it was with my first book. That being said, the basics are the same. I pitch the idea to my book agent who I’ve been working with for years. She’s a great sounding board and not afraid to tell me how it is, and I take a stab at putting together a proposal. I send it to the book agent, we get it to a good place, send it around to publishing houses and then ideally the offers start to come to the table. This book actually took years to write and to get to the place where I was happy with it. I worked on it on and off for about three years.

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Gross: What are the top three key takeaways you'd like people to have after reading Get It Together?

Berger: You don’t have to feel so busy all of the time. And better yet – it’s okay not to be busy at all. In fact, I challenge you to tell someone that you aren’t busy or just mention nothing about “being busy” the next time you see someone.

Part of getting it together is dealing with rejection and failure. I have a whole chapter dedicated to this topic – it’s one of my favorites.

You have to prioritize yourself – no one else will. There are ways to redefine your goals and routine. There are ways to do better work, achieve more and feel better at work and at home, but it’s up to you to activate those strategies.

Gross: What are the most important characteristics someone needs to have to be successful in your role?

Berger: Honestly? Embrace rejection, love rejection and expect rejection. It’s tough out there. Be resilient.

Gross: You have thousands of Intern Queen members. What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who hope to create an offline and online community?

Berger: Be consistent, have a voice and don’t write content just to write content. Focus on quality over quantity. Build personal one-on-one relationships the best that you can. Word of mouth will always be your best and strongest marketing tool.

Gross: What's the biggest lesson you learned at work, and how did you learn it?

Berger: It’s hard to pick one lesson – I learn so many each day. One lesson is that no matter how big your team is, no one will care as much as you do. At the end of the day, it still falls on you to push your business up the mountain.

Gross: What is one thing that you wish you had known when you were starting out your career?

Berger: I wish I would have known that rejection doesn’t mean never, it just means not right now. Things change, people get promoted and people come around. Hang in there!

Gross: What is the best advice you've ever received?

Berger:  You miss 100% of the chances you don’t take. Just ask. What’s the worst that can happen?

Gross: What is your business advice for other young professional women?

Berger: Collaborate, introduce yourself, fail hard and know when to pivot.

Candid Conversations: Dev Aujla, Millennial Workforce Expert and Best-selling Author

Summertime is upon us, bringing a renewed sense of joy for time out of the office. Adventures outdoors, vacations with our loved ones, and creating new memories in warmer weather is something we all look forward to. While we hit the reset button away from work, it's important to have these moments to remind ourselves why we do this work and how we can find work that both satisfies our essential needs as well as makes life more exciting and fulfilling.

Dev Aujla has written a new best-selling book, 50 Ways to Get a Job: An Unconventional Guide to Finding Work on Your Terms, with just this in mind. Dev shares some insights on his research and writings of finding a job with meaning as well as what he enjoys most about speaking at events and creating meaningful experiences with audiences.

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OA: What are you Outspoken about?

DA: I believe that the way that we have been taught to find jobs is fundamentally broken. During the process of researching for this book, I read every career book from the 70's forward and the advice simply hasn't changed. We have made a shift to making learning-based careers from stability-based ones and it is changing the way that we get job, ways that we learn and how we build a life today. I want to help people navigate this new type of career.

OA: How has your recent work transformed the focus of your content when delivering a speech?

DA: It has become a lot more activity focused. You can't just hear someone talk and inspire you. You need to stop and actually do something, ask yourself the hard questions or make a list of what you want to learn. Even to large crowds, there can be opportunities for a type of engagement that actually lets people feel what the process of navigating our career should feel like.

OA: How do speaking events help your growth [whether that’s with inspiring new content, new research, or other opportunities]?

DA: I really believe in this material. We are living in a world that tells us that we all need to be entrepreneurs --- take risks and follow your passion. A different story needs to be told --- you don't have to be an extrovert or an entrepreneur! Get a job. It's great. The process of finding a job should feel calm, grounding and like the job you eventually want to have. People need to know this is possible because, otherwise, we are left feeling depressed that we aren't hearing
anything back from job boards.

OA: What would you like to see happen more often at events to engage with the audience?

DA: The most interesting one was I once spoke to a room that was divided male and female with a divider in the middle. I was standing at the center looking at both sides but they couldn't see each other. I could see which parts of my speech resonated with the men and women. It was
fascinating and definitely transformed my speech.

OA: What has been one of the most fulfilling audience experiences at a speaking event and why?

DA: The most fulfilling would be all the conversation I have after each talk with individuals in the middle of figuring it all out finding new ways to see themselves and their career.

OA: If you could hear someone give a speech alive or dead, who would it be and why?

DA: I would like to hear Oscar Wilde talk. I want to know how that kind of witty, quick, cutting banter would stand up today in the age of Twitter.

OA: How can people become more involved with your work and/or where is your writing being featured mostly these days?

DA: You can visit 50waystogetajob.com to see what led to the book and what has helped over 500k people navigate their next steps. I am writing short articles that range from GOOD Magazine to Fast Company at the moment.

Candid Conversations: Ret. General Donald Bolduc

With Veteran's Day celebrations through the weekend, it was important to us to highlight a very special veteran in our lives, Retired Brigadier General Donald Bolduc. With 32 years of activity duty service and an impressive career spanning from private to one star general at the time of retirement, General Bolduc knows the true meaning of service and sacrifice for our country. He is the epitome of a leader, with many lessons from his time in service to share with audiences around the world. Thank you, Don (and your family), for your years of service to our country!

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Take a moment to learn more about Don in our Candid Conversations series:

OA: What are you Outspoken about?

DB:  I am Outspoken about combat the stigmas around post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As one of the few military officers, and, at the time, the only active duty general officer on record, to openly discuss his own struggles with PTS, I have used my leadership position to change the conversation to one of understanding and acceptance through my own experiences. I am also outspoken about the importance of moral courage and how this is a leadership attribute that is in short supply among our civilian and military senior leaders.  I am known to always put my country first, and now I look to continue my  service off the battlefield sharing my leadership mantra of “Mission, People, Family” and my personal experiences with mental health to educate others.

OA: How has your recent work transformed the focus of your content when delivering a speech?

DB:  My recent work continues to inform every speech. By listening, I learn, and this allows for content improvement. It is also an opportunity to learn how others deliver messages and this improves my approach to speaking.

OA: How do speaking events help your growth?

DB: Every speaking event is an opportunity to learn. It is also an opportunity to improve how you connect to people.     

OA: What would you like to see happen more often at events to engage with the audience?

DB: More audience participation.     

OA: What has been one of the most fulfilling audience experiences at a speaking event and why?

DB: The audience that share the same passion for the subject are the best and most fulfilling experiences I have had as a speaker. It is hard to speak at events that the audience were scheduled or required to be there.  

OA: How can people become more involved with your work?

DB: They could ask me to speak at their event. Leadership and veterans issues are a hugely important topics in our society. People can get involved by volunteering, supporting, and contributing to private veterans organizations would be very helpful. Leadership is probably the most over-discussed and misunderstood topic. We must teach children about leadership and the importance of moral courage, compassion, and empathy.       

OA: If you could hear someone give a speech alive or dead, who would it be and why?

DB: Abraham Lincoln. His speeches were so concise and delivered such a powerful message. I also like the stories he tells as analogies to make his point or capture the attention of the person or person(s) he was speaking with. I would also like to see his delivery and presentation. 

Candid Conversations: Amanda Slavin

With a degree in education and a love for community-building, Amanda Slavin uses her knowledge and experiences for unconventional educational opportunities. As the curator of the founder of CatalystCreativ and Life is Beautiful Festival's IDEAS Series, Amanda knows how to cultivate learning experiences that both excite and inform through engaging speakers. As a speaker herself, Amanda understands the importance of sharing new ideas and engaging with audiences beyond her onstage appearances.

OA: What are you Outspoken about?

AS: I am outspoken about quite a few things! Mainly, I am outspoken about the fact that the advertising industry is shifting, and companies need to embrace and understand true engagement to connect with today’s consumer in an authentic way.  When it comes to internal shifts within the work place, I am outspoken about how work places and culture need to embrace femininity in order to thrive. 

OA: How has your recent work transformed the focus of your content when delivering a speech?

AS: I have always given talks about millennial trends and how that is impacting advertising, but it is much deeper than that regarding today’s consumer, in which we have segmented into millennials and the millennial minded (those who share similar values but are not the same age demographic as millennials).

The more work we do with brands, and test out the methodology of engagement I created during my Masters Year, the more we (at my company CatalystCreativ) see it truly working, and the more I want to share that knowledge with the world.  Since CatalystCreativ focuses on internal and external transformation in companies, I also have become more passionate about speaking about the importance of a feminine workplace and how by embracing femininity, work places can shift to be a space of vulnerability, creativity, and connection to develop more engaging experiences for employees and consumers.   

OA: How do speaking events help your growth?

AS: I have a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, and as a teacher, I absolutely love speaking to audiences.  It helps shape me because it allows for me to develop relationships with people I may not meet otherwise.  It also allows me to learn from audience members and what interests colleagues/potential clients based on their reactions and feedback.

OA: What would you like to see happen more often at events to engage with the audience?

AS: I would really love to see more openness around interactive talks and workshops.  My company CatalystCreativ has created a proprietary internal brand workshop called the Brand Acupuncturist Workshop.  This dives deep with brands to identify “pain points” and come up with solutions that optimize teams and develop creative campaigns, and these workshops provide opportunities for audience members to connect deeply with the facilitator, rather than sitting there passively.

OA: What has been one of the most fulfilling audience experiences at a speaking event and why?

AS: I absolutely loved speaking at The BizBash Event Conference about the work CatalystCreativ has done in regards to impactful experience and millennial trends, the audience was extremely engaged and so many people came up to me after and told me how much they learned from the presentation. 

OA: How can people become more involved with your work, whether that’s CatalystCreativ or your personal interests?

AS: CatalystCreativ has so much to offer when it comes to unique value propositions.  We would love to explore how to work with more brands starting with our internal service offerings and parlaying those offerings into external creative activations.  In terms of my personal interests, I absolutely love to write and facilitate workshops, moderate panels, and participate in conferences even in smaller ways than keynotes, as it allows for me to meet new people and share new ideas.

OA: If you could hear someone give a speech alive or dead, who would it be and why?

AS: Lin-Manuel Miranda.  After seeing him in Hamilton, and reading about him and his story, I am blown away by what he has been able to build for himself, his family, and how he has gone from a teacher in a classroom, to a teacher to the world. 

Candid Conversations: Clint Smith

As National Poetry Month comes to an end, National Poetry Slam Champion Clint Smith discusses his speaking opportunities, including the historical contexts infused into his poetry, thought-provoking audience Q&A, and the most fulfilling audience experiences.

OA: What are you Outspoken about?

CS: I want people to understand the way that history has shaped our current sociopolitical landscape, specifically with regard to racial inequality. When you understand the trajectory of American history, everything around us makes sense. The reason certain communities look one way and other communities look another way is because of decisions people enacted through public policy, and often through political or literal violence. If we fail to understand that, we fail to adequately understand our current social realities.

OA: How has your recent work [with poetry and/or your PHD studies] transformed the focus of your content when delivering a speech?

CS: My presentations move between social commentary grounded, historical narratives, and poetry. The poems often serve as the anchors throughout the speech that hold the narrative together. I don’t believe in a traditional keynote. I try to make the presentation dynamic by including art, education, research, and history lessons.

OA: How do speaking events help your growth?

CS: Every talk provides an opportunity to engage with a new audience about ideas that shape all of our lives. The poems serve as catalyst for a larger discourse that I get to have with the audience during the Q&A and from that conversation, new ideas always emerge. It’s great because, as a researcher and writer, I’m always getting the chance to hear new ideas about my work.

OA: What would you like to see happen more often at events to engage with the audience?

CS: I don’t at all mind people sharing viewpoints than are divergent from my own (as long as they are respectful) and I hope that people always feel free to ask the hard questions. It makes the event more illuminating and thought-provoking for all of us.

OA: What has been one of the most fulfilling audience experiences at speaking events and why?

CS: I love speaking to educators. I taught high school English before beginning graduate school and I know how important though often underappreciated K-12 education is. I have such profound respect for teachers and if I can help provide them with a toolkit to think more critically about the work, that’s an incredible privilege.

OA: How can people become more involved with your work?

CS: You can take a look at my website: www.clintsmithiii.com and/or follow me on Twitter @ClintSmithIII where I’m always sharing and wrestling with ideas.

OA: If you could hear someone give a speech alive or dead, who would it be and why?

CS: I’ve watched so many videos of James Baldwin speaking, it would have been incredible to hear him in person. His ideas and writing have been transformative for me, so that would be a real treat.