NEXTer Interview: Elisabeth Rietvelt

Meet Elisabeth – she’s energetic, fearless, and thoughtful.  Our latest NEXTer has a background in publishing and luxury jewelry in New York City.

Q: In the publishing world, work is very fast paced and demanding.  We always hear stories from movies like “The Devil Wears Prada” about young employees having to take on a lot of extra tasks.  How has doing what’s asked of you, even when it’s outside of your immediate role, accelerated your career?

A: I strongly believe in the importance of taking on tasks beyond one’s immediate responsibility. I feel that life is filled with potential and that I have a lot to learn! I am a team player, probably too much so: I won’t let a task dangle idly. In general, showing an active willingness to participate and learn is key.

Q: When does your willingness to go “above and beyond” become too much? What do you do when this happens?

A: There is a fine line in being willing to shoulder extra tasks and being overwhelmed by constantly having to go “above and beyond.” I learned the hard way: I spent so many extra hours at night and on weekends, playing catch up with my actual job responsibilities or trying to get the extra tasks done. I talked to my supervisors about all the extra roles I was filling and how it was keeping me from excellence in the areas under my actual job description. They were willing to work to help me find a role that I really wanted, but at that point I had become so pigeonholed in a role which I did not want, that my co-workers had a difficult time seeing me try and transition into a new role.  I finally had to resign from this job.

Q: It sounds like you were in a really difficult position.  What did you learn from this experience?

A: I took away two important lessons from this. First, doing the extra work is important to your career but is not alone going to propel your career forward. Secondly, it is important to set boundaries for yourself, because no one else is going to be looking out for you. Set specific times for leaving at the end of the day. When being asked to take on tasks, consider how it will be helpful as a learning experience, both immediately and for the future.

Q: You made a big move when choosing careers (from Mississippi to NYC). How did you make this choice?

A; I moved to pursue a career in magazine journalism. I graduated with a major in journalism, but had done other work up to that point that used my journalism skills.  I was reaching a point where I felt like I needed to take the chance and come up to New York. So my first lesson I immediately learned was not to be afraid to take a leap of faith and leave behind security.

Q: How did you start making connections with people in such a new and different place?

A: I moved to New York without job (but had enrolled in a summer program at NYU to take classes while looking for a job.) I met people through friends, and friends of friends, which is how I got my first job. All my jobs, in fact, have resulted because of connections – so another very important lesson to learn. Call it networking, or developing new friendships, but I cannot stress enough the importance of meeting people and talking to people, whether it is through Linked in, or through groups where you share common interests. The latter is especially important in a city like New York, which is enormous and can be too easy to get lost in the shuffle. Find an alumni group, enroll in a language class, join a running group or find a cause that is of interest and get involved in a volunteer capacity.

Q: You’ve worked in several very different industries.  How has working in various industries given you a diverse skill set?

A: I have been fortunate throughout my various jobs that I have a consistent thread of utilizing my communication skills. But each job has provided new training: I honed my organization skills by working for a management consulting company. Coordinating deliverables among various departments of the magazine translated to coordinating orders and jewelry deliveries from the parent company in Italy. My writing and editing skills continue to come in handy, whether working on stories or creating English materials for an international company. I discovered a love for training at that same company, when I was traveling and educating clients on the jewelry product.  I am currently working in HR and finance at yet another jewelry company – the latter for which I have no background training. But I am persistent, detail oriented, and willing to learn new programs and skills.

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