An Interview with Lily Herman
On marketing yourself successfully, building a seriously popular website & much more.
Lily's energy is infectious. Whether it's through her Twitter feed, or in her role as Managing Editor of WayUp, she's a true example of someone who loves what they do and is killing it too. Plus, she founded The Prospect, a college and youth lifestyle website that grew to over 140 editors, writers and interns. No biggie, right? We discussed how to market yourself better, the art of learning to prioritise your energy and much, much more.
Your career trajectory so far is seriously impressive. At a young age, you were running The Prospect, and managing over 140 writers worldwide. What did you learn about yourself in the process?
Oh goodness, I think one of the best parts about managing other people is you learn an absolutely absurd amount about yourself in such a short period of time! But more importantly, you're forced to confront not only the good, but also the bad.
I think above all, I learned a lot about being patient with people while also knowing when to cut them slack and when to push them more. It's a tricky balance, one that I definitely haven't mastered, but it's something I didn't realize would be so important as my career has continued forward. Sometimes I can be inconsistent with my management of others, and running The Prospect made me confront that very early on; it's something I've been actively working on for years.
Do you have any quick, actionable tips for someone looking to market themselves better (both online or otherwise)?
I'll split this up based on internet and IRL, so here goes:
When it comes to the internet, here's some good news: You do not have to be on every social media platform out there! Focus on the ones you genuinely love using, and figure out ways to build a support system as well as a group of fans from there. I personally love Twitter and spend all day on it; in contrast, I've never had a personal Pinterest account and probably never will. That doesn't make Twitter better than Pinterest; it just means that as someone who's very chatty and best expresses herself through words, Twitter is a great platform do that. You'll do a much better job if you're marketing yourself on a platform you actually like using.
When it comes to marketing yourself in real life, one thing I definitely didn't understand until recently is that professional networking is still very similar to friendship building. Marketing yourself requires building real relationships, so instead of focusing on a professional relationship being a business transaction, think of it as finding a new friend. It makes every interaction so much more authentic.
You've interviewed hundreds of successful women. Is there one piece of advice that stands out?
I can't remember who said it unfortunately, but one piece of advice that I think about every single day is, "Before you spend emotional energy on something that's bothering you, ask yourself: Will this matter in a year? If not, don't waste extra brainpower on it." We're all constantly stressed by a multitude of things on a daily basis and have a limited amount of energy to spend on it; knowing how to prioritize that energy is as crucial as anything else!
As someone with an amazing presence on social, who are some of your favourite people to follow?
So many to choose from! Here are some real standouts:
@brosandprose: Ella's a good friend of mine, and she's quite a force to be reckoned both online and in-person. Her tweets are funny, insightful, and critical, and I love them.
@felsull: I originally discovered Felicia because of her writing on Medium, and her Twitter is an extension of that amazing writing. It's always refreshing to read anything by her, and she also tweets other great resources from around the web.
@kthomas901: Kaya's a rising senior at Dartmouth and a ridiculously successful developer. She talks a lot about identity, sexism and racism in tech, and so much more, and I've learned a great deal just from reading her feed.
@laurenduca: Her tweets are just absolutely hilarious and I'm always retweeting them with the caption "omg."
@sierrabarter: Sierra is the founder of the incredibly successful Lady Project, and her tweets cover everything from funny personal observations to thoughts on feminism and politics.
What are your thoughts on "work-life balance"? How do you stop yourself from burning out?
I think one of the best things someone ever told me is the importance of work-life integration instead of work-life balance. Many people (especially women) often get shamed into believing there's a perfect way to "balance" their personal and professional lives, when often they're so greatly intertwined. And guess what? That's totally okay.
In my case, avoiding burnout means letting go of when people say I should and shouldn't be doing work or using my free time. For instance, I personally feel really burned out if I'm trying to squeeze every single thing into the workday so that I won't be doing work at home. In my case, I like getting some of my email-answering done in the morning before work and a little more after work. This doesn't mean I have no balance (Doing work at home? Gasp, so taboo!); it just means I've integrated my work life and my personal life in a way that keeps me centered and less stressed.
Whether it's a go-to book or a particular writing ritual, where do you find inspiration when you need it most?
I love plugging in my headphones and walking. It's not even that I have to be in a particularly inspiring place (even though New York, where I'm based, is amazing!); it's just the act of physically moving mixed with music that gets my brain going a million miles an hour. Never underestimate the power of a stellar playlist and a couple miles of walking.
Follow Lily on Twitter @LKHerman