A Q&A with Sarah Johnson Laryea, founder of Corporate Career Girl.
Q: Can you share a little bit about yourself? Where you're from and your career background?
When I started university in 2010, I knew right away that I wanted to have a career in marketing. However, I also had a strong passion for languages and wanted to gain a deeper understanding of different cultures. So when I had the opportunity to combine the two and study International Business & Languages, I was thrilled. During my course, I learned three languages, Spanish, French, and English (I'm from the Netherlands, so my first language is Dutch). In addition to marketing, which was the main focus of the course, I also studied business, cross-cultural communication, and project management.
After four years of hard work, I obtained my Bachelor's degree in Commerce. I briefly considered continuing my studies, however, I was so eager to finally start my career that I moved from the Netherlands to the United Kingdom to start my first job as a Marketing Coordinator, and I've been a marketer ever since.
In 2016, I decided that I wanted to take a short break and broaden my knowledge by pursuing a Master’s degree. To make a long story short, in 2018, I finally got back to university and obtained my Master’s degree in International Marketing Strategy a year later.
Q: What was the inspiration behind creating Corporate Career Girl?
My personal experiences in the corporate work environment were very much the inspiration behind Corporate Career Girl. At the time, as a recent graduate, I experienced quite a few challenges and couldn’t seem to find my feet at work. I was completely unaware of things like office politics and workplace bullying so I did not recognise it when I first hand experienced this. However, when I did became aware I was quite surprised that four years of studying (or university) did not prepare me for the corporate workplace at all.
So the goal for me was to create a platform that allowed me to not only share my own experiences to help encourage young women in the corporate workplace, but also for others to share their stories.
It’s inspiring and empowering to learn that you’re not the only one going through a certain challenge. And if that person was able to rise above the situation, you can too.
Q: You work a full-time job, how do you manage to have a website, social media channels, and releasing regular content, alongside your career?
Yes, I’m currently loving my job as Senior Digital Marketing Executive at a digital marketing agency. In my opinion, managing your side hustle, business, or any other project while working full-time is never an easy thing to do. And to be honest, it’s not something I’ve mastered a 100% yet.
However, so far, I’ve been able to put out content simply because of passion. It may sound cliché, but if you’re really passionate about something it’s so much easier to put in the extra work to get things done.
Secondly, time management has been an important factor too. I try as much as possible to plan my day so that I have enough time to work on Corporate Career Girl. Whether this is at 5 AM in the morning or 9 PM at night before heading to bed.
Lastly, I also make use of super useful planning tools that allow me to plan and schedule both blog and social media content ahead of time. I usually spend my Sunday evenings scheduling blog content and posts and it really helps me manage the two.
Q: Any tips for "career girls" in full-time work wanting to take the leap to start a creative project, but are hesitant to take the first step?
Just go for it! It might seem scary at first, you may need to push yourself out of your comfort zone, but it’s totally worth it. It’s so important to be passionate about something outside of your full-time job (unless your current job is your true passion of course). Whether it’s starting your own business, a new project, or getting involved with charity work in your local community.
Sometimes we can become so wrapped up with our career and job titles forgetting that we all also have our individual purposes.
It’s important to spend time thinking about what your purpose may be and the steps you need to take or changes you need to make to live for that purpose.
Q: We imagine you started Corporate Career Girl out of your own experiences, could you share a challenge that you have faced in your career and how you overcame them?
One of the main challenges I faced or things that I struggled with is confidence. Having confidence and a strong foundation of self-esteem is so important in the workplace. You need to be able to believe in your capabilities and ability to be successful in your job. If you’re always doubting the work you’re producing it will start to take its toll on you. Unfortunately, I did lack in this area which made it extremely difficult for me to speak up in meetings, pitch new and creative ideas, and stand up for myself.
Looking back I realise that your manager’s ability to exhibit leadership skills and trust you as an employee plays a crucial role in your self-development and confidence at work as well, especially, as a graduate. I eventually overcame my lack of confidence by reading more career books, asking for feedback from my colleagues, and owning my achievements. So for example, if a campaign I worked on turned out extremely successful, I made it an intention to celebrate myself and what I had achieved whether big or small.
When I left my graduate job for a new job opportunity, my then manager was extremely encouraging and trusted my ability to produce great work and this eventually helped boost my confidence too.
Q: Your site and newsletter are for helping women boost confidence at work, what are two pieces of advice that you would give to young women, just graduating from university, on how to get their foot in the door and get noticed?
First of all, be confident in your capabilities and own your experiences. Landing a job straight after university can seem quite challenging, especially if you haven’t got any or much work experience.
However, any little experience that you gained during university does matter and can help you stand out amongst your peers when job hunting.
Whether you did a few internships here and there, or a side job, it’s important how you package that experience on your resume or during a job interview. For example, you may not have any corporate experience perse, however, you may be great at offering excellent customer service which you learned when working behind the till in your local supermarket.
The second piece of advice I would give is to be open to working in different industries. If you land an interview or opportunity in a specific industry that does not necessarily interest you, don’t be quick to turn it down.
As long as your responsibilities and daily work activities align with what you’re passionate about, once you get to know more about the industry you can learn to love that too. In addition to that, having experience in different kinds of industries can be very beneficial further down your career and give you a competitive edge in the job market.
Q: Your background is in marketing, for women in marketing or wanting to break into the sector, which 3 skills do you think are currently most in demand?
This is probably a skill you need to master in many sectors. However, I can’t stress enough how important communication is in marketing. As a marketer you are not only communicating with your target audience, you’re also communicating to management or your clients in order to deliver successful campaigns and meet set KPI’s.
Creativity is another skill set you need as a marketer. Marketing has changed so much in the last couple of years. Marketing is very much leaning towards storytelling now as it helps to build a stronger connection with your target audience. However, in order to achieve that you definitely need some level of creativity when it comes to creating and writing content
Lastly, your ability to not only analyse data but also translate it into actionable points is key. The ability to analyse data helps you to drive decision-making, forecast outcomes, and evaluate the success of campaigns in order to stay ahead of competitors.
Q: Finally, can you share a book recommendation?
One of my favourite books, is 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Stephen Covey. It’s a self-improvement book that will teach you how to change your behaviour and perspective in order to change the challenging or difficult situations around you. This book will enlighten you on how to be more pro-active, improve your time management skills, and build strong interdependent relationships.
Name: Sarah Johnson Laryea
Title: Founder of Corporate Career Girl
Profession/Position: Senior Digital Marketing Executive
Bio: Sarah Johnson Laryea is the Founder and Editor of Corporate Career Girl (CCG), a career platform and online community for millennial women in the corporate workplace. With a strong passion for career development, Sarah started CCG with the goal to share her corporate journey and to help millennial women become more confident in the corporate workplace. She holds a Master's degree in International Marketing Strategy and has a strong background in digital marketing with over 6+ years’ experience in marketing, content and SEO.