Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

The Real Story Behind My "Overnight" Career Success

person working
lechatnoir/Getty Images

My career trajectory in the past 12 months has gotten a little nuts (in the best possible way).

Over a year ago, I applied for a Teen Vogue gig I saw online.

A lot of you people reading this may or may not know, but Teen Vogue has kind of exploded since December 2016, and lots of people from all demographics and generations are reading it now.

The question I get asked constantly is how I ended up in such an enviable position. I think a lot of people believe that by recreating my steps, they’ll somehow end up in the exact same place or that there’s some secret sauce involved in the whole thing.

However, I can assure you that there’s not really anything wowza about this sauce.

Here are the three biggest things you can take away from my story:

1. I Got Lucky

This section is the shortest because, quite frankly, it’s the most boring.

A little over a year ago, I saw a job listing for a freelance writer position for the site, I applied, and I got it. My editor later told me that she’d been inundated with applications and picked two at random. Guess which lucky lady was one of those two?

My mother says that sometimes God gives you a free one. This was just that.

2. I Worked Incredibly Hard

Women have a tendency to downplay their accomplishments, so I won’t downplay mine here: Once I got the job at Teen Vogue, I worked my ass off.

I take virtually every assignment, and if I don’t, there’s usually a very good reason why. I write at superhuman speeds, I’m reliable, and I learn quickly. I wrote almost 500 articles in my first year—you don’t get to that point by just sitting around.

Personally, I also feel like I caught a second lucky break within the lucky break, because although I was technically hired as a tech writer for the site, I wrote all kinds of lifestyle and news coverage, including politics. Once again, I happened to be in the right place at the right time in November when Trump was elected president; I’d covered politics for the site previously, and this was a time when there was a need for people who could write on the topic. I then worked really hard once the opportunity presented itself.

My experience has been a confirmation of the fact that lucky breaks are great, but the easy ride ends there. I’ve had to earn my stripes every day and at every other publication I’ve written for and/or write for now.

Again, I apologize for the lack of secret sauce here. I wish I had something flashier to say.

3. I Worked Incredibly Hard Long Before Teen Vogue

While there were elements of luck into getting the position, followed by pure grit as I ran with the opportunity, Teen Vogue certainly wasn’t my first time putting pen to paper (er, cursor to Microsoft Word).

(If you want to hear more about my writing experiences, you can check out my longer Medium post on that as well as my LinkedIn.)

Here’s the long story short: I wrote over 1,000 pieces of published content during my four years of college about virtually every topic under the sun. I built several successful blogs during that time and learned about editorial strategy, social media distribution, email marketing, headline writing, networking within the industry, and so much more.

Am I an expert at any of those things? Of course not. But all of these experiences made me much more confident in my abilities, so that when an opportunity like Teen Vogue came along (and then subsequently took off into the stratosphere while I just happened to be clinging onto the spaceship for dear life by a single pinky finger), I was prepared to go along with it.

The bottom line is this: Whether you believe in the 10,000-hour rule or not, I put in my 10,000 hours. Every opportunity prepares you for what comes next, and I can say without a doubt that I wouldn’t have been able to handle what’s happened from writing for Teen Vogue if not for the blood (yes, I once cut my finger on my laptop), sweat, and tears that came from the years before that.

Great opportunities require sacrifice, and they hardly line up perfectly with what’s going on in your life. So when they present themselves, dive in, forgo some sleep, and do as much as you can (without burning out).

This article was originally published on Medium. It has been republished here with permission.