We all know what it feels like to pull all-nighters; to put in countless hours on a project and only receive a pat on the back. Yes, you may be working towards an end goal or a dream job, but sometimes the climb to the top can feel a little thankless. Those we read about in the news or see on TV who have reached the pinnacle of their careers inspire us to keep going. But rarely do those of us still on our way up get any recognition, before we get the corner office. *Cue Drake’s Started from the Bottom.* That’s why we love to highlight Made Women on the rise -- those who have just earned a promotion or secured a new job. They may not be calling all the shots just yet, but we can learn a thing or two from their journey thus far. Our Made Woman of the Month for March is LA’s own Amber Wilson! Amber recently made a career move that turned out to be her best move; landing her dream job at Live Nation Entertainment– the world’s largest live entertainment and e-commerce company. After working for years in the non-profit sector, Amber’s new gig put her closer to her goal of working for a global company, doing corporate communications. Congrats, Amber!
It was a special treat to interview this Made Woman because she is a dear friend of mine. A fellow USC Trojan, Amber and I met freshman year of college. I always loved that Amber knew who she was, what she wanted, and how to get it. Unlike some other Gen Y-ers, she didn’t suffer from feeling overwhelmed by her options or unsure of her next steps. A communication major, she enjoyed writing, music, travel and connecting with others; and hoped to take the things she loved and turn them into a successful career. Her self-assurance made her one to watch on campus. A true leader, she made time between internships and classes for volunteer groups like Blacks In Action -- where she spearheaded the creation of an annual scholarship for incoming freshmen who had given back to their communities.
During school she interned at Atlantic and Hidden Beach Records and wrote for publications like Saturday Night Magazine. She also took time to travel and studied abroad her senior year -- living in Bilbao, Spain for four months and then in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Amber was able to soak up some sunshine and some culture during her time abroad but it wasn’t all about fun. She credits this experience for sparking her desire to work for a company with a global reach. “There are defining moments in our lives that shape who we become, and studying abroad in Spain and Argentina was that moment for me. I learned so much about myself and became exposed to many other different types of lifestyles and culture. To this day I still have friends around the world from when we studied together. It made me a global citizen and showed me how connected we all can be, if we want to be.”
While Amber did know what she wanted, getting from point A (being recent college grad with no experience) to point B (having the career of your dreams) is not always a linear journey. After graduation she worked for the Century City Chamber of Commerce as a membership coordinator where she used her skill set to boost membership and manage communications. She worked there for four and a half years moving up to membership director along the way. Working for a non-profit meant budgets were tight. Amber was forced to get creative when thinking of ways to build membership and host networking events that members would appreciate. She crafted unique experiences for attendees, inviting out masseuses for one event and partnering with the Microsoft store for another – creating a live, interactive gaming experience. At a time when Twitter was just emerging, Amber also oversaw the launch of the Chamber’s social media platforms, and added value to local businesses by sharing news on their events and promotions. Her ideas added a fresh spin to the Chamber’s media and promotions without breaking the bank and the experience taught her how to be resourceful and think on her feet. Though she valued her time with the Chamber -- along with the connections and knowledge she gained along the way -- Amber found herself wanting more. Her world perspective made her daydream about working for a company that made a global impact.
Instead of just dreaming about it, Amber decided to do something to gain more experience and connections around Los Angeles. She started her blog, Wilson’s "Where to" Guide, a source for reviews and write-ups on local businesses and events for young urbanites who love travel and good food. Amber honed her writing skills and built a powerful network while blogging about the city she loved. “LA is just so rich and diverse. It’s a place where you can do so much. Just when you feel like you have a handle on LA, you learn something new...you can never get bored. And if you do -- ‘Hey, check out my blog,’” she says laughingly. People began to connect with her posts and started inviting her to attend their events. She interviewed people like Calvin Richardson, Brian McKnight, DJ Lady Sha -- the first female DJ to spin on live radio in South Africa -- and other trailblazers who were making an impact in their communities. All the while she was perfecting her skills as a writer and editor. “For three years I wrote a blog post every single week, regardless of what was going on with my full-time job, or my social life,” Amber says. Traveling and writing for her blog gave her an outlet for her creative energy.
Amber realized she had learned all she could working in the non-profit sector and wanted to move on -- but the tough job market stunted her progress. “There was a point when I wanted to make a change; I was applying for job after job, I was interviewing and getting to the final stages but nothing was happening.” Amber didn’t give up on her dream and become complacent. Instead, she got creative and focused on how she could stand out as an applicant. Finally, the stars aligned and preparation met opportunity. Amber was offered the position with Live Nation Entertainment as a corporate communications coordinator working alongside the Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications. The company manages tours for heavy hitters like Beyonce, Jay Z, Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus and Linkin Park. They also are the parent company for venues across America like the House of Blues and the ticketing site Ticketmaster.
Amber says that she is always excited to go to work now and see what is happening firsthand in the music industry. Amber drafts press releases for upcoming tours, corporate or charitable partnerships, handles media inquiries, writes and distributes a daily newsletter to 45 countries. She manages social media and stays on top of industry news. She said she was nervous about distributing content to media partners at that level when she started but has since gotten the hang of things: “If you are really a writer you can write about anything.” Her position in the C-Suite alongside all the executives allows her to learn from other leaders and see what it takes to run a Fortune 500 company. Her success with her blog breeds more success at her current position. She knows the value of her connections and understands PR better now that she has a media perspective. “You always have a vision of how you think something is going to play out professionally… it doesn’t always happen that way. But the key is to be prepared when opportunities do come, so that if it’s the right opportunity you can jump on it,” she says.
Now that Amber is a bit closer to her dreams she says that it was her perseverance that made the difference. Even though her course wasn’t quick and easy, she has now established herself in the professional world and created a network that she can count on throughout her career. Even though the going gets tough she knows that it is through hard work that dreams are realized, “We are not owed the right to follow and pursue our dreams; it is a blessing and an honor.”
So, you want to plan a trip with friends and family but no one in your entourage is ‘rolling’ yet? If you add up the cost of flights, resort fees, food, activities, and rental cars, trips can get pretty costly. Oh, and then there are all these destination weddings you are getting invited to this year… I mean come on. The invitation is flattering but, when you get down to it, you have to figure out where you’re going to get $1,000 of disposable income. If you wait until you’ve stacked up cash, you may never get to spend a fun, relaxing weekend with loved ones. Life is made up of a series of wonderful moments - here are tips to plan a memorable getaway without breaking the aqua bank.
1. Pick a vacation destination central to the majority of your party. Consider where your friends and family are coming from. If you’re lucky, they’re all in the same general area, so picking somewhere convenient to travel to together will be easy. But if you’re like me, they’ll all be spread out. In this case, try selecting a location convenient for the most folks, or for those whose budgets are less flexible. It’s the nice thing to do…
2. Pack light! With the exorbitant fees for checked baggage these days, you can save yourself upwards of $100 by only taking a carry-on. If you are going away for just a weekend you should be able to pull this off… Just say no to that third pair of stilettos!
3. Keep an eye on flash deals! One of the keys to cheap and chic travel will be to remain flexible. You never know when deals will become available. I have found fantastic opportunities via resources like Gilt City, Jetsetter, Groupon, Travelzoo and Vacationist. The one caveat is, you have to be ready to pull the trigger. So, if you want to welcome adventure, flash deals could be the right move!
4. Take advantage of the off-season. Some of my best vacations have been during the off-season. Prices are way more reasonable and there are crazy deals. No snow on the slopes? Try Lake Tahoe. A little warmer than usual, check out Miami. This past Fourth of July, some friends and I visited Palm Springs. Sure, it was 107 degrees at its peak, but we spent the majority of the time in the pool or inside our wonderfully air-conditioned house, which brings me to suggestion #5…
5. Find home and vacation rentals. I wanted to get a big group of friends and family together for the 4th of July. We were all on a budget, so it was important that this be a quick, cheap, and easy getaway. Given that we had eight people, I searched for home rentals via: www.homeaway.com, www.vrbo.com, www.airbnb.com. Eight people contributing to the rental widened our net. Suddenly, we were able to afford a three bedroom three bathroom house, with a pool and gourmet kitchen (see picture above). I was really nervous about renting through a website. I worried that someone might run away with my money, or that the home wouldn’t be as advertised.* Fortunately, it turned out better than expected! Having a kitchen allowed us to cook for ourselves and save money on dining out. In preparation, I planned out our meals for the two-day stay and got just the right amount of supplies from Costco and Whole Foods. Once there, we happily chilled at the house, swimming, cooking, drinking, talking, and playing games. Our two-day Palm Springs vacay worked out to under $140 per person!
*TIP: Read reviews and customer advice before purchasing. Obviously, the more positive reviews the better, but don’t just look at the number of stars, be sure to read the text. Other vacationers will help you determine if the house will fit your vacation needs.
If you’re jonesing for time away with friends, try something a little non-traditional. Even if it doesn’t turn out like one of Jay-Z and Beyonce’s fabulous vacations, at least it will be an adventure.