Founder, Spark and Hustle & Women for Hire
Posted on: February 1, 2012 | Go to profile
Motivated by her experience dropping out of college for a chance to work for ABC News only to be fired unexpectedly a couple years later, Tory switched gears from employee to entrepreneur and founded Women For Hire. The company hosts high caliber diversity career expos across the United States, bringing talented women and leading employers together in the same room. She also launched Spark & Hustle to serve current and aspiring small business owners through conferences and coaching programs. Now the workplace contributor on ABC’s Good Morning America, Tory is a favorite among viewers for her no-nonsense career advice. Tory is a New York Times bestselling author of several books including Will Work from Home and Take This Book to Work.
Q: Please share with us the story of how your professional journey began and has brought you to where you are today.
A: My very first jobs were working in network news. I worked at ABC and then at NBC in the media relations department. I loved my job. I loved the company. I thought I’d be at NBC forever. But a big new boss came in and I was out. I failed at my attempts to convince him to keep me, despite the fact that I had countless allies internally and externally who’d vouch for me. I was devastated – and I as walked out of his office, desperately trying not to burst into tears, his parting words were, “Tory, it’s a big world out there, and I suggest you go explore it.”
OUCH…I didn’t want to explore anything except my apartment in my pajamas – and I hid for months until I ran out of money and realized I had two choices: pack up and move from New York City back home to Miami Beach, which I definitely didn’t want to do…or snap out of it and find another job.
Only then did I realize that you could take away my business cards, my corporate ID, my paycheck – but nobody could strip me of my skills and successes – I owned them, and it was time I stood up and stood proud about what I could accomplish for my next employer. And it’s a great reminder to the millions of people who’ve lost their jobs and are wondering if they can bounce back.
I wound up getting another job very quickly, but I also had a huge discovery: the pain of the pink slip was permanent. It wasn’t weakening. And I realized that I’d always be somewhat uncomfortable being at the whim of someone else who would control my financial future. I realized that unless I signed my own paycheck, I couldn’t have a true grasp on my financial security. And that’s what led me to start my own business in 1999 – the most freeing decision I’ve ever made.
Q: What are your top 3 tips for networking?
A: Be deliberate about the events you attend. Just showing up anywhere and everywhere doesn’t mean you’re making valuable connections. Who’ll be there? Why are you attending? And what’s the one key thing you expect to accomplish while there?
If at an event, take their card if you expect to connect. Don’t pass out your cards and hope that you’ll hear from someone again. If it’s an important lead, you should take control over the next steps.
Just being “on” Facebook or LinkedIn or any other social media site doesn’t mean you’re actively engaged. Networking – in person and online – only works when you’re actively engaged, which means genuinely give and take.
Lunch meetings for networking can be a time sucker. Before agreeing to meet, what are you expecting to accomplish? Could it be done over coffee or in your office instead? Would the phone be better for this particular contact? If I agreed to have lunch with everyone who said they’d love to buy me lunch so I could help them get to a producer at GMA, I’d never get any work done. Instead, it’s easier to help them via email or phone, which can be accomplished in under 5 minutes instead of an hour and a half. Protect your time.
Q: A great negotiation can be game changing for one’s business or life. Studies have shown that men are much more comfortable negotiating and asking for what they want compared to women. What’s your advice to women who are uncomfortable negotiating?
A: Don’t wait until you’re comfortable – that day may never come. Some women equate negotiating with a root canal, which is actually great. If your tooth was rotting and you were in excruciating pain, you wouldn’t celebrate going to the dentist, but you’d definitely get your butt in that chair because suffering would be out of the question. The same is true with negotiating, you may not like it, but you must accept that it’s a necessity, not an option.
Always play devil’s advocate – what are 10 reasons why your request will be rejected and how would you respond to those objections? Don’t get caught like a deer in the headlights because you didn’t think it through. Focus on a win for both sides. A negotiation is rarely successful if it’s totally one-sided. If you can’t muster the courage to speak up for yourself, imagine you’re doing it for the person you love most.
ON Starting Out
Q: If you had a young sister or a daughter who was a senior in college, anxious about landing her first job or unsure of what she wanted to do, what would your advice be to her?
A: Release yourself from the pressure of that first job. First jobs aren’t last jobs. They’re as much about learning what you don’t like as what you enjoy. Focus on securing a position in a place where you can learn the most and contribute the most from Day One. Align yourself with at least one person who will take you under his or her wing and show you the ropes—no matter what the company or industry. It’s less about the position or company—and more about the opportunity to learn. You don’t have a mortgage and huge financial burdens just yet—you’re more able to adapt and make do, so don’t assume the first job is the end all be all….there will be many, many more after this one! You will definitely find your spot to thrive and shine.
Q: Is there an example in your life of a time when others were against you or your dream, yet you persevered?
A: When I wanted to quit my “steady” job to start a “risky” business, everyone except my husband and my mother said I was insane. They scoffed at the notion that I’d give up a “guaranteed” paycheck in favor of the unknown, especially with twin toddlers at home. Yet, to me, “risky” was assuming that being on someone else’s payroll was safer than relying on myself—so I had no fears of just going for it. And 12+ years later, it’s still proved to be the best decision I ever made. I’m a big believer in going with your gut. Get the opinions of people you trust, but at the end of the day, shut out the noise and listen carefully to your head and your heart. You’ll never go wrong.
Q: What do you think is the key to happiness?
A: The key to happiness is always looking forward to waking up each morning full of curiosity and determination—able to do exactly what you love with people you really like for a purpose that’s greater than you.
Doing so makes me a great wife and mother—and a gigantic piece of my happiness stems from knowing that I’m raising two exceptional kids who are good citizens, sensational students and all-around great people.
ON Giving Back
Q: Can you share with us an experience of giving that was extremely rewarding or transformational?
A: One of my most high profile and rewarding experiences came in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I made my donation like everyone else to the Red Cross, but as I watched images of people being bused from New Orleans to Houston, I had to do more. So I hopped on a plane, flew to Houston, rented a car and drove to the gigantic Astrodome where thousands of people were being housed on temporary cots. I held up a sign that read “Are you looking for a job?” and within minutes I was mobbed. I used my cell phone and blackberry to help people claim their last paycheck from their employers….helped others transfer their employment from a fast food joint in New Orleans to a location in Houston. One woman won my heart: Doris Banks. I took her by the hand out of the Astrodome, found her an apartment, furnished it, set her up with a job transfer, and enrolled her in school so this single teen mom could provide for her son and create a better future for herself….all in less than 48 hours. We still keep in touch to this day.
Since that time I’ve done similar deeds for many people especially throughout the recession as I’ve watched too many people up close lose their jobs and all that goes with the loss of a paycheck. I don’t expect anything in return, but I know I’m filling that karma account.
Q: Oprah has that great section in her magazine “What I know for sure.” What do you know for sure?
A: I know for sure that no problem is insurmountable—and that all of us have the ability to tackle and overcome whatever is thrown our way. I also know that no success comes easily—every great experience I’ve had the pleasure to celebrate is the result of very hard work.