Take one look at Jennifer Romolini's LinkedIn profile, and you'll instantly know she's a badass.
Romolini is the Chief Content Officer for Shonda Rimes' soon-to-launch website Shondaland, where all the badasses live. The writer, editor and digital media strategist is also the author of the just-released book, Weird in a World That's Not: A Career Guide for Misfits, F*ckups, and Failures. She's also led content at HelloGiggles and Yahoo.
Romolini's has the type of career people dream of. But like all of us, she had to start somewhere. Her start was slow, frustrating and littered with mistakes.
It took Romolini a long time to break into the New York City media scene before she finally got hired. "I blew 23 interviews before I got my first big city job," she writes in a post on LinkedIn excerpted from her book.
Romolini tells a humorous tale of her long and arduous interview journey. She lived in Boston at the time. She'd travel four and half hours to New York City and share a hotel room with five or six friends who were also on the job hunt.
She saw everything from sad-looking employees sitting in depressing, dank cubicles to chic, trendy HR women sporting chunky glasses and houndstooth blazers. She took editing tests that she promptly failed.
Romolini says each one of those 23 interviews beat her down a little more. "Each awkward, not-connecting interview and coinciding rejection was a blow to my ego that made me more and more resolute," she writes. "I was tired of failing, and I was not going to let all these people keep me from my dreams."
Two months into the job search, Romolini hit rock bottom. Out of cash, she had to move back home. She was a penniless 27-year-old divorcee living in her parents' attic.
And this is when Romolini turned a corner. She received a call for an interview for an editorial assistant job at a website she'd never heard of. She didn't even really know what they did. But Romolini was so sick of the interview rat race that she took a different approach.
My cover letter for the Inside.com job was the most honest I'd written up to that point. Rather than plumping my meager résumé, I copped to having an unconventional path and highlighted my life experience and my enthusiasm for the field.
It wasn't her keyword-stuffed or elegantly designed resume that got Romolini the interview. It wasn't her witty, clever writing. It was her authenticity. She carried that authenticity with her to the interview. When her future boss bluntly asked her about the no-name college she had attended, Romolini replied, "Just because you haven't heard of it doesn't mean it's not a good school." She got the job.
The interview slog was demoralizing, but taught Romolini an important lesson: Do not fake it 'till you make it. She tried that countless times, and it didn't work. "In interviews especially, it's crucial that you accurately represent what it is you can and cannot do," she advises those on the job hunt.
She's anti overselling yourself because a smart boss can see through those falsities, and you won't get the job. Even worse, they'll believe you and offer you the job -- and you'll be set up to fail from day one because you can't actually do what you said you could do.
Instead of faking it 'till you make it, Romolini champions honesty and authenticity. She learned that lesson the hard way, but has stayed true to it ever since. Stick with what you know. "You have merit as precisely what you are at this moment," Romolini writes.
Read Romolini's full post on LinkedIn. (And learn why she still declines beverages in interviews to this day.)