Career Profile: Molly Beck, Author, Consultant, and Blogger

How often do you reach out to someone even though you might get a ‘no’ or get ghosted? Molly Beck has learned to push past the nervousness and reach out anyway and her career has transformed because of it. Molly is the founder of the podcast creation site Messy Bun; the author of Reach Out; the creator of the lifestyle blog Smart, Pretty & Awkward; and a marketing expert who provides digital strategies for companies including Forbes, Venmo, Rice University, and Hearst. When she was featured on Forbes for sharing her advice about reaching out to someone every single day of the work week, her advice and her article went viral. She landed a book deal Reach Out is a fun, practical guide to building valuable career connections, through tools you already have and people you already know,” will be published on September 28th! I can’t wait to read the book, in part because I can’t wait to read the interview we did together and all the other advice. And in part, because I understand the magic of Molly Beck. She is a huge part of the reason I write for Forbes. I took her blogging course at General Assembly a few years ago, a year or so after that a friend sent me a message that Molly was looking for guests for a podcast about millennials with side hustles. I called Molly and landed the spot. After the interview, she told me that Forbes‘ new vertical Women@Forbes was launching soon, coached me through the application process for becoming a writer, and here I am one year later writing full-time for Women@Forbes and other publications.

Elana Lyn Gross interviews Molly Beck, author of Reach Out, Smart, Pretty and Awkward, and creator of Messy Bun.

What inspired you to write your forthcoming book, Reach Out: The Simple Strategy You Need to Expand Your Network and Increase Your Influence?

About a year and a half ago, I shared a story as part of Forbes.com’s Mentoring Moments series. The piece was about how I put “RO” (short for Reaching Out) on my calendar every day of the work week and the resulting ways that has changed my professional life.

The post went viral and my inbox exploded with emails, LinkedIn messages, and tweets from people hungry to know more. So this book expands on the concept of how to increase the number of people you know in order to achieve your professional goals via Reaching Out. Full of helpful, quirky advice, the book walks readers through the process of creating their own personalized Reach Out Strategy.

 What has the writing process been like for you?

This grainy, goofy picture probably best illustrates the writing process: alone, on my bed, eating ice cream. It was like this for months. Some people have words flow out of them perfectly. That isn’t me. I write, and rewrite, and rewrite, and edit, and edit. I would say I’m a careful, exacting writer who wants her words to seem relaxed. I really enjoy having written, but actually, the process of actually writing can be challenging for me.

What has been the biggest challenge and, on the flip side, the biggest reward of writing a book?

Besides what I mentioned above (loving having written, actually writing is hard), there’s also the somewhat minor issue that I’m a horrible speller and sometimes mess up on words that are both spelled correctly but mean different things (like definitely vs. defiantly). Totally minor in the scheme of things, but it does drive me crazy.

The biggest reward, far and away, is hearing from other people how my advice has positively impacted their life. It’s the entire reason I write and podcast and speak – to share super tangible tips and tricks that can make other people’s lives easier, bigger, and better.

What advice do you have for other women who hope to land an agent, a book deal, and write a book?

Have a platform! Even though my book doesn’t directly have to do with my blog Smart, Pretty & Awkward, it exists almost entirely because of my blog.

Having a blog is the reason I met my mentor, and then my mentor is the one who suggested my name for the Mentoring Moments column; it’s also why I already had an agent and could act quickly to get a book proposal together to shop to publishers after the RO article went viral. In 2017 your platform could be built on a blog, or it could be built on a podcast, social media following, YouTube series, or similar. You just need a platform! 

You are also a consultant and the brains behind Smart Pretty and Awkward and Messy Bun. Please tell us more about each and how you manage it all!

I only say “yes” to things I really want to do, and I always pitch myself for projects I want to be working on. When I’m excited about what I’m working on, I’m a better consultant, writer, and leader.

Although let me keep it real: sometimes if I want to make a little extra money in a given month, I take on random freelance marketing jobs on Upwork or Craiglist that maybe aren’t exactly how I’d like to spend my time!

What are the most important characteristics someone needs to have to be successful in your role?

Being responsive, meeting deadlines, and being kind.

When you are a consultant, an author, a digital influencer, and or an entrepreneur, people hire you for projects because they want to work with you, specifically you – and that means they need to be able to depend on you to get the job done, plus they want to enjoy working with you.

What are the most important skills for doing your job and how did you develop them?

The two most important skills I have are being able to predict where digital trends are heading and being able to break big projects into manageable steps. I can figure out what is important for companies or people to be doing to stay relevant online, and then share that knowledge by breaking it into easy-to-follow baby steps.

I developed the ability to predict and strategize on digital trends over many years of being online. I had one of the first revenue-generating lifestyle blogs, and after predicting that trend, I felt more comfortable to start making other guesses and seeing what panned out. If I’m doing it right, my accuracy rate should be getting better over time.

I think I’ve had the ability to break projects or goals down in manageable steps for a long time. I have a vivid memory of being in elementary school and showing my younger sister how to do the monkey bars and my mom complimenting me on being able to break the task down into steps my sister could do. It’s so funny how a random compliment my mom made 20+ years ago has stayed in my mind ever since!

What’s the biggest lesson you learned from writing Reach Out?

Having a good editor makes the book process a lot easier. I’m really grateful to my editor Cheryl Ringer at McGraw-Hill for all her work with me on the book. If you are considering doing a book with a publisher, make sure you click with the editor before you sign the contract – they will become your partner in making the book as great as it can be. Cheryl has been an excellent partner and since I work for myself, she is probably the closest thing I have to a work BFF even though we have never met in person! 

What are three takeaways you hope readers get from reading Reach Out?

  • Creating a network isn’t just for people looking to change jobs…
  • because every one of your career goals will be achieved faster with an expanded network…
  • because increasing the number of people you know means increasing the chance for new opportunities to come in. If opportunities are islands, people in your network are the bridges that will help you get to the islands faster. Sure, you can try swimming, but wouldn’t you rather take a nice walk over a beautiful bridge than be floundering in the water all alone?

 What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

From my grandfather: Don’t talk down to anyone. Don’t let anyone talk down to you.

What is your best advice for other young professional women?

Treat life like you are visiting a candy store that gives out free samples. When you see someone else doing something cool that intrigues you, try it for yourself, too.

If you sample as much of life as you can, some things will stick and some won’t. And that’s what is supposed to happen! Trying everything you think you might be interested in is the fastest way to build an interesting life, which is the ultimate goal.