This Is What Landing Your Dream Job Looks Like

It’s a rare and very special thing to have a job that's the same as the one you referred to in grade school when everyone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up. Heck, it’s rare to have the one you talked about at your college graduation party. But, for the five women ahead, the careers they’ve created for themselves all have something in common: They’re each every bit the dream job.
Of course, “dream” jobs are as varied as it gets — one person’s mega-movie-franchise career is another’s raising-capital-for-start-ups gig — and none of them are easy to land. The young game changers ahead have not only worked hard to get where they are, but are constantly challenging themselves and their industries. For instance, there’s the just-out-of-college fashion designer who wowed street style stars with her playful premiere collection; the philanthropist who’s made it her mission to make sure all girls around the world have access to an education; and the artist who’s finding and creating beauty in the most ordinary of everyday objects.
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However you slice it, the fearless ladies ahead have forged careers that amaze and inspire, and there's no doubt they're loving it, too. And, that's pretty much the dream.
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Mizuo Peck, 37

Occupation:
Actress (You know her from the Night At The Museum trilogy in which she plays Sacajawea.)

College major:
"BFA in Theater from The Acting Conservatory at SUNY Purchase."

First job ever:
"I had a booming babysitting business when I was a pre-teen. I think I charged $10 an hour, and they let me eat all their food. All the moms were eclectic artsy types and I really looked up to them. I tried on all their lipsticks and perfumes!"

First job that I consider a major milestone:
"My first big gig after graduating college was a German movie called Nicht Heulen, Husky, or Husky, Don’t Cry. I played the lead's girlfriend and had to learn my lines in German. It was the first time I worked with a dialect coach, traveled for a job, and had to drive a truck on screen. We filmed for a month in the Yukon and it was an unforgettable adventure. I realized this was the life for me!"

First thing I do every morning:
"I always finish the pint of water I keep on my nightstand. It’s a good thing it’s an automatic reflex because once the day gets going I forget to hydrate."

The person whose career I admire most:
"I’ve always admired Emily Mortimer’s work and range. Right now, she’s the star of Sorkin’s The Newsroom as well as Doll & Em, which she co-created, and somehow has time to also make films. Her career is high-profile but she stays very cool and out of the spotlight. She balances being a busy actress, producer,writer, and mother with style and grace."

My big break moment:
"The first Night at the Museum movie in 2006 was huge for me! It changed everything and opened a lot of doors. I finally was part of a movie that everyone knew about and had seen. It was also a great ice breaker on auditions. Casting directors would confide how much they loved watching the movie with their kids!"

The biggest career hurdle I've had to face so far is...
"Losing self-confidence and motivation; it can be difficult to stay strong and not feel defeated if you don’t book a job for a while. There are so many factors to the casting process so I don’t take it personally. I couldn’t survive this business if I did. There is always a new opportunity to strive for!"

The best way to spend my down time is...
"I love going to my local cafe where there’s always jazz playing and the sun shining through the windows. I’ll drink coffee for hours with a newspaper and do the crossword puzzle. If I'm feeling really lazy, I can enjoy all of the above in the comfort of my own home."

My career is my dream job, because...
"Every project is new and exciting. Being an actor is risky, honest, and invigorating. With every role there is a creative process to breathe life into the words on the page. There are intentions, circumstances, wants, needs, and truths to uncover. An actor’s job can require a lot of self-exploration and self-discovery which is very cathartic for me."

What has been the most important step you've taken that's lead you to your dream job that you have today?
"In 2010, a friend suggested I audition for the Public Theater’s prestigious Shakespeare Lab Program. I laughed in her face knowing there was no way I’d ever be able to do that. It bothered me a lot, however, that I was so paralyzed with fear that I wouldn’t even give it a shot. I decided to audition. That initial fear became motivation and I studied for weeks, reciting my soliloquies for whoever would listen. I got accepted into the program and the experience was immeasurable. Sure, I gained an adoration of Shakespeare’s language and extreme verbal dexterity. Yet, most importantly, I gained a lifelong assuredness that if I put in the work I can accomplish anything."

What's the most surprising piece of advice you would give to anyone else who's interested in pursuing a career such as yours?
"My advice would be to enjoy life and don't rush in to a serious acting career. I started very young and was already working professionally in high school. Of course, I loved it and was very determined, but I think I was too career-driven as a teenager. I think kids should have fun and explore lots of interests before choosing a career. I grew up fast and was pretty practical come to think of it. I never gave myself a wild haircut or dyed my hair purple, because I already had head shots and wanted to remain castable."

There’s a ton of typecasting in Hollywood. Have you experienced it first-hand?
"It’s very easy to get typecast in this business. Once you’ve shown you can do something well that’s all you are ever seen as... Even Reese Witherspoon had to produce her latest movie so she could break free from her 'goody goody' image, that everyone loves, to play the riskier role of an ex-junkie.

"I’m also trying to shape my career so I can be an actress with versatility and range. There are a lot of sides to me that I’d like to express! After portraying Sacajawea, a lot of similar roles have come my way. It makes sense, but I have to be careful and make the right choices. I want to play a broad range of characters and have longevity. Being multi-racial, I’ve been stuck in an 'exotic' or 'ethnically ambiguous' category in the past. The goal is to keep forging ahead and try to get roles that aren’t solely based on ethnicity. It means saying no to certain things and moving forward. Luckily, these days casting agents and audiences are way more open-minded."

Chris Gelinas jacket, Preen By Thornton Bregazzi top, Ter Et Bantine pants, and Topshop shoes.
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Sandy Liang, 23

Occupation:
Fashion designer

College major:
Fashion design

First job ever:
"Restaurant hostess."

First job that I consider a major milestone:
"All my past internships."

First thing I do every morning:
"Drink two espressos with almond milk."

The person whose career I admire most:
"My dad."

My big break moment:
"My first FW14 collection."

The biggest career hurdle I've had to face so far is...
"There are different challenges everyday and I’m still learning a lot — every day is a little hurdle!"

The best way to spend my down time is...
"Playing with my dog or reading books and magazines at McNally Jackson."

My career is my dream job because...
"I never get bored."

What has been the most important step you've taken that's lead you to the dream job that you have today?
"The most important step was deciding what I wanted. After graduating school, I thought it would be a good idea to take a few years and gain more experience at different companies before starting my own, but I decided that the timing was right and went ahead for it. I knew I was bound to make a lot of mistakes along the way, regardless of when or how I start, so why not get those mistakes over with and start learning from them as soon as possible? I’m a very impatient person, which is a bad thing most of the time, but overall it makes me go for what I want right away."

What's the most surprising piece of advice you would give to anyone else who's interested in pursuing a career such as yours?
"I wouldn’t be able to pull this off without the amazing people who help me every day. It’s hard to find people who are compatible when it’s a tiny company and you’re working closely together every day. You need good energy, good laughs, and good critics! You want to be with people who challenge you and are just as enthusiastic as you are."

You gained a lot of popularity when street style stars like Kate Foley and Soo Joo Park wore your designs. How big of a part do you think street style plays in the success of a new designer? Do you have this in mind when you create your designs?
"Having their support, in so many ways, definitely helped me gain the exposure that was such an important component to starting off. I don’t necessarily design with the intention of getting street style photos, but it always makes me happy when girls like Kate or Soo Joo — who I’ve always associated with amazing style — choose to wear my coats. I would say that social media, and the Internet in general, has certainly helped in terms of getting my brand more out there."

Sandy Liang dress, Ter Et Bantine pants, Topshop sneakers, and Cartier bracelet.
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— SPONSORED —

Jessica Joffe

Hometown:
"Munich, Germany"

Occupation:
Style editor, Diane von Furstenberg

College major:
Comparative literature

First job that I consider a major milestone:
"Working at The Paris Review as an editorial assistant after university — reading unsolicited manuscripts all day. It was a sort of a rite of passage for literary-minded kids. At the time, I had a very nostalgic and romantic view of New York, and the magazine was such a cultural bastion of the city."

The person whose career I’ve always admired most:
"Diane von Furstenberg has lived life to the hilt, has accomplished so much both professionally and personally, and has given back so much. And, she’s so joyful, so content. That’s the ticket, right? To have a life that you’re proud of."

The best part about my job:
"I get to learn so many different things and overlap different departments. And, Diane is really fun. There’s nothing rote about being there — it’s always creative, it’s always changing, it’s always solution-oriented."

The biggest career hurdle I've had to face so far is...
"I was a freelance writer for a very long time before I came on with Diane, and [as a freelancer] you’re overcoming hurdles constantly. After The Paris Review, I worked at the New York Observer. But, after three years, I felt like I’d gotten as much as I could out of it. When I quit, I was so scared. I thought, What if no one ever hires you? But, life is in many ways about taking risks, knowing that failure is inevitable to some degree, and moving beyond it."

What does your day-to-day look like on the job?
"Every day is different, and sometimes my days run into nights — especially [when we were] gearing up for Diane’s book release. I act as a cultural attaché for DVF, so I write a column on the website — I’ll write about plays to see and museums you have to go to, my picks from the store and how to style them. But, every day involves a lot of scheming, a lot of writing, some meetings, and a lot of eating; I love a free office cupcake."

What's your first memory of Diane von Furstenberg?
"I feel like I always sort of knew about her — that she was this icon of female liberation with the wrap dress, that she was this creative force in the world of design and business. But, the first time I met her was a year and a half ago when I was living in L.A. — she invited me to a lunch at her home in Beverly Hills. I don’t have a huge appetite for small talk, so I thought, I’ll come 25 minutes late, so I won’t have to do any schmoozing. Well, I walked into her house, which is amazing, and through this magical garden to get to this terrace in the back. And, Diane is with this gaggle of totally enthralled women talking about the woman she wanted to be and asking every woman what kind of woman she wanted to be, and then she pointed to me and asked, 'And, what kind of woman do you want to be?' I said, 'A woman who doesn’t get to lunches late, maybe?' I was so embarrassed! But, she came over to me, and she was so great; we talked about all sorts of stuff. After that, she would keep tabs on me every few months, asking what I was working on, and then she asked me if I would go work for her."

The DVF office is currently the subject of a new television show on E!, House of DVF. What has that experience been like?
"It’s been really interesting. We took in 10 girls, and put them in a boot-camp circuit — working through design, merchandising, sales, PR. It was so fascinating to watch them grow, but I also learned more about what was expected of me. It was like I was growing along with those girls, which was very unanticipated and a great byproduct of that. And, the way Diane handles the girls is so fantastic."

What's the most important step you've taken that's lead you to your dream job?
"Just saying yes. I have the urge to say no constantly, to save face or do things the way they’re supposed to be done. But, the picture you paint of your future is usually wrong. When this job offer came up, it was the furthest thing from I what had been doing [freelance writing] and would take me off what I thought my path looked like. But, I thought, I don’t care, I have to say yes. My mother always said to me, 'Stop trying to tame the future — it’s not wise.' That policy has served me well."


Want to learn more about Jessica and the DVF crew? Be sure to catch her (and Diane!) on House of DVF, Sundays at 10 p.m. EST on E! Advertisement
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Sarah Kunst, 28

Occupation:
"Tech M&A partner at Fortis and Venture for America investor board member."

College major:
"Advertising and international development."

First job ever:
"Strawberry farming in my 300-person hometown."

First job that I consider a major milestone:
"Apple campus representative."

First thing I do every morning:
"Check my email."

The person whose career I admire most:
"Jackie Robinson. His passion and talent pushed him to break down the color barrier in professional baseball. Looking at the lack of diversity in technology among both gender and race, I'm inspired by people like Jackie who didn't take no for an answer, who didn't stay in the role that made people comfortable at the sacrifice of his own success and calling."

My big break moment:
"My last start-up running out of money was one of my biggest breaks. Things fall apart so new things can come together, right? I decided to try something new and used my start-up expertise and relationships to land a job in venture capital. Not a common profession for Black women and one that turned out to be the love of my life."

The best way to spend my down time is...
"On the water. The Croatian coast and Hawaii are some favorite spots."

My career is my dream job because...
"I get to help the smartest people in the world build life-changing products, companies, and teams. I get paid to live in the future of where technology is going, and I can help make it more inclusive."

What has been the most important step you've taken that's lead you to your dream job that you have today?
"Reading everything. My first job out of college was doing marketing at Chanel — not a typical tech or finance start. Because I was constantly reading tech blogs, the WSJ, WWD, and world news, I knew a lot about how to work at a start-up before I ever set foot in one. Reading is free and knowledge really is power. If I want to learn a brand new topic, I just start reading — start at Wikipedia and then go to respected news sources, read a book or two by an expert in the field, follow people on Twitter, set a Google alert. There's nothing you can't become credible in if you read about it an hour a day for two months."

What's the most surprising piece of advice you would give to anyone else who's interested in pursuing a career such as yours?
"Spend time with people, not technology. My biggest wins have always come from personal connections. Meet people, help people, amuse people, challenge people, be kind to people, talk to people. Everywhere, always. Find out what they're doing and tell them what you care about. There's great power in human interaction."

Do you find that the venture capital field is one that’s a bit of a boys' club? What do you believe needs to be done to diversify the field as a whole?
"Venture capital and the tech industry have a diversity problem. Gender diversity numbers are actually getting worse, not better, at VC funds. And, the racial and gender diversity on engineering teams, start-up founding teams, and company boards is inexcusably low. More women than men graduate college. Companies and funds with women and men in leadership roles do better economically. There is no confusion about what diversity does — it makes better teams who make more money. I'm a capitalist, so I like that. I'm also a Black woman who gets asked if she's an admin by CEOs in my own portfolio, who gets sexually harassed at industry events, and who gets told she's not a 'culture fit' for start-ups that are all white males. It's deplorable and needs to change. More VCs need to stand up and say 'this ends now.' They need to stop funding companies that don't have any female leadership, they need to push back against sexist behavior in their portfolio companies, they need to insist on boards with a diversity that reflects the user base. And, it needs to start within.

"If you haven't hired a female on your deal team, go find one. If your highly paid, brilliant employees can't surface multiple, well qualified women to be investors then you need to rethink who you have working for you. Put a bounty on it: No one gets a bonus until there's a top-tier woman hired. Money motivates in this business. If you are a VC and it doesn't piss you off that your companies and your fund is leaving money on the table by not understanding or engaging most of the population, then I question your right to write checks. VCs have a duty to their investors to make money for them. If your entire world looks just like you there's no way you're maximizing that return and that's maleficence. That's short-sighted. That won't make you a billionaire and it won't pay for your Tesla."

Chris Gelinas shirt and Yigal Azrouel skirt.
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Tammy Tibbetts, 28

Occupation:
Founder and President of She’s the First

College Major:
Journalism

First job ever:
"Book shelver in my township library."

First job that I consider a major milestone:
"The director of content at Hearst Digital Media hired me to be his assistant, just a couple weeks before I graduated from college. In 2007, Hearst Digital Media was relaunching all of its magazines' websites — it was such an exciting time full of opportunities. Soon after, I got the chance to launch three new websites for the company and became the youngest web editor. My boss sponsored me. He saw I had the potential to do more than schedule his meetings and he advocated for me to be an entrepreneur, or 'intrapraneur,' as they say, within the company."

First thing I do every morning:
"I check my email and social media feeds — and then I go out for a run."

The person whose career I admire most:
"I can’t name one person here. I admire every woman, in the course of history and at the present, who had to defy gender stereotypes and even discrimination, because she was the first female to hold her position."

My big break moment:
"On November 1, 2009 when I published a YouTube video that I made with friends called 'She's the First.' It evolved into the global nonproft that today sponsors 400 girls in 10 countries and has 117 campus chapters!"

The biggest career hurdle I've had to face so far is...
"I had a dream job as social media editor at Seventeen when She's the First was starting to take off big time. I worked 40 hours a week at Seventeen and woke up at 6 a.m. and stayed up to midnight or later to work on She's the First. Those were the most exhausting days of my life thus far. I knew I couldn't keep burning the candle at both ends, and during that time I started to attract funders for the operational expenses of She's the First. I made the right decision to take the leap in May 2012, when I became our first full-time employee. The best part is, I never really left my first love, the media industry, behind. I believe I brought it along with me as an ally in this movement for girls' education."

The best way to spend my down time is...
"2014 was my year of training for the NYC Marathon, which I ran as a fundraiser for She’s the First, so I spent a lot of my 'free' time out running and taking yoga and strength-conditioning classes at the Crunch Gym.When I’m purely relaxing, what I love to do is take the book and magazines I’m reading out on a picnic blanket to Central Park which, despite everywhere I’ve traveled, is still my favorite place on Earth."

My career is my dream job because...
"There's a quote I saw on a greeting card that goes, 'Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.' She's the First is my dream job right now because it makes me come alive."

What has been the most important step you've taken that's lead you to your dream job that you have today?
"I majored in journalism, which gave me the curiosity to go out in the world and ask questions, to dig up problems and truths I wanted to expose. Once I stumbled into the topic of gender inequality in education — and the link between educating girls and alleviating poverty — that put me on the path of volunteer work that ultimately led me to the idea for She's the First."

What's the most surprising piece of advice you would give to anyone else who's interested in pursuing a career such as yours?
"Don’t focus on pursuing a career like mine — focus on pursuing your purpose. When I speak to students and young professionals, I remind them that you don’t have to work at a non-profit to change the world. You have so many resources at your disposal when you work for for-profit companies. Maybe you are destined to transition into a non-profit in a future stage of your career, but if you are working at a for-profit right now, what can you do there that would channel resources and needed skills into the causes you most care about."

How do you think public figures like Malala Yousafzai help the cause to make education a priority for young women? Who are other leaders fighting for this cause that you admire?
"What makes Malala such an effective advocate for girls’ education is that she is quick to remind everyone that there are Malalas all over the world. While she is a unique force of nature, her story is not uncommon. There are an estimated 65 million girls not in school, and countless more who are risking their lives every day to get an education.

"Every girl that She’s the First sponsors would not have the opportunity to be a student otherwise — each one embodies the drive and potential of Malala. So when you ask me who the leaders I most admire are, it’s not anyone you’ll find on Wikipedia...yet. It’s the She’s the First Scholars, all 400 of them across our 10 partner programs. See for yourself at Meet The Scholars. In particular, I think you’ll really connect with Mayra, who is an accessories entrepreneur on the rise in Guatemala."

Jenni Kayne dress, Topshop shoes, and belt is stylist's own (Versace).
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Leta Sobierajski, 26

Occupation:
Graphic designer and art director

College major:
Graphic design

First job ever:
"I worked in a ski shop selling and repairing equipment."

First job that I consider a major milestone:
"My first real graphic design job, which I landed upon graduating college. It was a small studio called HunterGatherer, where I got to work on projects ranging from branding, to animation, sculpture, and installation."

First thing I do every morning:
"Unfortunately, I grab my phone and check my email."

The person whose career I admire most:
"Maurizio Cattelan is a massive influence. His work, whether as a solo artist or through Toilet Paper, is the most impressive body of work I have come across, in which he gives his sophisticated content a tactile and youthful touch. I admire his decision to shift from the art world into the design realm — it has caused him to yield unbelievable results in his work and the change feels relevant to my own path. Each and every composition is completely unorthodox in principle and context, and because I can’t bear to look away, I feel constantly inspired to attain that same level of bold and colorful kinkiness in my own work."

My big break moment:
"I feel like everything is always an experiment, and the project I have been most proud of lately is the Odd Pears Campaign for an Australian-based sock company. This was a project I acquired based off of my already existing personal projects. When I went freelance, the majority of the projects in my portfolio were personal projects. Odd Pears was the first project to challenge me to make something that people would have to actually accept, approve, and ultimately live with."

The biggest career hurdle I've had to face so far is...
"I had to make the decision to go freelance and lose the security of a full-time job which payed consistently. Though this is an important aspect of a job, it doesn’t make or break a career and I knew that had I kept with it, It would ultimately sacrifice my freedom and spirit to do work I wasn’t excited about."

The best way to spend my down time is...
"Spending time with my partner, Wade; visiting galleries, museums, and traveling."

My career is my dream job because...
"I get to wake up and play every day. I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else."

What has been the most important step you've taken that's lead you to your dream job that you have today?
"Becoming an individual in your field requires that you build a passion that you can pour into your own projects, because people won’t hire you to do things that they haven’t seen you do before. I learned that I needed to have solid ownership over my work in order to build a reputation, and that forced me to build up my own arsenal of personal projects to leverage me once I decided to take a step on my own. I sacrificed my social life for a few years to create videos, photos, and illustrations that represented my own way of thinking, and completely rebuilt my portfolio."

What's the most surprising piece of advice you would give to anyone else who's interested in pursuing a career such as yours?
"Work hard, don’t ever be an asshole, try new things, and push yourself with personal projects. Doing these things not only helped me find my own voice, but I feel like it helped me become more passionate about what I do as a whole."

Your work tends to present quite ordinary items in ways we’ve never really seen them before. Do you have any memorable stories of when inspiration struck you?
"I’ll get my ideas when it’s the last thing I’m thinking about — taking a shower, walking to the subway, or even when in conversation! Sometimes I can’t write it down and I just need to repeat it over and over in my head until I can jot down a quick sketch. Have you heard that if you walk through a doorway you forget an idea? It’s totally true, and has happened to me countless times!

"It all began when I tried to spray paint a bouquet of flowers (which worked out quite poorly). Not wanting to waste the paint, or the productive day, I painted a few other objects and paired them with materials I already owned. I have a lot of odds and ends sitting around in my apartment, like hand-made wood blocks, rolls of tape, and candles. Because they are all so simple, it is easy to piece things together to create something more complicated than its individual parts. The inspiration behind them is merely to experiment: try, fail, and experience. It has helped me improve my skill and has given me the confidence to apply these mediums to my client-based projects."

Yigal Azrouel dress.