matt jill
25 Jan

A Baby…And A Blog, The Benefits of Blogging

How to keep working in television and media after having a baby? My first piece of advice: Don’t panic… life might be changing in a different direction, but it just might be okay.

The date was January 17, 2010, it was the first Golden Globes red carpet I wouldn’t be working (on account of my longtime contracted job as an entertainment reporter with an up-and-coming cable network ending the month before… and I hadn’t found myself another gig yet). It was also the day I found out I was expecting my first baby. To say the whole thing was shocking and unplanned is the biggest understatement of my life. My husband was happy. I immediately panicked.

My mind raced. If I don’t find another on camera job before this belly pops, I’ll never work in television again. You can’t interrupt momentum in the entertainment industry or else… and at that time I had serious momentum. Momentum that was now seriously interrupted.

I networked and interviewed and auditioned like only a desperate and borderline-crazy hormonal pregnant woman can. I even barged my way into an audition about 2 weeks before my due date and tried to convince the Executive Producer that I’d be up and ready to travel and work again one week after having my first baby. Thankfully he didn’t believe me and just smiled and nodded, knowing better than I. Small gigs happened for me here and there throughout my pregnancy, but no longtime contract scored.

I’ll never work again. All that hustling, hard work, long hours and working my way into the industry I’d dreamed about working in since I was a little girl… gone.

I was now going to have a baby. Back then, the whole put-a-no-name-pregnant-woman-on-tv was less accepting and common as it is now… AND, I also always felt that, once I became a mom, I’d want to be home with my babies and only work on a part-time basis.

After crying and mourning my soon-to-be-over mini-career for close to 8 months, one of my digital-savvy friends suggested I start a mom blog. Keep in mind, I barely knew how to compose a group email at the time. Writing has always been a serious love (since elementary school) but technology had never been my strong suit. (Still isn’t actually!)

I searched domain names anyway. Everything that remotely felt applicable to me, that I felt I connected to, was taken. I searched more. I typed every domain I could think of and then plunked out variations of it to make sure I hadn’t missed a domain that was available. And then it happened: was available! (As found on GoDaddy…)

In a flash of destiny I decided that ‘fab’ would stand for ‘focused after baby’ and enlisted a web designer and started writing a few days a week just before my daughter was born. Talk about throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what stuck… I learned how to navigate this brand new digital world and what it meant at the time to be a ‘blogger’ along the way. I made BIG mistakes that, looking back at now, I still can’t believe I made and am embarrassed about. During my baby’s two naps per day (during her first year), I’d sit down at my computer and write, click, read and educate myself about the digital world. I joined Twitter. I started posting on Facebook. I researched resources and sent random emails to popular influential bloggers and digital video organizations asking if I could pick their brain and/or write guest posts for them. I’d like to say I became a whiz, but I’m still learning.

Starting my blog got me thinking, kept me creative and has proven to have built something that kept me relevant in the media world so that I can continue to do what I love… The key was jumping in and figuring it all out later. If you start it, you can build it. But you have to bungee first.

Am I making a ton of money? Nope. Could I pay for all things food and mortgage and wholly support my family with what I’m earning now? No way -- but that’s pretty typical for the average on camera talent working in showbiz, whether you’re an actress or reporter or host. The near-unbelievable circumstance of my mom blog being the thing that scored me repeat gigs on the TODAY Show? Well, that’s just the Universe rubbing irony in my face. Despite my panic about pregnancy ending my career, I’m still plugging along and working in television and media… and also thankfully able to be home with my kids and all.

Start a blog. It just might change your life. It kept my dream career going!

I will be joining the "Benefits of Blogging" panel at MomFair LIVE! on January 31 with the editors of Babble and Modern Mom (I am a contributor with both sites) and Sharzad Kiadeh, mom vlogger and personality.

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23 Jan

Meet Comedy Writers and TV Stars Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair of Playing House

Two years ago I was invited to visit the set of USA's Playing House, a new sitcom by real life best friends and (at the time) new moms, Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham. Already of fan from watching their previous incredibly funny show, Best Friends, I was eager to see what it was all about. We went backstage in Maggie's house and at Rosie's, the bar they frequent on the show and got watch them shoot the "Spaghetti and Meatballs" episode. Up close and personal with Keegan-Michael Key and the guys as they enacted a "full monty" segment was hilarious! Afterwards, the ladies met with all of moms on the tour and chatted with us about the show. These ladies are so real both on tv and off that when you bump into them at the grocery store (like I did recently) I just walked on up and gave Jessica a hug and said "nice to see ya."

In PLAYING HOUSE, when pregnant Maggie discovers her husband cheating, her BFF Emma gives up her career to help Maggie raise the baby. Now the lifelong friends must navigate their biggest and most hilarious adventure yet, in the best way they know how - together. - USA Networks

What I love about the show is the chemistry between Maggie and Emma....and the laughter!  These women are craazy!  Plus the casting and writing are superb! Keegan Michael-Key, the hot cop, as Emma (Jessica St. Clair's) ex , Zach Woods (also on Silicon Valley) as Maggie's quirky brother and Jane Kaczmarek as Emma's mom. You can binge watch the first two season on USA!

What's so relevant about these two women and their show is that, well, they are two women, two FUNNY women who write comedy for television, on their own show which they developed, produce and star in.  Plus its a show about female friendship and motherhood and it has a largely female fan base. Which in Hollywood is pretty rare. They are part of the ranks of writers like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kourtney Kang (How I Met Your Mother and Fresh off the Boat), Liz Tucillo (Sex and the City and Smash) and Dawn Dekeyser (Samantha Who). These women whose names we may not know, by and large, influence the media we consume.

And the media we consume influences the way we see ourselves and our careers. A few years back Geena Davis launched the Geena Davis Institute because she realized the media she and her daughters were consuming were not accurately reflecting the roles of women in contemporary society. The statistics on what Geena and her team discovered are staggering. The media our children consume affects the way they see their future roles, and the way young boys see women's future roles.

But our children aren't the only ones affected by the media we consume. There are not enough women in leadership roles in TV and film both on and off camera. How the world see's women on the screen affects they way we view our abilities in the real world.

"Females are also underrepresented behind the camera. Across 1,565 content creators, only 7% of directors, 13% of writers, and 20% of producers are female. This translates to 4.8 males working behind-the-scenes to every one female." - Geena Davis Institute

Jessica and Lennon are two women in Hollywood who are making a difference to change these statistics. So we invited Madeline di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute to chat with them about their show, their careers and their friendship. Join us at 4:30 on Sunday, January 31 at MomFair as we cap our incredible day of empowerment with a really cool (and fun) discussion! Playing House just announced their 3rd Season and its starting soon. I for one can't wait #Girlfriends. Get tickets to MomFair online.

*To read the full reports from the Geena Davis Institute CLICK HERE. MomFair is a supporter of GDIGM and their efforts to improve the quality of film and television for future generations of girls and women.

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12 Jan

Your Personal Brand Needs Polish and a Headshot

Digital and social media are driving today's online conversations and your social media profiles and websites are the first place anyone interested in doing business with you is going to look. Your social media profiles and website answer questions about who you are, what you offer and the style in which you do it. Your digital footprint and personal brand need to be polished and professional.

"The social media skills gap at work widens. With the explosion of workplace social networks like Slack (which recently saw more than 1 million users logged in at the same time) and the imminent launch of Facebook at Work, using social media in the office has gone from taboo to requirement. Businesses are incorporating social tools to streamline internal communications, to help sales staff reach customers, and, of course, for marketing and advertising. The problem is that front-line employees aren’t up to the challenge. Among 2,100 companies surveyed by Harvard Business Review, just 12 percent of those using social media feel they use it effectively. Even millennials brought up on social media are falling short: “Because somebody grows up being a social media native, it doesn’t make them an expert in using social media at work,” explains William Ward, professor of social media at Syracuse University." - Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite (Read the rest on Linked in)

When you've been out of the workforce for a while. the first place most people fall short are their social media skills. Luckily there are resources out there like General Assembly where you can take onsite and online classes and workshops to hone your skills or learn new ones. They teach classes like "A beginner's Guide to Email Marketing", "How to Succeed at Being a Digital Nomad" and "Instagram Marketing Workshop".  You can enroll in their full time programs as well and learn to code, do graphic design, build websites and become a digital media expert. In fact, General assembly will be hosting a "Creating Your Digital Footprint Skillshop" during MomFair LIVE!

Linked in is usually the first stop for anyone updating their career focused online presence. I've spent countless hours on Linked in looking at countless profiles and I can quickly tell you what makes great profile. A great profile starts with a great headshot. Headshots do not need to be expensive. You can find affordable resources in your city. We regularly partner with The Headshot Truck in Los Angeles (soon to be coming to a city near you) to bring their talented team to our events and make getting a headshot accessible and affordable. At MomFair LIVE! they will be shooting head shots all day at our event. You can purchase your headshot for $25 for one or $50 for three  when you download them from their website.

A professional header is a necessity. You can simply list you current job title or list the three skills you want to be recognized for. This is followed by a concise summary of your work history positioning yourself in that summary for the type of work you want to do or are currently doing (if you are self employed).  Listing your past employment should be brief. Many people just put dates, titles, and a link to the company they worked for. This is great for someone not actively looking for work. If you are actively looking you need to list the top 3-5 things you implemented, spearheaded or succeed with at that position.

Sam Ettus Linked in Example

If Linked in seems a little challenging for you, not to worry. You do not have to go it alone. We are hosting a "Winning Resumes Skillshop" at MomFair LIVE! with recruiter Barbara Ballard and digital media expert Christina Diener to help you craft the best profile and resume. Yes resume. Once you've tackled Linked in a basic resume you can adjust for every job you apply to is a must. The same principles for Linked in apply - eye catching header title, professional summary, highlight your skills and I always recommend adding your headshot and links to your digital footprint - send them to your Linked in page.

Many people are now creating personal websites just to showcase your personal brand and control how people are viewing your profile. This also gives you the opportunity to link to your other social media profiles...but only if the are work appropriate. If you are self employed or own a company, a personal website is not necessary as you will have an About or Team page on your business site. It very easy to set-up an affordable, simple website. The folks at Wix have created a template system that makes it easy for your to build a great looking digital presence in minutes. Hear from Vivian Hernandez of Wix at MomFair LIVE! as she hosts our "Wix Website Skillshop."

With the boom of social media for work in 2016 its going to become a necessity to know at least the basics. We will continue to bring you resources to advance your skills and put your best digital self forward.


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01 Jan

Start the New Year with Intention

As we embark on the New Year, we are all taking stock of the previous year and thinking about plans for the coming year. For many of us, our careers and balancing our home life are top of mind. The holidays are wrapping up and the kids are going back to school, now its time to think about Mom. What does mom want or need?

The first thing you should do is think about your passion. What do you love to do? There's something about motherhood that makes us want meaningful work, now more than ever. Perhaps its that our job as a mother is so meaningful, or because we've spent time volunteering at our children's school or in the community and its been a rewarding experience. Maybe we're just older and wiser and unwilling to compromise on company culture and our daily activities. Whatever your reason, meaningful work should be your first priority.

Think back to the jobs you loved prior to having children or in your past career. . What was it about those jobs that fulfilled you?  What made you smile as you drove to work? Put those items at the top of your list. Now as you start to explore all the options for yourself and the career ahead of you, keep those items in a note somewhere that you can refer to. We can't always land a job that fulfills all of our requirements but we can at least strive for some.

"I loved being my own boss"

"I loved running a team"

"I loved the flexibility of my hours"

"I loved being creative"

"I loved the structure of my last job"

Whatever those things were that made your favorite jobs your favorites, always keep that in mind. The next thing to do is assess your skills. Everyone feels more successful and purposeful in their work when utilizing their skills. Some of the items on your list above might even be skills.

"I am a natural leader"

"I am a great writer"

"I am a great time manager"

"I am highly productive in short windows of time."

"I am a good communicator."

Now think about industries or businesses that you love. Where do you want to work? What kind of a company do you want to create? Envisioning yourself in those environments, while meeting your list of career requirements and utilizing your skills will help you find or create meaningful work in the coming year. Don't sell yourself short. Do what you love. And find your passion.

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