My Mission- To Empower Women in Business

Hi, I’m Sophie!

When I graduated from the University of Miami in 2013, I thought I wanted to go to medical school. Through a series of events, I ended up working at a startup clean-energy company and then a small-business consulting company. This was how I discovered my true passion lay in empowering women in business. 

Me in 2013, reppin’ the U.

In 2017, I set two new goals for myself. 

One: Obtain a Masters in Accounting, so I could learn more about business to change the current “norms,” and

Two: Start a personal finance and career-focused blog as a way to immediately share digestible, how-to knowledge with friends and family.

Which “current norms” in business did I want to change? Let me throw some facts at you. Did you know:

  • Men hold 62% of manager-level positions, while women hold just 38% (Source: Women in the Workplace). 
  • Women earn 82 cents for every $1 earned by white men (Source: Center for American Progress). 
  • And the statistics related to Black women and women of color are even more staggering. For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 58 Black women were promoted. (Source: Women in the Workplace).

My mission is to effect change from both the inside and out.

My “Inside” Job: Currently, I work at Grant Thornton, a large public accounting firm, as an audit senior associate. My role has evolved from creating spreadsheets to managing teams, projects, and clients. My favorite part of the job is the ability to shape careers and inspire others through recruiting and teaching. 

I have worked very hard to strive to be at the top of my performance and have been taught by some amazing female coaches. By my third year, I knew I stood out from the crowd. I was chosen to sit on a local and national council to help shape the firm’s culture and help our people grow. I take these roles very seriously and use my privilege to do everything I can to address the challenges that women face in the business world. I am grateful for this opportunity!

My Outside Mission: Although I have achieved a great reputation at work, I consider my biggest personal success to be this blog. Sophie Explains has been my passion project since 2017. I have been able to express my enthusiasm for empowering women in a tangible and real way. My dream goal is to grow this blog into a community of women that support and encourage each other to follow their dreams through smart, attainable steps. 

As many of you may already know, I absolutely love Japanese culture. I recently learned the Japanese word “ikigai,” which means life-purpose. I truly believe my ikigai is to help women achieve their personal and professional goals!

Me in Kyoto, Japan in 2017

How can I help you?

If you are…

  • Considering a career change (such as medicine to business)
  • Looking for ways to improve your finances (through budgeting or starting a side-hustle)
  • Aiming for a promotion within the next year (and need guidance on how to set yourself up for success)
  • Stuck or frustrated with your current career path (and want to talk with someone who has overcome this struggle)
  • Applying for jobs in accounting (such as audit)

Let me know!

The fastest way to reach me is through a private message on Instagram (@sophieexplains). Send me your questions or concerns, and I’ll help however I can. Whether it’s giving you advice from my own experience or referring you to a helpful resource, I got you!

Thanks so much, and I hope to hear from you soon!!

-Sophie

How I Found a Job!

When my first post-college job moved their headquarters from Miami Beach to Amherst, Massachusetts, I decided to move along with it, even though I knew the move was temporary. I wanted to gain new job experience and live in a new place. After nine months of living in Massachusetts, I started to put feelers out for new job opportunities back in South Florida. This blog post is an abridged version of my job-hunting process and how I found my second post-college job! 

A little background. My approach to job-hunting stemmed from what I learned in the book, “What Color is your Parachute?”. A new version of this book comes out yearly; I read the 2015 edition. The biggest lesson I learned from this book is to connect your skills and passions to a job-opportunity. Don’t be afraid to research thoroughly and reach out to companies, even if they are not currently hiring. If you do this, it shows the company that you have a special interest in them! Instead of stating that you are a ‘go-getter’ in your resume, this is a tangible way to show an employer that you know how to take initiative.lisa-fotios-9SnCcsIchOQ-unsplash

Here is the step-by-step approach that landed me a small-business consulting job.

  1. First, I identified my skills and passions:
    • My first job out of college was as a customer service representative at a start-up clean-energy company. Due to the start-up nature, I was able to rise through the ranks to Director of Operations within just one year. I knew after this experience that I was passionate about business operations, and I had a skill for helping make business processes more efficient. Skills and passions- check!
  2. Second, I narrowed down my job search to my ideal careers:
    • Specifically, I wanted to work for a small-business consulting company. I wanted the company to be less than 50 people and to be based in South Florida. I wanted the opportunity to learn and develop quickly. These factors helped narrow down the search.
  3. Third, I utilized the LinkedIn search function:
    • LinkedIn has a great, detailed search function where you can narrow down companies by location, services, number of employees, etc. Even more search capabilities are unlocked if you upgrade your LinkedIn account. When I searched in 2015, I did not upgrade the search function, but it may be helpful to do so now! Using the tool, I compiled a list of 25 ‘ideal’ companies.
  4. Fourth, I created a Google Spreadsheet to track my progress:
    • On a spreadsheet I listed the 25 companies, their websites, phone numbers, key emails, and other notes I found during my research. I located the emails from the company website or from LinkedIn. I also created columns for “First Contact Date,” “Follow-up Date,” and “Company’s Response,” so I could keep track of progress. It’s definitely important to stay organized while applying for jobs, as the process can require multiple follow-ups before any response.
  5. Fifth, I cold-called each company via email and phone:
    • I first sent a targeted email (See the email template below!) with my resume, in PDF format, attached, then within the hour I called to see if they received my email and if they had any questions, or if I should forward the email on to another employee.
    • These were the initial responses I received:
      1. 18 out of 25 companies- No response via email or phone. I followed up with these companies a week later, and got a few more responses then! The tracker from Step #4 was useful here.
      2. 4 out of 25 companies – Upon phone call, the company clearly stated they were not hiring and asked me not to email or call again. One was quite rude, but that was a good sign I did not want to work for that company!
      3. 3 out of 25 companies – Responded positively, but stated they had no current openings. Here is one of their responses: “I wanted to acknowledge receipt of your resume and let you know that at the present moment we don’t have any opportunities I can share with you.  Rest assured that I will keep your information and should we come across any positions we will contact you.” I marked these emails for follow up in my calendar for a month later.
    • Remember, I reached out to companies even if they were not currently hiring! These responses are to be expected. This can be an exhausting process, but you can do it!
  6. Finally, get an interview!
    • One of the three companies that had initially responded saying they appreciated the email but had no opportunities, actually emailed me back two weeks later asking to set up an interview. After seeing my email they started thinking about how I could be an asset to the current team and re-evaluated their initial response. I ended up getting the job and worked for that amazing company for almost two years before I went back to school for accounting! 

I know there are a million ways to find a new job, and above is just one idea. This method may also become trickier when the company is bigger. I understand that many large companies are more formal and rigid in their hiring processes and may not be as open to cold-calls (or emails). Despite the limitations, I still think Steps #1 and 2 are invaluable for everyone. Being able to link your passions and skills with a job-opportunity is a great way to find an amazing life-long career!

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To give you a few other job-hunting ideas: concurrently with Steps #1-5, I also did the following to expand my search:

    • I used my college’s career portal to make another list of companies that were  currently hiring and sent in my applications. This is how I found my first job out of college! It’s important to use all resources at your disposal, and college career centers are a great resource.
    • I reached out to family and friends with my resume and the type of job I was looking for. I emailed uncles, teachers, third-cousins, literally nothing was off-limits! Just be sure to be extra, extra respectful and grateful if they offer to help on your behalf. Connections are your biggest asset when it comes to job-hunting, but I want to empower you to not see a lack of connections as a setback to finding the perfect job for you.  
    • One thing I did not get a chance to do, but I will definitely do in the future, is informational interviews. Use LinkedIn to see if you have a connection with someone at a company in a field you are interested in. Maybe they went to the same school as you or grew up in the same hometown. Reach out to them and ask if they would be willing to chat with you about their job and come prepared to the meeting or phone-call with thoughtful questions showing that you took time to learn about them and their industry. This may not lead to a job opportunity directly, but it will help you decide if that industry is for you!

My hope is that this post may inspire or help someone who is currently looking for a career change or trying to find a new job due to COVID. If you try this method and it works, please let me know so I can share any tips or tricks you found as well!  I am also happy to talk one-on-one if you have any specific job-hunting or resume questions as well! Please feel free to reach out to me on social media (Facebook or Instagram). 

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See below for the email template I used in Step #5. It works best if you tailor as closely as possible to the person and company, but I hope it gives you an idea of where to start!

Example Cold-Call Email Template

Dear [THEIR NAME],

I firmly believe that I would be an asset to your consulting firm because of my experience successfully working my way through a number of jobs at a start-up company to become Director of Operations.  I have a strong passion for operations improvement, superior customer service, managing change, and motivating staff. Consulting combines these passions with the added excitement of travel and meeting new people, which I love. 

[COMPANY NAME] is also passionate about transforming companies and organizations to produce better results through leadership and culture development, talent acquisition and more. A quick phone call would help convince you that I could be a very valuable addition to your consulting firm. Attached is my resume.

Thank you in advance for your time.

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME]

[Also attach your PDF resume!]

Side Note: I am currently working at my third post-college job (public accounting), and I love it! I am not personally looking for a job right now. I would love to share more about accounting as a career in future posts. Stay tuned!

Ready for Success: Starting a New Job

Starting January 2nd, I will begin my new job as an auditor for a large public accounting firm in Miami. Yay!

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Most people assume I will be crunching numbers at my new job, but I will actually be doing investigative-type work. As an auditor, I work directly at client offices and spend weeks or months learning everything about their industry, the organization, and their daily processes. My main goal is to make sure their financials are free from errors so that investors can rely on them, but another part of public auditing is understanding if a company runs efficiently and if not, how to make this happen. Being an auditor is a great way to get a larger understanding of the business world because our clients range from financial entities to hospitals to non-profits, even companies like Disney are audited!

To stay on track with my long-term goals regarding work, I want to make sure I am in the best position to get a head start at my new job. Whether you are beginning a new job soon or not, I hope this list helps you consider some aspects of setting goals you hadn’t considered before!

Before Starting

  • Ask questions ahead of time:
    • From what to wear to what to bring (documents, laptop, etc.), asking questions beforehand can be helpful in making sure you show up ready to get to work. If you forget your laptop at home or didn’t get the dress code memo, you could be distracted from important first-day meetings and run the risk of continuing a negative cycle of giving the impression you are not prepared.
    • Email HR or your future boss to give them a heads-up before your first day if you already have a trip planned in the first few months on the job. Many people plan events in advance, and sometimes this overlaps with starting a new job. As long as you give your boss a heads-up they should be understanding. On the other hand, if you wait until the week before starting your job to tell them, it may reflect poorly on you work-ethic because it seems as if you are a last-minute planner and do not have high regards for your work schedule.
    • For the overachievers: Ask HR for material to read before your first day. This may span from benefit plans to employee handbooks, and will help you get an overall understanding of the basics of your job and allow you to ask the more important clarifying questions in person on the first day.
  • Do your research:
    • Do you have a friend who works (or has worked) at the company? Send them a short email with a few specific questions about the day-to-day lifestyle, the organization’s culture, and names of staff members that you should know. Stay away from vague questions like, “What should I know about Company X?”, “Any advice for a newbie?”, etc. Vague questions turn into vague answers and also make it seem like you are not fully invested.
    • If you work for a big company, you can often find important information online. News articles will give you a bigger picture of the company’s strategy regarding improving stock prices, future mergers, and new CEOs. Online forums can give you an idea of the day-to-day lifestyle from employees. Be sure to take those comments with a grain of salt, though! It is common for disgruntled employees to write negative reviews even when their experiences are very unique!

Your First Day

  • Get there early:
    • To make a great impression on your first day, be sure to get there at least 15 minutes early. Google Maps can help you estimate traffic beforehand, but if you live in a busy city like LA or Miami, be sure to give yourself even more time for those too-common car accidents that can turn highways to parking lots. If you are commuting via public transportation, be aware of any construction delays and plan an option B in case the trains are stopped. Maybe even consider a less convenient or more expensive commute option on the first day just to make sure you get there early!
  • Dress to impress:
    • Be sure to wear your best-fitting, most professional outfit on the first day. Anything too tight or too baggy will make you stand out (in a negative way) or make you look younger and less experienced than you are. Be aware of the dress code as well. If you have any doubt, it is better to dress up than dress down!
  • Make friends:
    • Plan to go to lunch with coworkers on the first day, or bring a lunch to eat in the kitchen if that is part of the office culture. Take advantage of this time to form friendships, especially if there are a lot of new people starting on the first day. Making friends, whether with other new employees or friendly experienced employees your age, will help you later on when you have simple questions you do not want to ask your boss.
  • Prepare an elevator pitch:
    • Plan a brief introduction about yourself and how you fit into the company for other employees and people you meet on your first day.
  • Take notes:
    • Carry around a notebook to write down and remember all of the new names and small, but important, details like your new computer login information. You should also write down any questions you plan on asking your boss or the HR.
  • Stay positive:
    • Smiling, listening, and paying attention will help show that you are excited to be there and ready to learn.
  • Act confident:
    • Even if you are feeling nervous, which is completely normal, remember that you worked hard to get to this point and that you deserve the new position! It is expected that you will make mistakes as a new employee, so be sure to take criticisms gracefully and learn from them for the future.

Your First Week

  • Absorb the culture:
    • An organization’s culture cannot be learned from any employee handbook. Be sure to listen and pay attention during your first few weeks on a new job to see how your managers present themselves and interact with clients and other employees.
    • Do employees communicate via messenger, calling, or face-to-face? Are there sports teams or volunteer organizations to join? Do employees often go out to happy hour? Be on the look-out to see how you can get involved and stand out.
  • Know the goals:
    • What are your goals in regards to your job description, and just as important, what are the company’s goals? Knowing the company’s mission and organizational goals will help you align yourself quickly and meet expectations quicker.
    • Sometimes jobs start off slow. Be patient and use your time wisely. You may reread the HR materials or do background research on tasks you will soon be assigned. This will help you do your best work when it is finally assigned.
    • On the other hand, if you seem to finish all your work at once, ask your manager what you should be completing in your first week, month, and quarter. Understand their expectations of you in order to stay on track or ahead.
    • Try to figure out the biggest priorities or challenges of your new team so you may organize your work accordingly. Be on the look-out for solutions to these challenges, but be cautious about making new suggestions your first week or you may come across as critical of the work culture.
  • Learn how you will be evaluated
    • Will you have performance meetings quarterly or yearly? Do these align with raises or promotions? What criteria will be tested? Will you have to complete a personal evaluation? Being prepared and understanding these possibilities will make you a stronger candidate for promotions in the long-run.

A new year and a new job, let’s work towards achieving our goals together! Please connect with Sophie Explains on Facebook and feel free to send any questions or comments via the Contact Page. Thank you for your support, and have a Happy New Year!!