Being a fun, fearless and wildly successful mujer is something Michelle Herrera Mulligan knows a thing or two about. As the editor-in-chief of the newly-launched Cosmopolitan for Latinas magazine, Herrera Mulligan is charged with creating a bi-annual publication that addresses the cultural intricacies of being a U.S. Latina with every single page.
Herrera Mulligan – a proud Mexican-American who grew up in one of Chicago’s suburbs – says that now more than ever, the fierce, career-focused woman Cosmopolitan represents needs to be filtered through the Latina lense. After all, explains Herrera Mulligan, that’s the population where the next generation of the nation’s lawyers, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs and other professionals lies.
“Latinas need to be empowered by the fact that you can be wildly successful at work and have it all,” shares Herrera Mulligan. And given her prolific career (Herrera-Mulligan has worked at more than 20 publications, edited several books and even created a nationally-syndicated website celebrating Latinas), there’s no better woman from whom to receive advice. She now has what she calls her “dream job” and shares her valuable tips on how you can land yours, too.
Ask for what you want: Latinas need to be aggressive about chasing their career aspirations and reaching out to mentors who can help them achieve their goals, says Herrera Mulligan, whose inaugural issue of Cosmo for Latinas featured actress Zoe Saldana. “There is nothing wrong with asking someone whom you admire for just five minutes over coffee because you want to learn from them,” she explains.
Find a mentor: Herrera Mulligan, who admits to being “the biggest nerd in college,” suggests connecting with like-minded Latinas through a professional organizations, college alumni associations or mentorship programs like Las Comadres in order to pick the brains of career-savvy women who can offer career advice. “Many Latinas have a hard time making that leap to the next step in their career, but the support is out there,” says Herrera Mulligan. “Pursuing those helpful relationships should be a priority.”
Network with a purpose: Latinas are known for having the gift of gab – and it’s a trait that can work to your advantage, says Herrera Mulligan, who recommends heading into a networking event with the goal of meeting no less than three new people.
“You want to be casual, relax and fun but you always want to have a few talking points that can steer the conversation towards your career, your ideas and what you’re looking for,” she says. And don’t think the former Latina mag editor doesn’t take her own advice: she was chatting up an acquaintance at a birthday party when she mentioned her desire to bring more “sauce” to the publication market. That contact later referred Herrera Mulligan for the Cosmo for Latinas job and as a result, the 30-something was first in line to be interviewed for the position. “She told me I was the first person she thought of and that was directly because of our conversation,” recalls Herrera Mulligan.
Learn from failure: Failure is often an inevitable part of chasing success but there’s no doubt that it hurts. “I’ve had moments where I overplayed my hand, where I thought something was going to come through but didn’t – we all take our knocks,” says Herrera Mulligan, who is keeping tight-lipped about the Cosmo for Latina’s October issue cover girl (or guy!).
If you need to knock back a few drinks or dive into a tub of ice cream, do so, says the journalist and author, but take your mistake as an opportunity to learn about yourself. “Failure is just one step towards a better situation, so lift yourself up, write a few goals for the day and move on with confidence,” advises Herrera Mulligan.
Face your fears: Whether you want to be a celebrity makeup artist or ground-breaking scientist, achieving your goals requires serious work – and sometimes the journey can be daunting. Instead of focusing on how scary that upcoming exam is or how you’ll impress your bosses at that big board meeting, take a deep breath and focus on the passion that has propelled you this far. Even Herrera Mulligan, who now has her dream job creating cover-to-cover content for Cosmo for Latinas, says she has her own scary moments. “I’m super shy and don’t love being on TV – just like the next girl, I have a fear of looking as stupid and clumsy,” she admits. “But the way I get through it is focusing on TV as a platform to reach the women I care about.”
Be curious: Being curious is the most important quality any Latina should have, says Herrera Mulligan. “The more curious you are, the more ideas you’ll have, the more you’ll learn and the more dynamic you’ll be. It all leads up to becoming a woman who’s multi-dimensional and who can succeed regardless what’s thrown at them – the perfect employee,” explains Herrera Mulligan. And don’t think being curious comes naturally either, says the 30-something, who takes one day a week to learn about something about something new, whether it’s an emerging social network platform like Pinterest or poring over magazine articles for story ideas.