Mary Zubritsky’s Story
Mary always dreamed of being a writer, living in New York City and working in the fashion industry—specifically for Cosmopolitan Magazine. After college, Mary decided to chase her dreams. She packed her suitcase, accepted her father’s $400 emergency cash fund and was dropped off at Baltimore City’s Greyhound Bus Station with a one-way ticket to NYC.
Arriving in NYC without a plan
I arrived in New York City on a sweltering June morning without a place to live, friends or a job. I literally drug my suitcases around Times Square, popped into random restaurants and begged for a waitressing gig. Doors slammed in my face and I constantly heard “No.” Restaurants in NYC require “previous New York City waitressing experience” and The Cheescake Factory in D.C. didn’t quite cut it.
Sweaty but definitely not defeated
Frustrated, but never defeated, at sundown I hopped in a cab and went over to the living quarters I found in the Village Voice. It was a $400 per week, hostel-style living space in the West Village. I figured I could make it work until I had enough money—or a roommate—to get a legit apartment. But, it was booked solid and I couldn’t make a reservation on my brick Cingular wireless cellphone ahead of time. I couldn’t believe it…I called my dad and cried. He had a plan, called my cousin in Northen New Jersey and asked her if she’d give me a place to crash while I job hunt. For the next five weeks, I slept on a kid’s daybed in my cousin’s spider-infested basement and commuted back and forth from her house to my new waitressing job in Hoboken. It was awesome!
Following September 11, 2001
Sadly, I lost my waitressing job after 9/11, but not my spirit…I perservered. Within a few weeks, I scored a job at the hottest new restaurant in NYC—Blue Fin at the W Hotel. It was a total celebrity hangout and I waited on everyone from Puff Daddy to Brandy, and Beyoncé to Jessica Simpson. And then, it happened—I waited on a table full of Cosmopolitan Magazine editors who were there during New York Fashion Week. Although I knew that I could’ve gotten fired from Blue Fin, I begged the editors to take a chance on a girl who quit her easy life in D.C. to become a writer in NYC.
Cosmopolitan Magazine Internship
Cosmopolitan took a chance on me and gave me an unpaid “Fashion Accessories Internship” where I worked with the Fashion Director assisting with product tracking requests, page layouts, reviews and photo shoots. It was an absolute dream come true. I have landed an opportunity in New York’s Fashion Industry!
First for Women Magazine
After my Cosmopolitan Internship, I was offered a job as an Editorial Assistant in First For Women Magazine’s beauty department. My salary couldn’t pay my rent so I continued to wait tables every weekend for four years. I was introduced to the glam “Devil Wears Prada” world, but my boss and coworkers were really nice! I was living in the fast lane, basically on pennies, but I got to attend and cover lounge and club openings, new product launches and awards ceremonies—with celebrities! It was a dream come true.
Building experience and a resume
I continued to change companies to get greater experience and make a name for myself. I worked in Beauty Public Relations—where I had the honor to work with amazing clients such as John Frieda, Bobbi Brown, and New York Fashion Week. Twice a year, I freelanced for the Zagat Survey, where I wrote reviews about NYC hotspots.
I worked for Macy’s Home Store as an Advertising Copywriter and wrote about events like Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to help elevate the store’s brand.
Victoria’s Secret hired me as their sole Marketing Copywriter where I mastered the art of making everyone and everything sound SEXY, while continuing to learn from the best in the business.
Saks Fifth Avenue recruited me to be an on-staff scribe. (And most likely their best customer since I spent most of my paycheck shopping after work.)
Two years ago, and after 14 years in NYC, I came back to Washington, D.C. to be closer to my family. Currently, I’m a Digital Copywriter and Content Editor for Capital One. Going from fashion and beauty to finance has been a little bit of a challenge, but I’ve made it work. I feel like I’ve gotten an Ivy League MBA from Capital One…I’ve learned that much!
6 Tips For Turning Your Passion Into Your Career
- Have a goal in mind. Even if you have no idea know how you are going to achieve it, believe in yourself, don’t listen to naysayers, be committed to your goal and visualize accomplishing it.
- Take chances and opportunities as they arise. You will continue to gain experience and learn new things. Don’t be afraid! It’s so rewarding to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.
- Work hard, be adaptable and always be present (both physically and mentally). Passion is extremely important, but not enough. You’ve got to really want something so always strive for excellence.
- You are going to hear “No” more than “Yes.” You can’t let this discourage or dissuade you from brushing off your shoulder and moving forward. Eventually it’ll work out the best way possible for you. You might not snag your first or second choice, but the third choice just might be the one you were meant to get all along. Give it your best shot, stay proactive and remain positive. Life is a learning experience and once you stop learning…it’s almost like a part of you dies inside.
- Don’t let anyone talk you out of your idea. And don’t worry about what other people think. There’s nothing wrong with going against society’s standards and expectations. That’s what makes you uniquely YOU!
- Make friends and build your network, but please be professional. Don’t turn your coworkers into your besties or personal therapists. Easier said than done, but once you get roped into all the office gossip and cliques, you can get yourself in trouble and become the victim of backstabbing. Be cordial, be fair, pleasant and helpful…it’ll ensure you get ahead.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“You dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Professional workplaces are getting more casual, but if you want to stand out and make an impression, a sleek, tailored ensemble will take you a lot further than leggings, a hoodie and scuffed shoes. First impressions make lasting ones.
Mary, thank you so much for spending time with me today and for the great advice you are sharing. Thank you also for helping me step out of my comfort zone and work toward my passion of providing REAL and AUTHENTIC career advice for women. Your support means the world to me.
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