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Rachel Scherer is a content director and brand strategist specializing in verbal brand creation, messaging development, interpersonal communication, and thought leadership. Past clients include Showtime, FUSE, AMC Television, WE Television, The Week magazine, as well as industry-redefining tech startups like Canary, Thirty Labs, and Transfix. Enjoy her exclusive Business Heroine interview…
BH: How did you end up doing what you do? Tell us your story!
Rachel: Career paths are usually about working towards a single goal, so most people will tell you focus is key and spontaneity is a garbage way to rise up the ranks. They’re usually right, especially if you’re one of those folks who popped out of the womb all, “I’m going to be a marine biologist by the time I’m 25.” But what if you have a lot of interests or don’t know what you want to do?
That was me, and that’s why my resume gives most people a headache.
To give you an idea, I’ve been a cable-network producer on a golf course in Florida and a live-event producer at an 8,000-seat arena in Shanghai. I’ve toured the country doing improv, and led corporate communications workshops for major banks and pharmaceutical firms.
I’ve written for blogs about teen life, astrology, Hollywood monsters, and holistic living. I’ve written commercials, ads, site copy, and everything else for tech startups. I’ve worked on the brands of camera apps and massive entertainment firms.
See? Super fun, but a total recruiter nightmare.
Since I didn’t have a specific goal—other than doing things I was passionate about— most of my career has happened because I made myself available and said “yes” to the most interesting things.
At times, it’s been frustrating. I’ve watched career-focused peers sprint past me and get raises and promotions that seem almost mythic. (As a “dabbler,” I can count my in-house advancements on a hand that’s missing a few fingers.) These friends have gotten far in their chosen fields, and sometimes that’s great. Sometimes it means they’ve been stuck doing the same unfulfilling thing for years.
Ultimately, I wouldn’t change my path. I’ve never gotten a ridiculous bonus or been asked to address the shareholders, but I’ve tried on lots of fascinating roles in and around writing, producing, and coordinating, and improvising, and I’ve learned boatloads from each of them.
I’ve figured out how I work best and what I enjoy the most, and I’ve been able to marry my experience with a few key skills and talents—listening, critical thinking, strategic planning, and creative ideation—to become a content director and brand strategist.
These days, I partner with startups to discover and reimagine their verbal brand identity and messaging. It takes versatility and creativity and curiosity and the ability to look at projects and goals from all angles, and it’s incredibly validating to know that I wouldn’t have these skills or be in this field if I hadn’t tried out all the other stuff first.
BH: What is your ‘Wake Up Call for the World?’ In other words, what is most of the world asleep about that you would love to wake up?
Rachel: As I’m writing this, the country has (yet again) been turned upside down by anger, violence, and injustice. It got me thinking about how everything gets worse when we see people as nameless, faceless groups based on their race, or sexual orientation, or religion, or identity, or whatever. It’s easy to rage against a group. It’s much harder to hate a single person with a name and a face and people they care about.
Ultimately, we need to treat each other like human beings with respect and dignity, and that starts one person at a time. You can donate or volunteer for organizations like Black Lives Matter and GLAAD. You can speak out against those who marginalize others with prejudice and hate. You can actually get to know someone with a different background, a different ancestry, a different faith, a different sexual orientation or gender identity, or a different role in society. Make it about the individual, not the group.
BH: What are the biggest challenges or aspirations your clients come to you with, and what does your work make possible for them?
Rachel: Basically, I help my clients answer three big questions:
-Why are you different?
-Why are you better?
-Why should people care?
The answers are the key to knowing yourself and talking about who you are and what you do with strength and longevity and resonance. Suddenly, you’re not just mirroring or shouting down your competitors—you’re actively engaging and showing your audience how and why you’re meaningful to them.
BH: We’re curious about your breakthrough moment in business. Looking back, what created the breakthrough?
Rachel: I once interviewed for a high-level role in an internal creative team. After four meetings, I knew a few things: the work was interesting, the team was stacked with amazing mentors and colleagues, the workflow was flawed, and the workload was crushing to the point of being impossible. During one interview, I asked for an idea of daily hours and heard something like, “It’s sort of 9:30am to whenever. Some of the freelancers just make up beds under their desks ha ha ha no seriously.”
Something I know about myself is that I work until I’m completely tapped out; I don’t have a problem with the occasional all-nighter or a few weeks of long hours, but for the most part, I need a chance to recharge so I can walk back into the office at 9am the next day and continue to focus and kick ass.
When I mentioned my concerns about the massive size of the project and asked about the company’s position on work-life balance, the feedback I got ranged from, “It’s a known issue/we’re working on it,” to pain metaphors like, “It’s like when you’re at the gym and you want to throw up because you’re working out so hard, but you push through the agony and feel really good afterwards, right?”
In spite of the prestige and the paycheck (roughly a 35% raise), I turned down the job. The flood of relief gave me a pretty good sense that I’d done the right thing, and I walked away knowing that I don’t have to settle for anything less than the full package. Mutual respect, understanding, and trust are an enormous part of what I need to thrive both in and out of work. Sometimes, it takes longer to find clients and bosses and friends who tick off all the boxes, but they’re out there and they’re worth it.
BH: What words of wisdom do you have for all the emerging Business Heroines out there who are on the cusp of creating their own purpose-based business?
Rachel: Know your value and own it. I’ve worked with so many wonderful, talented, thoughtful, hard-working people who constantly underrate themselves. They get trampled by bigger, louder egos (often with less expertise), and it’s heartbreaking to watch good folks get passed over because they don’t believe in their own worth. Whether it’s at a business or an interpersonal level, it’s so important to be honest with yourself, know why you’re important, and embody it with confidence.
More From Heroine Rachel Scherer!
For more from Rachel, visit her at RachelScherer.com!