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Laura Schwartz
Flashback: Schwartz with Hillary Clinton.

Lucky you: You love your job and you’re “leaning in” like a champ--but it’s been a while since your last promotion, and that pesky “what’s next?” voice keeps popping up in your head.

Laura Schwartz can help you find the answer.

The Chicago-based author, motivational speaker and onetime White House director of special events (during the Clinton administration) recently delivered a new keynote speech, “Must Be Present to Win,” at a women-focused TedX conference.

We watched her talk and then followed up for more advice about how to give ourselves that crucial push forward.

PureWow: When you worked for the Clintons, what did you learn about how to make a powerful boss happy?

Laura Schwartz: Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know something as long as you can find out the answer quickly. If there was ever a moment during the course of a briefing when I didn’t have an answer, I never said, “I’m not sure.” Instead I said, “Stand by. I’ll find out.” And I did. 

PW: What exactly do you mean by “Must Be Present to Win?”

LS: We can’t afford to miss a moment--in life, with our family, in our community and at work. Being present and involved in the issues of our world can impact our collective solutions to poverty, peace and beyond. And everyday conversations and relationships are always more productive when you’re an attentive, present participant rather than a bystander. 

PW: We recently read that your IQ can temporarily drop when you’re on a device while trying to do something else. Is it hurting us to Tweet, Facebook and Instagram every experience?

LS: “Socializing” meetings and life events by posting them all over social media can either add or detract from what I call the ROE (“Return on Experience”). Ask yourself if doing so will contribute to a solution, affect others in a meaningful way or impact an industry--if so, post away! But if it’s only going to take you out of the moment, make a note and share with your followers later.

PW: What should we never do in front of colleagues?

LS: No gossip. No matter how much you want to hear the juicy news, do not stay in a gossipy conversation and listen, and don’t use gossip to try to impress others. Don’t ask about someone’s salary or age. (If you’re ever asked to guess someone’s age, lowball the number.) And don’t be a know-it-all. Ask questions instead of flaunting your own brilliance.

PW: Who are some successful women you admire? How did they get it right? 

LS: Margaret Thatcher had the will to follow through on her instincts even on the toughest of days. Rosa Parks taught us to take a stand by sitting down--by being present and visible. And Betty White shows us that kindness, wit, wisdom, talent, positivity and a mantra of giving back knows no shelf life.

PW: How can we be better public speakers?

LS: Know your material and make sure it relates to the audience at hand--people can tell whether you’re speaking with them or talking at them. Also, get out from behind the podium to eliminate physical barriers between you and your audience. 

PW: What are the easy things we can do to create upward momentum in our careers?

LS: Larry King once said, “I never learned anything while I was talking.” Listen! Also, realize and accept that while your job may be 9 to 5, your career is 24/7, so always be an ambassador for what and whom you represent. Start attending outside events with the agenda of meeting three new people each time. Follow up the next day and start expanding your contacts. You never know when you might have a career-changing conversation.

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