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Ava DuVernay career advice Pin It
Photo: Instagram/@ava

Ava DuVernay is an absolute force of nature. A self-taught director who once sold DVDs of her independently made films out of the trunk of her car, she’s recently made history by becoming the first African American woman to helm a $100-million-budget movie. The 2018 adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, based on the novel by Madeleine L’Engle (and adored by generations), was entrusted to DuVernay after her success with films such as Middle of Nowhere, 13th, and Selma (which was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award—making DuVernay the first African American woman to direct a Best Picture nominee).

This is all to say: She’s crushing it at work. 

Which is why a nugget of career advice DuVernay casually dropped during a panel at the Teen Vogue Summit in Los Angeles this past weekend instantly caught my attention. “Your potential boss is just hoping you’re ‘the one,’” she said, advising the crowd on how best to approach a job interview. “The one who is going to make their life easier, the one who is going to make their life better.” 

“Your potential boss is just hoping you’re ‘the one.’ The one who is going to make their life easier, the one who is going to make their life better.”

To give them this impression, she elaborated, it’s important to exude confidence. Nerves are normal (and expected), but if your potential employer senses that you’re unsure whether you’re a good fit for the job, they’ll be less likely to place their faith in you. 

As a single girl, I couldn’t help but be struck by how great this advice is for dating as well. After all, no one asks you out because they hope you’re not “the one,” right? So, if you approach a date knowing that the person sitting across from you is just as hopeful as you are that sparks will fly, it may help you to feel empowered.

DuVernay offered one additional piece of career-related advice that struck me as particularly pertinent for my generation, which seems to be full of ladder climbers with their sights set three rungs ahead. If you want something, she said, the only way to get it is to do the work. There are no shortcuts; no one is going to hand you your success. “Just do the work,” DuVernay said. She certainly is.

Looking for more career advice as the new year (and new you) approaches? Designer Philip Lim has some inspiring words as well as an ingenious trick for seeing yourself through tough times. Plus, this is how to know if you should change career paths entirely.