Alumna, Lindsay McFarlane, starts business to empower women
October 10, 2017
After graduating from the College of Media in 2009, Lindsay Abeles McFarlane has strived to become the ultimate “working girl” of her class.
After nine internships throughout her college career, countless fashion shows and photo shoots, McFarlane secured her dream job of assistant public relations manager at Neiman Marcus for six years.
However, McFarlane’s dreams didn’t stop there. In 2014, she launched Working Girl Inc., a business that helps women find internships and jobs across a broad array of industries including fashion, public relations, event planning, advertising, business and more.
Not only does McFarlane own one business, but this year she co-founded her own public relations firm, Touch Communications, which currently has one branch called Touch Chicago.
The Daily Illini sat down with McFarlane to talk about her experiences teaching women what it means to be a “working girl” and reach their professional career goals.
The Daily Illini: What inspired you to start your own company Working Girl Inc.?
Lindsay Abeles McFarlane: I was always the girl everyone came to for assistance with jobs, career advice, networking, etc. After my wedding and all the planning was over, Working Girl Inc. was the new project and has been a passion of mine ever since late 2013.
DI: What services does Working Girl Inc. provide for girls?
LAM: Anything and everything career oriented. (Resumes), cover letters, interview assistance, contract assistance, placement assistance, networking, contacts to the head of companies and HR departments and so much more. I want to be the person that a girl leans (on) for career help; a mentor or big sister.
DI: What inspired you to start your own PR firm, Touch Communications?
LAM: I was approached by my partner this spring and we went into business together to launch Touch Chicago.
DI: What advice do you have for students trying to pursue a career in tough industries like fashion and for students starting their own businesses?
LAM: I would definitely start a steady career and then start a business. I worked at Neiman Marcus simultaneously while launching Working Girl and successfully running it while working that full-time job. While launching my business, a paycheck was still coming in. Launching a business has many expenses — most expected, but some definitely unexpected.
DI: What advice do you have for women in the workplace?
LAM: Don’t be afraid to be a woman; have a personality and smile. Always stay professional, but we are women, after all; we need to be proud.
DI: What did you learn over the course of your nine internships?
LAM: I learned so many lessons. I learned how to dress for different industries and different meetings, situations. I learned to remain professional no matter what. When you’re working, you’re working. Put the phone away and focus 110 percent. I could go on and on all day.
DI: What advice do you have for students regarding internships?
LAM: Internships, to me, are as important as the classroom. I hate to say it, but sometimes I feel as though my most valuable experiences and advice came from my internships and not from the classroom. Internships are non-negotiable.
DI: How can students start working toward their career goals while still in college?
LAM: Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try anything. I interned for up-and-coming internet fashion start-ups while in Champaign and also was constantly on the job search for summer and after graduation while in school. There is a lot of downtime in school, so take advantage. Take courses that may help your career advancement such as photography, coding, Photoshop (and) marketing.
DI: What makes a good and unique resume?
LAM: Something that stands out but is not too flashy. No errors. Ever. Very strong action verbs and (content that is) well organized and easy to read. Good flow is important.
DI: What interview tips do you have?
LAM: Watch what you’re wearing; make sure you’re catering to your audience and industry. Do your homework. Research the company, its history, its competitors, news in the industry and most importantly the history and career of who is interviewing you.
DI: What’s the coolest experience you’ve had from your experience in the fashion and PR industry?
LAM: The best experiences have been the events I have run from start to finish, the charities I have been honored to work with and all the designers I have been able to meet. It has been a whirlwind but I wouldn’t change a thing.
DI: How did your experiences at the University help get you to where you are today?
LAM: I wouldn’t be where I am today without my degree, the resume builders from AAF, sorority life and working hard.
DI: What is your favorite memory from your time at the University?
LAM: My favorite memory from Illinois has to be when I met my now husband in KAM’s of all places. It will always hold a special place in my heart.