The life and career journey for Letitia Silas has been nothing short of extraordinary. After college, the native Californian pursued her dreams and aspirations on the East Coast without knowing a single individual and with only a little savings in the bank. However, she had ambition, drive, and a willingness to succeed no matter what.
Silas had relocated to New York to serve as a constituent liaison intern in the office of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. “While Hillary’s office was impressed with my résumé, they did not offer me the internship until I showed up in New York ready, willing, and able to volunteer (unpaid),” she says. “So, I went to New York without a bird in hand first—just hope and a wiliness to do whatever it takes.”
After interning with Clinton, Silas returned to California but was restless after being inspired by great experiences and committed professionals in New York. Motivated by the 2004 presidential election and drawn to John Kerry’s inspiring story of courage, she packed her bags and drove to Boston.
Once again, Silas didn’t know anyone there, she didn’t have a job lined up, and she didn’t know anyone who actually worked on the campaign. “I had a lot of faith,” Silas says with a laugh. “I was applying for temporary jobs, staying at a hotel, and just hanging out at the Massachusetts State House so that I could be a part of that energy. I was going to show up there every day in my suit and with my résumé until something happened.”
Before too long, she became acquainted with a professional who “walked me right over to the John Kerry campaign headquarters and told them to give me a job.” “Everybody ran up to me and said, ‘You have to meet Ayanna!’ Well, it turns out they were talking about Ayanna Pressley.”
The campaign staffers embraced Silas and assigned her to the phones. “It was at least several weeks before I actually met Ayanna,” Silas says. “She came up to me one afternoon as I was doing calls. She was amazing.” Silas soon found a mentor in Pressley, who was then Kerry’s constituency director.
Silas recalls that Pressley took her under her wing, even arranging for Silas to meet several Massachusetts elected officials. And to Silas, it is that kind of relationship that made her work with the Kerry campaign so valuable and has also inspired Silas to mentor young women. “Ayanna was impactful and made a difference in my experience on the campaign,” Silas recalls.
The campaign exposed Silas to the political and social circles in Boston, and eventually she landed a paid, full-time job as a legislative aide to a Massachusetts state representative. She was finally able to secure better living and had really landed her foot securely in the political door.
Silas created enduring connections and relationships, and her experiences developed her positive brand, built her résumé, and made her more competitive when it came to applying to law school, securing scholarships and legal internships, and eventually attorney positions.
“Basically, I worked my tail off,” Silas says with a laugh. “I was relentless in my studies, I volunteered while in law school, and I gave up one of my summers to work on a paper with a professor, which is how I was able to publish a law journal article before graduation.”
During her studies, Silas was encouraged to apply for a judicial internship with the federal district court. “At the end of the interview, I asked whether I had the job. And she said, ‘Oh yes, you had the job before you walked in the door. I just wanted to meet you in person,’” Silas recalls.
Since earning her degree, Silas has kept up her personal brand and momentum. Prior to graduation, she accepted a dream job as a labor law attorney for the National Labor Relations Board. After several years with the NLRB, she was recruited by a large law firm. While with the firm, Silas made a positive impression on one of her clients, Howard University, and was soon offered a position as in-house labor counsel for the university and its hospital.
Outside of legal work, Silas trains Howard University Law School and Business School students in personal branding and professional dress in addition to mentoring young women. Silas also started her own podcast, Beauty Not Boundaries, which highlights female diversity and topics relevant to today’s women.
According to Silas, anyone can find open doors. “But it requires showing up. It requires hard work. It requires dedication and consistency. It requires looking the part and playing the part. And it requires having a reputation and brand that people trust, rely on, and are willing to invest in,” Silas says. “When others believe in you and your vision, they want you to succeed. And, when they want you to succeed, they will make a way for you and your vision.”
Personal Brand Pro Tips from Letitia Silas
Being smart and having a great résumé are important, but you also need to look the part. People will not hear what you have to say if they cannot get past how you look, sound, or come across.
Take control of your life and your career. Don’t let anything or anyone decide for you. Be intentional and deliberate. Know when to take action and when to observe, strategize, and plan your next power move.
Be open to constructive feedback and positive recommendations. This will help improve your personal brand and lead you to better places in life and in your career.
Be reliable, trustworthy, and hardworking. Show up on time, keep your word, and always produce a polished work product. Do what others may be unwilling to do.
Identify people who support you and people who may work against you. Find supporters who will be real with you and build upon your positive brand. Keep a healthy distance from those who don’t, as they can damage your brand.
Keep it to yourself. Despite our social media culture, you don’t need to broadcast your plans, goals, and every move. When the time is right, share with others.
Do what you love so your passion and tenacity doesn’t wane. Clients can sense if you love what you do or if you are just working for the paycheck.
Share your successes. Take what you’ve learned and share it with others who are driven and working toward their own success.
Editor’s note, 3/26/20: Letitia Silas is now a partner at Fisher Phillips’ Bethesda, Maryland, office.