The New C-Suite Gives Good Advice: Let Autumn Adeigbo Talk You Through Scary Career Hurdles

The New C-Suite Gives Good Advice: Let Autumn Adeigbo Talk You Through Scary Career Hurdles

Autumn Adeigbo knows all about how tough—and exhilarating—it is to bet on yourself. The fashion designer has had a whirlwind career: She interned for Betsey Johnson in college, worked with Jennifer Lopez‘s stylist (you know, the one who made that green Versace dress moment happen), and now she’s the CEO of her eponymous fashion line—Autumn Adeigbo clothes and accessories can be found at Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and Bergdorf Goodman. Not impressed by those bona fides? Okay, then get this: She was also the first *ever* Black woman to raise $1 million in venture capital funding.

And today she’s answering all of your burning career questions for The New C-Suite Gives Good Advice column. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the New C-Suite, it’s a program Cosmo launched in partnership with digitalundivided to spotlight the women of color who are making major waves in corporate America.

Autumn’s road to the top has required a good deal of self-advocating, resilience, and straight-up hustle, and any setbacks have only reinforced her drive. Read on for insights on how to elevate your own job journey and stay sane in the process.

Are you maintaining a healthy work-life balance these days? And if yes, how?

No, lol. But I believe there are seasons in life, and now is the season for me to put in the work.

What has been your scariest career hurdle, and what did you learn once you made it to the other side?

Before I started my collection full-time, I was let go of a job. Thankfully, my boss at the time knew that what I really wanted to do was work on my line, so he let me go with six months of unemployment benefits to help me out. I got to work, and two weeks before my unemployment support was set to run out, I had no new job lined up and rent and bills were due. Then out of the blue, my best client from that last job emailed me and offered to invest $200K in my business. I learned to do the work, trust the process, and ignore anyone who didn’t believe in me.

Let’s talk $$$. What tips do you have for negotiating a base salary or a raise?

List out how you benefit the company. Mention key initiatives where you have met expectations or over-performed and use exact numbers as case studies (“I increased revenue by X amount, drove profitability by X, or have not missed work in X days, offered key support in this initiative which led to these results” etc.). Come armed with facts.

Do your research to know what the standard increase in salary for your role should be, and ask for that or better based on your performance. Know what the industry standard is for time in your position before a promotion. And finally, do your best to have another employment option lined up, if your employer says no. Many employers would rather give you a raise than lose you to another company. So keeping recruiter relationships warm can be good for this.

What about getting people to invest money in you or your business idea—any advice?

Bootstrap to test your idea: Investors love to see you have “skin in the game,” and have early metrics and data that show your idea will work if you had capital to fuel it. Be passionate. Passion is palpable for investors and it will keep you going when things get hard.

Have a good founding team—it’s much harder to raise as a solo founder (even though I did it, as did my lead investors, Leah Solivan and Brit Morin, with their startups). Network to meet the right investors who invest in your space. There are many startup ecosystems you can enter to begin that process (AngelList, 37 Angels, Female Founders Fund, Kilpatrick Townsend legal firm in NYC is very founder/investor friendly).

When you approach moments of burnout, what has been the best way to overcome them?

I sleep, eat whatever my heart desires, and totally turn off/away from my business with travel, nature, music, shopping, working out, and hanging with my dog. I used to cry and call my friends to gain perspective. I don’t cry often anymore though, I’ve gotten pretty tough.

Who is your career idol?

I would love to build something like Coco Chanel or Tory Burch.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve heard so many gems that have helped me along the way, but the one that comes to mind right now is, “Leaders take breaks. They don’t quit.”

What about the worst?

While I can’t think of anything specific at the moment, I will say watch how people make you feel when they “offer advice” to you. I would not trust anyone who tells you something in a way that attempts to undermine your confidence. It’s never what is said, but how someone says it that tells you their true feelings, intentions, and motivations.

What’s the top career advancement tool that you’d recommend to young professionals?

A degree, and/or 10+ years of experience in your industry. Nothing can replace the network, knowledge, expertise, and confidence these two things give you.

Do you have any advice on how to deal with a bad boss?

Notice and identify the pattern of toxicity. Respectfully and calmly set clear boundaries around the pattern and state how you expect to be treated. Keep a journal of their missteps (as offenses could turn legal). And just like any other relationship—if your boundaries are not respected—leave! Depending on the level of the abuse—call a lawyer.

What about self-doubt…When you’re not feeling sure of yourself, how do you snap out of it?

I lean on my faith in my higher power, fully trusting the path he has put before me and the talent and resources he has surrounded me with. When all else fails—I pray.

What advice would you give to young women of color who want to found their own business?

Get education and experience in the field. Network, do people favors, ask for favors. See how you can be mutually beneficial to those around you. Work hard, and be kind. Karma is real!

Workplace culture has gone through a ton of change in the last few years, what with the pandemic, the corporate reckoning on racial inequality, the Great Resignation, quiet quitting, and more. What’s another change you’d like to see in workplace culture?

I’d like to see more people passionate about their craft and committed to their careers again. While I appreciate a bit of a slowdown—I kind of miss the pre-pandemic hustle mentality.

What’s the last thing you do before you go to sleep?

I try to pray and listen to spiritual content online. This practice has upped my intuition to the point I can truly say I’m basically psychic and can read people. Very helpful in business!

Gisele Dress

Gisele Dress
Credit: Autumn Adeigbo

Light-Blue Leather Handbag

Light-Blue Leather Handbag
Credit: Autumn Adeigbo
Headshot of Annabel Iwegbue

Annabel Iwegbue is an assistant editor at Cosmopolitan who covers entertainment, lifestyle, career, beauty, and astrology. Just, you know, all the things. You can check out some of Annabel’s work here and, also find her on Instagram and Twitter.

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