“Bend and snap!” That’s just one of the many lessons Elle Woods taught us when Legally Blonde debuted 17 years ago today. It became an instant classic (duh). So we were beyond excited when the film’s star, Reese Witherspoon, announced there’d be a Legally Blonde 3. While we wait for the third film in the trilogy, we’re looking back on how badass the original flick was. Yes, we can all laugh at the bend and snap routine or even scratch our heads at the premise (a woman determined to get into Harvard Law just to win back her ex), but Elle was an absolute girl boss before we knew there was such a term.
If you’re currently job hunting or looking for ways to move to the next stage in your career, look no further than career lessons from our favorite pink-clad Delta Nu. Though her initial goal of making it into Harvard and nailing the LSAT revolved around a guy, Elle was determined, unapologetically herself, and in no time, she was over her ex, Warner. In short, she’s #girlboss goals. To help you channel your inner Elle Woods, HelloGiggles consulted with career experts and branding coaches on ways you can rise to the top while maintaining your unique sense of self — just like our favorite blonde.
1Stand out from the rest
After acing your interview, there’s no better way to stand out than with a handwritten thank you note. “I think [Elle] would know that sending a thoughtful handwritten note to the hiring manager on a unique card would set her apart from other candidates,” said Sarah Johnston, recruiter and founder of The Briefcase Coach. And if you’d prefer an email, a link to an interesting article discussing a topic you talked about is another way to show you’re a cut above the rest.
2Own your expertise
Another tip, especially when interviewing, involves not being afraid to toot your own horn. Otherwise, how will a prospective boss know you’re the woman for the job? Shea Keats, strategic business coach, said it’s important to stay humble, but “don’t downplay your own expertise.” You’ve got what it takes, but you have to show it. Basically, go ahead and do the professional version of the bend and snap.
3Find your superpower
Furthermore, a huge part of succeeding in the workplace involves determining what thing you do that no one else can. This is your super power. “With Elle, I would call creative thinking her superpower. She’s able to make connections between seemingly unrelated pieces of information, and can pull on a wealth of knowledge to cut through the noise and find a solution,” said Devon Smiley, negotiation consultant and public speaker.
There’s no better example of that superpower than cracking the case at the end of the movie, all thanks to her knowledge of perms. If you’re unsure of your superpower, ask yourself what it is you naturally do better than others and don’t be afraid to asks friends, family, and colleagues for feedback.
4Build a supportive network
“When you look at Elle, one major thing that stands out is her amazing support group, her friends. She is kind to everyone she meets and thinks about what she can do for them, and not what they can do for her,” Shea Drake of business.org told HG. “Be that person in your office. Be that person in your life. Look for opportunities to help others, and you will come out on top.”
5Seek out role models and mentors
Part of building a network includes finding role models, mentors, and even sponsors. These are the people you aspire to be like, look to for inspo, and who can advocate for you in the workplace. “Identify early in your career the model of what success looks like to you and seek mentors who represent that model. Be sure to keep adding to your mentor list — and seek out diversity. Getting advice from a variety of advisors will give you the benefit of different perspectives,” said co-founder and CEO of YouEarnedIt Autumn Manning.
6Learn how to respond to coworkers
Let’s face it, Elle had to deal with crap from people in her life who didn’t believe she was smart enough or good enough. While we will all unfortunately have some less-than-pleasant coworker experiences, career and branding expert Wendi Weiner said it’s all about improving your reaction. Instead of allowing them to drive you crazy, doubt yourself, or even get angry, “Ignore the comments and don’t sweat the small stuff. Blowing up at someone will only cause you to look weak, immature, and emotionally reactive.”
Of course, if there’s ever a major issue (beyond simple annoyances), don’t be afraid to speak to the person directly, or your superior, in a professional way.
7Keep tabs on your accomplishments
One of the most nerve-wracking experiences has to be negotiating your salary or asking for a raise, but career mentor Toni Patterson stressed that keeping an ongoing “me memo” where you record all of your accomplishments will help you tremendously.
“This could just be an email you keep in your email drafts folder. It will help you to acknowledge and reflect on the big and small ways in which you support your organization, which is valuable whether the salary negotiation is occurring at your current job or as part of a job transition,” she said.
Patterson also added that confidently asking for what you deserve is the key. “Showing up insecure, nervous, and fidgety is a sure way to project to your employer that you are not worthy of what you are asking for. However you show up will set the tone for the meeting.”
8Never stop learning
You know those seminars and “lunch and learn” programs that many companies offer? Know how you’ve probably avoided going to them? Time to switch that up. “These usually end up being extremely useful, full of info, and provide great networking opportunities,” said Jenny Hester, director of marketing. Not only are they useful for your personal growth, but they also signal something deeper. Attending these seminars “show your boss you care about your career and want to learn more, at little or no cost to them.”
9Self-care is essential
Once you’ve landed the job or a promotion, it’s easy to feel stressed and overwhelmed. But Dr. Kathryn Bingham, executive coach of LEADistics, suggested women focus on self-care. “Elle’s mani-pedis served a purpose beyond looking good. Taking time for ourselves assures we are better rested and equipped for stressors in other areas of our life,” she said. “Investing in social relationships creates support structures. And let’s face it, caring about ourselves contributes to self-esteem and confidence.”