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How She Got There: Belma McCaffrey, Senior Business Development Associate at Associated Press

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Name: Belma McCaffrey
Age: 31
Job Title and Description: Negotiation Consultant for Young Professionals/Senior Business Development Associate at Associated Press  
College/Major: Syracuse University / Public Relations and Political Science
Website: http://belmamccaffrey.com/
Twitter Handle:@belmamc

What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

Belma McCaffrey: Right now, I have two jobs. I am a Senior Business Development Associate at the Associated Press, the largest news organization in the world. My role is to develop long-lasting partnerships with new media and tech companies to drive revenue for the organization. Many of the AP’s customers are traditional newspapers and broadcasters, so the goal is to help our company overcome the challenges facing the traditional media industry by joining forces with the startup community.

When I’m not putting together business deals for the AP, I spend my time working with young professional females as a negotiation consultant. My goal is to help young women who struggle with negotiating for raises and promotions learn how to consistently advocate for themselves and develop a negotiation strategy that will increase their earning potential significantly throughout their lifetimes. Negotiating just an extra 5,000 dollars more when you’re 22 years old can result in an extra 500,000 dollars by the time you retire.

There is no such thing as a typical day! My nine to six [job] at the AP keeps me quite busy, and my evenings are filled attending events and planning workshops to host for young females.

What is the best part of your job?

BM: Working with young professionals is extremely rewarding. At one of my negotiation workshops, one of the attendees approached me, gave me a big hug and thanked me for the new skills she learned at the event. I know she wanted to ask for a raise soon, something she was nervous about, so it meant a lot to see that she felt empowered to ask for what she had earned.

And, working for the AP, a nonprofit news organization, is rewarding as there’s a larger mission at stake. The AP is an especially important player in media as it promotes democracy, transparency and objectivity through information and news.

What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?

BM: I was an Assistant Media Planner at TargetCast TCM developing media plans for Wyeth brands (such as Advil and Dimetapp). I graduated from Syracuse in 2005 and several media planning agencies in NYC were hiring. I remember at the interview, I established a connection with each and every person who interviewed me. I was young but passionate, enthusiastic about learning and couldn’t wait to start my career. My passion and interest became evident to the team hiring me and they offered me the job on the spot. I was thrilled!

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?

BM: I wish I had known how fast the industry would change. Not long after I started working on the traditional side of media (television and print), digital media exploded. It’s important to always stay ahead of your industry to gauge where your next move should be.

Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?

BM: I have to say both of my parents. I was born in Albania, a small, poor country in Eastern Europe that was once communist. We left when I was seven years old. When we moved here, my dad worked (and still does actually) three jobs to help save for our education and my mother worked part time while taking care of three kids. All of the sacrifices they have made for my siblings and me are a constant motivation to do my best. Their experiences in Albania and struggles give me perspective.

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

BM: “Make your vision so clear that your fears are irrelevant” is one of my favorites. We often let fear hold us back for way too long. If you can think of the finish line, what it is that drives you and fuels your passion, focus on that and the negative voices become insignificant. 

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

BM: At a younger age, I was sometimes too afraid to take risks. That includes making the decision to go back to school for my MBA or even pursuing my own side projects and passions. I’ve learned that there are no guarantees. Sometimes, and usually quite often, things don’t work out the way you plan. It’s better to go with the flow and seize every opportunity rather than wait until you have everything figured out.

What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

BM: I won a lunch with Daniel Lubetzky, the CEO of KIND, and that was incredible. I had the chance to talk to him about my negotiation workshops and work at the AP. It’s not every day one receives business advice from such an inspiring leader and social entrepreneur, so I was on cloud nine the entire day. 

What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

BM: With technology today, we have so many tools at our disposal. I look to hire someone who is resourceful and figures out a way to get the job done, especially when they don’t have all the answers and are in an environment of uncertainty.

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

BM: If you don’t know what it is you love to do yet, that’s okay. Work hard and make the most of every job and opportunity, no matter how small and insignificant they seem. And read…a lot! There’s so much information out there, and it’s important to always be a student of your work.

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