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Work It Wednesday - Chanèle McFarlane

You know that feeling you get when you come across someone so driven and intentional that you can't help but feel inspired too? If so, you'll know how we felt the minute we met Chanèle McFarlane, creator of Do Well Dress Well, an online platform providing useful content, a powerful community and incredible opportunities to millennial women in today's working landscape. Recognized among PR in Canada's Top 30 Under 30 and 100 Black Women to Watch in 2017, we could go on about what a remarkable force Chanèle has become, but we'll let you see for yourself!

1. First off, tell us about yourself! Who is Chanèle McFarlane?

Chanèle McFarlane is a multi-passionate woman on a mission to empower women to live confidently and remarkably. She’s also mildly obsessed with popcorn, Netflix, books and caesar salads, in no particular order.

2. Your journey as a professional could be described as multi-faceted - and even that is an understatement. You’re a founder of three businesses including Do Well Dress Well, a platform for millennial women to cultivate skills for professional success. We love your mission, “Bridging the gap between competence and confidence.” What’s the story behind addressing that need for today’s working woman?

When I first started Do Well Dress Well, it was simply going to be a personal blog. I wasn’t looking to tackle any huge issues - I just wanted a platform to share the things I was interested in (which was the intersection between personal branding and style) while also taking some cool outfit photos! I don’t regret that part of my journey but after a while, it just wasn’t fulfilling enough for me. Every time I’d go out and spend money on outfits and photoshoots, I kept thinking about what I could do if I invested that in a conference or creating opportunities for women. Since starting Do Well Dress Well, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of women and I began to see some common threads in the conversations I was having. Everyone was super competent, meaning that they were very well-educated and/or had a ton of great work experience but for some reason, the confidence wasn’t there. Imposter syndrome would often come up in discussion, but also this fear about “putting themselves out there” and networking with people. Through these insights, I uncovered that there was a need for a unique professional development site that focuses specifically on topics relating to confidence, personal branding and networking. I also wanted to take it a step further and not just write about networking but also provide the opportunities to network. I eventually realized that I could use Do Well Dress Well as a means to tackle this competence/confidence gap in an authentic and relatable way.

3. You also work as a freelance writer, consultant, public speaker, and you’re even Editor-in-Chief of Make Lemonade’s blog (excuse us while we take a moment to catch our breath!). We’re sure that each new endeavour comes with its own set of challenges and lessons; what’s something you’ve learned about yourself recently?

That’s a good question! I’m continually learning more and more about myself each day and I think that’s what I enjoy the most about this entrepreneurial journey I’m on. I’ve been forced to really push myself in ways I haven’t before and it has been extremely eye-opening. Recently, I’ve learned that I work best under pressure. I’ve always considered myself to be a planner (and have spent quite a bit of money on planners over the years!) but I’ve noticed that my best work gets done closer to the deadline. I didn’t want to accept this about myself for the longest time but now I’ve come to embrace it.

4. We’re firm believers in personal style playing a huge role in manifesting your goals. What kind of advice would you give to someone hoping to become confident in the way they present themselves?

Find your own style. A lot of people try to define their style based on other people - whether it’s a celebrity, someone they follow on Instagram or even a photo they found on Pinterest. There’s nothing wrong with using others as a point of inspiration but it’s important to incorporate your own unique touch. That being said, part of finding your own style is understanding what works (and what doesn’t work) for you. For example, I know exactly what colours and styles of clothing are most flattering on me. Putting together outfits has become so simple because I don’t even have to think about it and I’ve curated my wardrobe in a way where I will feel extremely confident in anything I put on. Take the time and effort (and possibly some money too!) required to define your style as it is such a worthwhile investment.

5. We love that you utilize networking as a way to empower women through your initiative, Confidence Through Conferences. In your experience, what’s the most enriching part about attending a conference?

Well, the idea behind Confidence Through Conferences actually came to me while I was at a conference! For me, the most enriching part has always been to have the opportunity to dedicate several hours to gaining new insights and brainstorming new ideas. As I take notes on what the speakers are saying, I often find myself scribbling down my own ideas in the margins to explore later and then I leave the conference feeling so excited and invigorated. Aside from that, there are such valuable networking opportunities at conferences that can completely transform your career.

My only issue with conferences is that you often have to be in a position of privilege to attend. Most cost upwards of $500-$1000 which is a significant expense for the average working woman. While at a conference last year, there were so many women that were responding to my Instagram Stories while I was at the Girlboss Rally and were saying how they would love to experience a conference like that one day but they simply can’t afford it. That really bugged me. I just don’t think it’s fair that we should have to choose between paying our bills and attending a conference. While on the plane back to Toronto, I came up with the initial concept for Confidence Through Conferences and after working on it for a few months, I finally launched it. It has been so rewarding to know that in just under 2 months, I’ve been able to send over 10 women to conferences and networking events in Toronto but this is just the beginning!

6. You’ve created such an engaged community on your social feeds. What kind of advice would you give to someone looking to grow their following?

Instead of stressing about how to grow your following, focus on getting to know your following. Do Well Dress Well doesn’t have the largest social following by any means but I do pride myself on really knowing my community and that is what has allowed me to partner with some pretty awesome brands. Do Well Dress Well reaches a very particular demographic and having a very clear understanding of their age, career, interests, income, etc. has made the platform valuable for brands who are looking to reach that exact audience. Since I focus so much on understanding my audience, I know exactly what will work and what people won’t respond to. This also goes for my personal social feeds, especially my LinkedIn where I’ve managed to build up a strong reach. In a nutshell, I study my audience and then create content accordingly.

7. A lot of professionals struggle to go for the opportunities that they want out of fear. How do you overcome your own, especially when your share your journey so openly with your audience?

That’s something I struggle with, in all honesty! I think the good thing about me sharing my journey so openly is that it really does hold me accountable. Anytime any sort of fear creeps in, I remind myself that any opportunity is bigger than myself. Women need what I have to offer. In other words, my actions have the potential to inspire other women to push past their fear. Once you change your perspective, instead of feeling scared about going after an opportunity, you begin to feel empowered...and as the saying goes, “empowered women empower women.”

8. How do you #workit everyday?

I #workit everyday by living colourfully, confidently and remarkably.

A huge thank you to Chanèle for taking some time to speak with us this Work It Wednesday. Find her on Instagram at @chanelemcfarlane and @dowelldresswell and follow her journey - we promise you'll find some great resources that will help you on yours!

Photos provided by Chanèle McFarlane