From Crowns to Career

July 30, 2017

From Crowns to Career:

How participating in pageants has benefited my career

At 16 years old, I was a high school teenager with all the insecurity you could imagine. I was considered a “marching band geek” who longed to feel confident, beautiful, and to simply “fit in”. My parents saw the struggles I had socially, and they came up with the bright idea of signing me up for a pageant! I still remember the shock I felt hearing the words “you’re going to compete in a pageant” coming out of my mother’s mouth. Not only did I feel unequipped for this task, but also doubted if I would have the courage to even get on stage and be judged.

Nine years later, I am grateful that my parents saw pageants as a way to help me overcome my lack of confidence because competing has taught me more about being a woman in the business world, than any class I have taken. Most people I speak with assume that pageants create insecurities in women and turn women into competitive, judgmental people. However, pageants have had the complete opposite effect on myself and those I have met through pageantry. Here are the top ten things I have gained from competing in pageants:

How to Market Myself: There’s nothing more nerve racking than walking into a business and asking the owner to sponsor you for a pageant! Through the years I have developed confidence in why I compete, and am able to articulate this to others. Being able to explain my “why” has allowed me to feel confident in all interviews where I need to sell the experiences I have, rather than what I lack experience in.

On-Point Interview Skills: I have been offered jobs that I was nowhere near the most qualified candidate for, simply because of my confident demeanor in job interviews. I stay very cool, calm, and collected no matter how big the job might be that I am being interviewed for. This comes from years of being asked my politic views, what ‘covfefe’ means, and how I would handle the crises of the world in pageant interviews. All the sudden, job interviews are a walk in the park!

Confidently Carrying Myself: Pose, posture, grace...just a few words to describe how a pageant titleholder not only carries herself onstage, but in all situations. I can’t tell you how many times customers and co-workers alike have complimented me on how I carry myself at work. Even in stressful situations, I stay focused on the job at hand and keep my composure (not everyone can do that, try working with chefs all day!).

Dress to Impress: These days’ young people don’t know what professional dress looks like. I have interviewed dozens of young people for various positions, and the wide array of clothing and lack of professionalism has blown my mind! As a titleholder every appearance is different. One day I may be sitting on a classroom floor with kindergarteners and the next day taking a tour of the USS George W. Bush. Each appearance requires different and appropriate attire. This has transferred into my professional wardrobe as well. Being dressed appropriately can be the deciding factor between you and another candidate being offered the job.

Networking/Communication Skills: As a businesswoman I encounter many different people throughout my day. From catching up with a customer, to running into my CEO in the hallway; these are important moments to make an impression on those you come in contact with. My work may send me to a Chamber of Commerce event to represent my organization, where it is essential to not be a fly on the wall. From pageant appearances to chatting backstage with contestants; being able to carry a conversation is key. The ability to network is a skill I have gained from opportunities to meet business owners, veterans, CEO’s, designers and politicians throughout my pageant career. I have been offered professional connections and job opportunities through my pageant networking that have out weighed anything my resume could offer me. The saying “ it’s all about who you know” rings true in every business industry, and I have gained a long list of connections through pageants.

Never Get Nervous Around the Competition: The pageant atmosphere can be one of excitement and friendship, or it can be intimidating and competitive. The experience is all in what you make it. I personally have always loved participating in pageants, and this has allowed me to feel confident and create great relationships with other confident women. Being able to feel confident in your own skin while competing translates into so many situations you face in the professional world. Although I may get butterflies walking into a waiting room with other candidates vying for the same position as myself, I never let the nerves get to me. I simply sit back and wait my turn to wow the interviewers.

Dream Bigger: My 16 year old self had far fetched dreams that I never allowed to be more than overly ambitious wishes because of my fear to take a risk. Now, I have a list (a long list) of goals that range from small daily goals that I check off throughout my week, to goals that have been in the works for years. Pageants have shown me that no dream is too big or small to work for. When you put in hard work and want something badly enough, you can make it happen! (This includes becoming Miss Virginia, even Miss USA and the CEO of my own company one day.)

Allow Losses to be Constructive: There is no way we will ever win everything we try in life, and if we did we would simply be boring people. We learn the most when we lose....and that’s a tough pill to swallow. However, losing a pageant will teach you to be resilient with grace. When I have worked hard on a project proposal that I feel my department should be excited about, yet it gets turned down it can be a devastating defeat to handle. But, I have never let those moments define who I am and what my worth is. Instead it fuels me to work harder, dream bigger, and reach even higher next time.

Living Healthy: This is something so many people in America struggle with today: knowing how to live a healthy lifestyle! Although growing up a competitive swimmer taught me how to stay active, it never taught me how to be active, healthy and to balance that with my work and school life. Pageants didn’t teach me how to crash diet, but rather how to sustain a healthy eating habit while keeping a regular schedule for physical activity. Work, school and life will distract you from trying to keep your body healthy. The discipline a pageant title will teach you on being a role model for others will motivate you to find a routine and stick to it. It truly shows you how to be accountable to others and yourself.

Public Speaking: On more than one occasion I’ve been asked to give a presentation at work or speak in front of the customers or employees. Before pageants I was deathly afraid of public speaking, but now it’s completely second nature. At a recent town hall meeting at work with my customers, I was asked to get up and explain a new system we were using. Afterwards my CEO made a visit to my office to congratulate me on how articulate and warm I had been in my delivery. She asked what I had done in the past to become so experienced in the skill of public speaking. The only answer I could come up with was pageantry! Whether I have time to prepare something or am asked to speak off the cuff, it is a situation I’m now comfortable to be in. As a titleholder, you are asked to speak at all kinds of events ranging from school assemblies to charity galas. Through pageants you will gain a comfort in speaking in front of all audiences.

The list goes on of all the benefits I have gained from pageantry that now support me in my professional career. In business we are constantly being judged and compared to our co-workers or the next candidate in line for the job. Because of my participation in pageantry, I take these judgments with stride and allow these situations to propel me forward rather than bring me down. To be a businesswoman in our society you need thick skin mixed with confidence, and pose. So, if you’re considering competing or are skeptical of what someone might gain from participating in pageants, I hope this article has helped. I know I would not be the woman I am today without my participation as a competitor and titleholder through pageantry.

Elizabeth Martin

Miss Virginia USA contestant