Work

How to Make Work Relationships Work

How to Make Work Relationships Work

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The people you meet at work have the capacity to transform your life at least as powerfully as the connections you make in your personal life. Goop beauty director Jean Godfrey-June, a bit of a legend both in our office and outside—more budding editors than we can keep track of grew up on her columns—for helping build editorial brands at the peak of their success in the cultural zeitgeist. As beauty director at Elle, at Lucky for the duration of its run, author of funny, tip-filled memoir Gift with Purchase, and now, since 2015, beauty director at goop, she’s had something of a dream editorial career. We all look up to Jean, not only because we admire her utterly individual voice—easy to identify without a byline—or her inhuman ability to make even a deodorant sound like an otherworldly experience, but, mostly, because she’s an incredibly thoughtful, generous mentor.

Here, Jean talks about the relationships that helped drive her success and keep new opportunities coming her way—starting with another one of our editorial heroes, Lucky founder and editor-in-chief, Kim France.

A Q&A with Jean Godfrey June

Q

Is there one person you can point to who’s had an outsized impact on your career?

A

Twice in my career my life has been saved by someone I worked with previously—and both times, Kim France had something to do with it.

I first met Kim when I was the beauty director at Elle; she was the features editor. She was cool and smart and generally amazing. Features and beauty collaborated only once in awhile, but Kim and I had something of a mutual appreciation society—as many people did at Elle. We had an incredible leader at the time, Amy Gross, and it was a fantastic work environment.

In 1999 and 2000, when e-commerce first came on the scene, internet beauty sites started hiring beauty editors and everyone was excited about combining content and commerce—so I left Elle to go to Beautyscene.com. Long story short, nine months later it fell apart—big.

“Kim and I had something of a mutual appreciation society—as many people did at Elle.

Right as it was really collapsing, I got a call from Kim, who’d been working as a music journalist as far as I knew, but was now developing a new magazine concept with Conde Nast—a shopping magazine called Lucky. “Hey Jean,” she said. “Would you ever consider coming back to magazines?”

I could not accept that job fast enough. Lucky was this amazing fashion magazine that didn’t look or sound like a fashion magazine—Kim wanted beauty that didn’t sound like beauty, and she’d always felt my voice fit that bill. She also built an incredible culture there, so I had amazing co-workers—including Elise Loehnen, an editor I had enormous respect for.

More than fifteen years later, when Lucky died its horrible death, I freelanced for a bit—and then Elise, who’d been creating this incredible new world with GP and was now the Head of Content for goop, called one day. “Would you ever consider coming to goop?” Again, I could not sign on fast enough—and two years later, still, I could not be happier. Getting to combine content and commerce with something I believe in so much—clean, non-toxic beauty on the one hand, and on the larger level a brand that I see advancing the world and the women in it, in particular, every day.

Q

Are there any lessons you learned from Kim that stuck with you?

A

Kim often dealt with work conflict with a sense of humor—it defused tension and put everything in perspective: Ten years from now you’re not going to remember whether that headline was blue or red.

She also used that humor to let you know how she thought you were doing. I had to go to a lot of advertiser meetings and lunches, which Kim knew were not my favorite. As I was leaving, she would always say, “You’re doing God’s work, Jean.” which told me both that she knew I didn’t love those meetings, and that she appreciated I was doing them.

Kim would stand up for herself with humor, too: Jezebel wrote some big article making fun of how many times we said the word “amazing” in a particular month. Kim sent them an entire Lucky issue with all the captions (Lucky was primarily captions—well-written ones to be sure, but captions) blank, and a cover note: Try writing these captions, try not to repeat a single word, use only real words people actually use in conversation, and——good luck! They ended up writing a second story about us.

Q

Are you guys still in touch?

A

Yes! Kim is still in New York, with a fantastic blog that I love to read, Girls of a Certain Age. She’s working on a memoir about Lucky. Kim wasn’t just a magazine editor: She came up with a whole new way to look at magazines and read about women’s fashion and beauty. In many ways it prefigured the street style/shopping culture of the internet—all of the content/commerce that’s come after has a little bit of Lucky in it.

Q

Can you also speak to your work relationships more broadly?

A

Even though I was somewhat mentally prepared when Lucky fired me, it was still really terrifying—I’m a single mom, the world of editorial was collapsing, and I really wondered whether I’d be able to survive. One of the things that lifted me up was the people from my career who called me and kept me alive, saying, “Hey what about this?” “Hey what about that?”

I always thought of work as professional—you do your work and you go home—but during all the really significant things that happened to me in my life, from my divorce to losing my job, people from work really showed up for me.

I always thought of work as professional—you do your work and you go home—but during all the really significant things that happened to me in my life, from my divorce to losing my job, people from work really showed up for me. It didn’t just keep me alive financially, it made me really happy and gave me faith.

Q

What (work) relationship advice would you give someone just starting out?

A

When I worked at Elle, Amy Gross fostered the most incredible atmosphere; it was very collegial (not unlike goop). All the people I worked with were interesting and cool. I really respected them, and we were doing great work. In no way did I consciously think, “I’m making a connection for later on.” I was young, and I didn’t think about the fact that the people around me would be editors-in-chief themselves someday—I don’t think most people think that way—you enjoy working with a person or you don’t.

“If you’re yourself at work, rather than trying to present a particular image, and you’re curious about the people around you, you’ll enjoy them, and it makes work and life about a thousand times more delightful.

If you’re yourself at work, rather than trying to present a particular image, and you’re curious about the people around you, you’ll enjoy them, and it makes work and life about a thousand times more delightful. If people like who the real you is, they’ll want to have the real you again later in your life. The cliché of business is all these people jockeying and trying to get ahead, but it’s been my experience that people who aren’t being themselves, aren’t relaxing and enjoying their coworkers and the job that they’re doing, are never the people you want to work with again.

It helps to get out of your own head and your own agenda. People can get so intense in business about their particular agenda, that they don’t get to know the other person they’re dealing with—but really, what’s life for?

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