Hi! I’m Emily Yates, Creative Director for VeryVera. I do the food photography you see on our website and produce the Vera’s Corner segment in every show. On August 17th, I will celebrate 3 years with VeryVera. The above picture is from my first day on set!

Recently, an academic advisor from the University of Georgia (my alma mater) asked me to share some insight for his students on qualities I had upon graduating college and those I wish I’d had. In honor of school starting back for all ages and my own reflection on 3 years with the company, here’s what I shared with him. I hope it will be helpful for the college students or young professionals reading!


Skills I Had

  • Organization
    • I’ve always been an avid list-maker and fan of a planner. Having a system in place to track deadlines and long-term goals has served as an essential part of staying on top of my job.
  • Active Listening
    • I’ve seen several interns and employees come through our company that had to learn about active listening. If your boss is talking to you and you look like you couldn’t care less, you need to learn about active listening. Nodding, giving verbal confirmation that you’re listening, repeating back what they’ve said, etc. are all important.
  • Good Note Taking
    • I have a notebook and pen within 5 feet of myself at all times. My entrepreneur boss’s brain never stops working, so I’ve got to be ready to take notes at any second. When these ideas show up on my to-do list later, she’s impressed that I was listening and took action on what she said.
  • Resourcefulness
    • This is a big one–if you’re faced with a problem, do not let it become habit to immediately ask your boss (or a coworker) what to do. Google is your best friend. YouTube is your best friend. If your question is not specific to your organization, exhaust all your resources before going to your boss or coworker. If you can’t figure out a question or problem on your own, have a few possible solutions on hand when you approach your boss.
  • Determination
    • I came into an unpaid internship after college determined to learn as much as I could and to make myself indispensable to the company. It worked! I was hired 4 months later and am approaching my 3-year work anniversary. I now hold a leadership position in a small business, and it’s because I wanted to prove myself right out of the gate.

Skills I Wish I’d Had

  • Assertiveness
    • One thing I struggled with in the first few years of my current job was asserting myself. My boss has a saying: “Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer unless ‘no’ is the answer you’re looking for.” I often took people’s responses at face value instead of pushing further. If I’m told, “It can’t be done,” I ask, “Why not?” Don’t be afraid to press in to get the answer or result you need.
  • Good Correspondence Skills
    • When drafting correspondence (which you will probably do much more than you’re expecting) it’s a good idea to check and re-check before you send. Have you attached everything and included all the links you said you would? Does it make sense? How’s your tone? Is there anything you could include to go that extra mile for the recipient?
  • Forward Thinking
    • It’s taken me awhile to understand that in the business world, you need to be thinking far ahead to stay on top of things. As soon as we finish our catering for the Masters tournament, we’re planning for the next year. Many companies we work with are thinking a few years ahead, especially when it comes to planning budgets. It’s important to focus on immediate priorities, but long-term goals turn into short-term priorities faster than you think.