Shelly Palmer

How a Survival Story Turned Into a Career: Meet Vanessa E. Steil


During a serious health scare, Vanessa E. Steil needed a creative outlet. What started out as a blog to share her thyroid cancer survival story blossomed into a passion to share stories of all the things that bring her joy in life. Whether related to fashion, health or beauty, Vanessa savors every opportunity to learn something new and is an inspiration to live in the present, because life has no guarantees.

Talentedly: What was your inspiration for Living in Steil?

Vanessa E. Steil: When I started Living in Steil, pronounced “style,” I was a recent thyroid cancer survivor.  I had spent much of 2013 undergoing tests, biopsies, and eventually a thyroidectomy. My full story, “Coming to Grips with Thyroid Cancer” is on my blog.  After my surgery I was looking for a creative outlet.  I didn’t know much about blogging, but I did follow and enjoy reading one particular blog.  A few months passed as I struggled with the idea of putting my life on the internet.  I had never written in any kind of public forum before and wasn’t exactly sure what I would post about.  I knew the blog should have a positive, upbeat tone, but I also wanted it to offer hope to other young cancer survivors.  My strategy has always been to be honest and transparent with my readers.  I share about my health, setbacks, journeys, and of course, style and fashion tips.

TLY: How has the blog helped you grow as a person?

VES: Creating this blog has been a rewarding experience.  It forces me to sit down and think about writing and what people would want to read.  Having this space on the internet has allowed me to tap into my creative side, which sat neglected since college.  It has reminded me of how enjoyable it is to write for the sake of writing and taught me how to collect my thoughts and engage with my audience. 

TLY: What’s your favorite part of blogging?

VES: I love connecting with my readers!  Nothing makes me happier than when someone comments on my post to say I’ve inspired them.  I recently posted about how to get into, and enjoy, practicing yoga.  Yoga has done wonders for me both mentally and physically and I was pleased that the post resonated with my readers and that they wanted to incorporate my tips into their own lives.  Aside from that, blogging is a community and I have been introduced to people I otherwise would have never met. Some of them have even become friends and mentors!

TLY: What has been the best career advice you received?

VES: To keep learning.  No matter where you are in your career, you can always improve a skill or learn a new one.  I was fortunate to have a great friend and mentor when I was in college who stressed the importance of life-long learning.  She has since passed away, but was instrumental in encouraging me to pursue my goals and challenge myself.  I was constantly amazed by her varied talents and how much she knew about a wide variety of subjects.

TLY: We appreciate what you have to say about the importance of living in the moment. How can people do that?

VES: If I’ve learned anything from my thyroid cancer diagnosis it has been that life has no guarantees.  I don’t think you need a health scare to tell you that, but for me, the experience taught me to take every day in stride.  I used to spend so much time worrying about what could happen eventually that I neglected the present.  I know I can only do so much each day–and without a thyroid, sometimes just getting through the day is a major hurdle! But regardless of what I accomplish I should make the most of it.  My advice to others is to acknowledge your present.  It may not be prefect at the moment, but embrace where you are and know that with hard work and determination you will get where you want to be.

TLY: Is there a specific experience of trying something new that has been particularly meaningful?

VES: Ironically, I never used social media before I started my blog.  I didn’t really have much use for it during or after college.  A lot of my friends had encouraged me to at least have a Facebook page, but I resisted.  When I started Living in Steil I was not utilizing social media.  I wrote and scheduled my posts, commented on other blogs, and that was about it.  After I reached out to other bloggers who echoed the importance of social media accounts for the blog, I was finally convinced and gave in.  Within a few months I was hooked.  Twitter became my daily survival guide for news and pop culture and I was thrilled each time my iPhone dinged alerting me to a new follower.  Social media has made me a better blogger, and something that I wasn’t particularly interested in has opened a whole new career path for me.

TLY: What advice do you have for people interested in entering the blogging field full time?

VES: This is something I’m still working on myself!  I would stress the importance of attending networking events and communicating with other bloggers.  I’ve found the blogging community to be a great resource and people are willing to help you if asked. Aside from that, being active on social media and following brands and individuals that share your mission are key.

It is important to be relatable and consistent with your blog. Your readers will come to appreciate your voice and know when to look for your posts.  The best advice that I received when I started my blog was to create a writing schedule that worked for me.  If you can write three great posts a week, that’s fine.  But if your schedule only allows for one post a week, then do what works for you.

TLY: Quote or mantra to live by?

VES: My favorite quote is attributed to Confucius:  “Choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.”  We spend so many hours each week at work.  If you think about it, you spend more time at work than probably anywhere else.  There is no worse feeling than getting up in the morning and dreading the start of your day.  Finding something you love is no easy feat, but it’s worth investing the time so you can live a happy and fulfilled life.

(This content was originally posted at Talentedly.

Lydia Loizides is serial entrepreneur, technology provocateur and relentless challenger of the status quo. She spends her days as Founder & CEO of Talentedly, a technology company on a mission to help people grow from good to great at work (technology + people = amazing results). The rest of her waking moments are spent running, reading, learning, and trying to prove that the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42. You can follow Lydia @lydiaNYC @GetTalentedly, on LinkedIn and the Huffington Post.