Mindy Kaling’s Revelation About Asking for a Raise Might Stun You

E!: What would be your biggest advice for women who feel that they’re underpaid or they feel that they deserve a promotion?

MK: I really got an interesting window into that when I became an employer when I was hiring writers for my shows. And I always noticed, and I thought this was so interesting, how the male writers and the male crew that I would have, their representation would always be asking whether their contract was up or not, for a raise, for concessions, for perks. And the women who I worked for, they never had their reps—like if it wasn’t a year where their contract was up or anything, they wouldn’t ask for anything. They were very much by the books, by the word of the contract and they never felt that they should have any extra perks. And you just notice that. You notice like, Oh, their reps aren’t advocating for them. I think asking for a raise, being someone who is ambitious, but works hard and then would like to be shown it—it doesn’t always occur to people who are employers to do that…Being your own advocate in those ways—that’s my biggest piece of advice for women.

E!: Have you gotten any career advice from your famous colleagues that has stuck with you?

MK: Ava [DuVernay] has given me a lot of advice. I think the thing that I most take away though is her work ethic and her work demeanor on set. She just wanted the set to be a reflection of what she wanted, like in terms of it was incredibly diverse and in departments where you don’t usually see it. And that just became a cornerstone of her company, Array. That’s their singular purpose is to make crews be more filled with diversity and with women in positions that don’t normally get to have it.

E!: Have you ever struggled with imposter syndrome? And if so, how did you overcome it?

MK: I don’t feel imposter syndrome and the reason I don’t is that I work so hard. I feel imposter syndrome happens when people feel unqualified for their jobs. Before I got my own show, I put in eight years at The Office. I wrote 24 episodes of TV. I was an executive producer at the end of it and I’d been a staff writer at the beginning. Then I did my show for six years, did 117 episodes. I feel like I’m a real A-student. I feel like I really prepare for my work. Again, it’s not all successes. A lot of times I failed, but I do feel qualified for my, you know, when I move up the ranks, like, ‘OK, I put in my time. I put in my, whatever it is, 10,000 hours. I feel qualified to do this next thing.’

E!: On social media nowadays, everyone’s lives look very seamless and glossy and everything looks very easy, but what would you say is something that people don’t see about your life or your work that is crucial to your success?

MK: I feel like I really identify with Elle Woods because I feel like I love girly things. I love hair, makeup, fashion. I love talking about the Met Gala and things like that and because I do that, I think that people find it hard to believe that I also am doing the hard, unglamorous work that it takes to write shows, hire production staff, work logistically as an employer to create these TV shows that I work on and write these scripts. And I think that you don’t always get to see that process, either on social media or in life, and so, I think that’s probably, I think, a bigger misconception about the way that I work.

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

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