There’s no shortage of career advice for women, especially in books like Lean In, #Girl Boss, or Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office. But I’d never found one quite right for girls like me and many women I know: the weird girls. The awkwardly ambitious. The women who follow meandering, unconventional professional paths.
To the rescue is Weird In A World That’s Not: A Career Guide For Misfits, F*ckups And Failures by Jennifer Romolini, director of content at Shondaland.com and former editor-in-chief of HelloGiggles. She blends her the story of her own personal and professional growth — failures and successes included — with some truths she’s learned along the way, all in a funny, sassy voice that will remind you of your smart older sister after a cocktail.
Had I possessed this book as a young, impressionable professional mystified by what went on in an office, I might have gotten farther up the corporate ladder. As it happened, I fashioned a “weird” career for myself (romance author!) but I know from my own experience and talking to friends who rock desk jobs that the advice that Romolini offers up is advice that anyone can benefit from, in any career.
Here are six things to keep in mind:
1You Will Suck At Everything You Do The First Time You Do It
Join me in breathing a sigh of relief. Whether it’s a first draft of a writing assignment or a new task, women especially can put too much pressure on themselves to be perfect right off the bat.
“Don’t compare yourself to other people who have been doing the thing longer, who have practiced and are better,” Romolini writes.
Likewise, “Don’t pretend the reasonable person critiquing your work is wrong and awful and your substandard work is up to snuff because believing this soothes your ego.” Accept feedback and apply it to your next effort, so you get good the second or third time.
2There Are Ways To Survive Small Talk
That sound you hear is all the introverts of the world groaning at the prospect of a room full of strangers and acquaintances with whom one must converse. Romolini gives us all permission to just be honest and weird and our true selves. Her trick: engage with the human, be curious and ask questions. “When in doubt, say what you’re thinking but are afraid to say because you think it will be too dumb, remembering this basic truth about small talk: nothing is too dumb,” she writes.
3You Need To Get Out Of Your Own Way
“The number one thing I see negatively impacting talented women is that they get in their own way," Romolini writes. "They distract themselves with drama or psych themselves out or over examine situations to a debilitating degree.” My mom, who has frequently being my sounding board for whatever paranoid or stressed scenarios I invent, would concur. She has told me more than once to stop overthinking it. My defense is that overthinking and imagining the worst case scenario is great is you’re writing fiction and can channel your flair for dramatic into the story, but otherwise it’s probably not the best use of your energy. Assume the best and focus on doing quality work instead.
4Mentorship Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means
Romolini has a lot to say on this — an entire chapter is devoted to it. “The idea of getting ‘mentored’ has become formalized and fetishized to a degree that, on top of all the other crap we put on young women there’s now pressure for mentorship to look a certain way, for you to find a kindly fairy godmother/Glinda the Good Witch figure who will dole out bippity-boppity-boo sage advice and cheer for you on the sidelines as you run the marathon of your career.” This is all total BS, according to Romolini. YES, there is much to learn from older and wiser women. YES, you should develop relationships with people in your field who share your passion for work. But forget about it looking and being a certain formal way. “You are seeking advice and clarity and support; you need to be open to getting that from a number of places, over time.”
5Watch Your Drinking
This isn’t to be a buzzkill at the office party or happy hour, it’s to prevent you from embarrassing moments — talking too loudly, stumbling, telling your coworker you like like them, giving unsolicited feedback to the CEO —and avoiding that next day regret of wondering what you said, and to whom.
Romolini breaks down why you should really watching your boozing at work: “What you’re trying to avoid is self-destruction and creating perception about yourself among your coworkers and managers that is not true to who you really are.”
6Own Your Ambition
Romolini has a theory about why so many young women appear entitled or clingy or clueless at work: “They are afraid to own their ambition and communicate it clearly, out loud.”
It’s not necessarily women’s fault, but the world's: women are taught that it’s unfeminine to be hungry, competitive, or ambitious. "This sets us up for internal conflict and confusion, which leads to convoluted requests and clumsy communication that can be off-putting to busy people in charge," she writes.
Romolini breaks down how to own your ambition, articulate it and achieve it: be honest about what you want, evaluate your position, make plans and enlist your boss. "Respectfully own this, and you'll be fine," she advises.