“Who runs the world? Girls!” Well.. we’re getting there. I recently read a REALLY important book by Lois P. Frankel called “Nice Girls Still Don’t Get the Corner Office” and it opened my eyes to a lot of self defeating behaviors that I (and other women) exhibit in the workplace.
“Yasmina.. are you about to write us a book report??” Haha NO! But there are some key lessons I wanted to share with y’all this Work Wear Wednesday that might really help you in your career advancement. Or at least open up your eyes to the possibility that the system isn’t limiting you, but you’re limiting yourself! I linked the book above if y’all want to buy it. I highly recommend it and it’s only $10 on Amazon!
Why I Found This Valuable
First of all, I want to start this post by clarifying that the opposite of “nice girl” isn’t “a total b*****”. This was one of the main premises of Dr. Frankel’s book– the opposite of nice girl is actually winning woman. I really love this idea, because sometimes women think that if they are too assertive or too aggressive then people will call them the dreaded “B” word. I’m probably the wrong person to give advice about this, because if/when someone calls me that it doesn’t hurt my feelings at all. I actually think it’s funny and makes me feel sorry for them (I’m strange, I know!!). On the other hand, I can acknowledge that if some of my friends were to be called that, it would really hurt them deeply.
One of the most eye-opening parts of this book is actually the self-assessment at the beginning. It gives you a series of questions in which you have to rank yourself on the scale provided. After you finish, there is a matrix where you can tabulate your scores across different competencies so that you can see which topics are your strengths and weaknesses. Following this, each chapter deals with each of the 7 competencies. I learned that one of my significant strengths was “How You Play the Game”, and one of my lower scores was, “How You Act”. I was then able to start with the chapter on “How You Act”, read the mistakes and action items, reflect on my behaviors in the workplace, and then move onto a different subject.
Another reason why I found this book valuable was because every mistake or area of improvement had a list of action items in order to improve upon that weakness. Within these action items, there were a lot of book recommendations on a variety of professional topics. Now I have a reading list about 20 books long! I appreciate that Dr. Frankel gave nods to other bodies of work that delve deeper into specific topics that she touched upon in her own book.
My Main Takeaways
This book opened my eyes to a lot of mistakes that I had made in the past (so embarrassing!!!), and also made me realize why some of my friends/peers are struggling with their own career progression. People are quick to say, “stop making it a gender thing.” But let’s be 100% honest with ourselves.. sometimes it IS a gender thing. ESPECIALLY if you’re like me and work in a male-dominated field or industry. But there are certain behaviors you can alter that will help you be taken more seriously in the workplace, or certain characteristics that you can overcome to assert your power and ask for what you deserve.
- How You Play the Game– Dr. Frankel claims, “Business IS a game, and you CAN win it.” Girl, preach. There are so many people that deny office politics or decide they don’t want to partake. There are unspoken rules in every workplace. Don’t be the person that falls behind in their career because you’re unwilling to capitalize on relationships, you’re waiting to be given what you want, or holding your tongue when your voice matters. That’s not to say that you can act like you’re entitled to things you don’t deserve. I learned this lesson early in my career. Luckily for me, I was blessed with the gift of assertiveness. So I decided to have an honest conversation with my boss about all the reasons why I felt like I should be promoted at that time. The problem was that I felt like I was ENTITLED to that promotion.. but I hadn’t actually earned it. I didn’t realize that then, but looking back now I feel silly. My manager sat down with me and explained why I didn’t necessarily deserve the promotion at that time but could the next quarter. We had a really constructive conversation about ways I could improve in my current position to help me get there, and sure enough 3 months later he promoted me! The fact that I was bold enough to ask for what I wanted, open to feedback, and exhibited the willingness to put forth the work to get there, showed initiative and drive that would be valuable to any employer.
- How You Act– The key here is to “act in ways that ensure your goals are met by knowing what you want, having clarity about where you’re headed, and achieving both through high likeability and emotional intelligence.” This chapter warns about multi-tasking (wow.. I am the WORST about this!), gossipping, sharing TMI, and the undying need to be liked all the time. The section that stuck with me the most here was about being a doormat. Frankel quotes Pablo Picasso in this part, saying that “There are only two types of women– goddesses and doormats.” A part of me actually felt really sad when reading about this mistake because it made me realize how many women I know really allow themselves to be walked all over, whether it is in relationships, friendships, or the workplace. If you feel that sometimes people take advantage of your kindness and feel like you can never say no, this portion is for you.
- How You Think– The biggest validation I got here is that I’m not crazy for thinking to myself, “What work life balance?!” Dr Frankel points out that we should actually think of it as “work-life integration”. She says to send guilt on a trip as long as YOU’RE happy with the quality of your life, quality of your work, and the time you’re giving your personal relationships. (Okay well your boss and organization need to be happy with the quality of your work too! 😉 ) Another quote from here I found beneficial is that “being nurturing and kind is not mutually exclusive of being protective of your time.” Women, including myself, are always so hesitant to cut someone off for fear of being impolite. But letting people waste your time, that you can NEVER recover, can really hold you back. We need to try tactics like, “I would love to talk more, but my schedule is so tight today and I’m trying to meet a deadline. Can we pick this up another time?”
- How You Brand and Market Yourself– Welllll I am a blogger… so this can be a little tricky for me because social media is a huge part of my business. But sometimes I myself am conflicted about how much I’m sharing for fear that it could interfere with my corporate life or how I could be perceived as sharing “TMI”. Sharing appropriate amounts of information on social media will humanize you in a good way, but too much can detract from your professional image. In addition, this chapter talks a lot about “creating the word on the street” about yourself. Try not to minimize your work or position by being too modest, don’t wait to be noticed, and take the risk of high-profile assignments. There are appropriate times to toot your own horn and confidence goes a long way in the workplace.
- How You Sound– How many times do you listen to someone talk and they say “like” so many times it makes you cringe? This is one of the more obvious mistakes, but something to be aware of is how you sound via email as well. I rewrite my emails constantly, because I have the tendency to say things such as, “I was just wondering..” “Perhaps we should..”, “I feel like we can..” or just plain over explaining. Girl, no. Edit these out. Short and sweet is confident and professional. Instead of “I was just wondering when that media will be sent over?”, try “When can we expect that media to be sent over?”
- How You Look– I find this to be a bit superficial but hey.. the world is superficial sometimes and I get it. But I also felt like this section was the least applicable to my day to day because I work from home and no one sees me 🙂 Frankel talked about the obvious things (inappropriate piercings/tats, professional hair, too much make up) but then also more nuanced things like tilting your head, sitting on your foot during meetings or putting your hands under the table.
- How You Respond– DON’T. PUT. ANYTHING. CONTROVERSIAL. IN. WRITING. Email wars can and will be used against you. And for the love of all things holy.. we should be SO careful about the “Reply All” function on emails. Haha! We can all think of a time where someone (or maybe even ourselves) humiliated themselves big time by hitting Reply All. I try to use it sparingly. Something else I personally struggle with in this section is holding a grudge. This girl holds a grudge like NO OTHER. If my friends or family are reading this, they might laugh about that because it’s so true. Frankel addressed issues about being consistent with your emotions and diffusing conflicts. She also discusses passing on dead-end assignments, exhibiting TOO much patience with people, and trying not to put the needs of others at work before your own.
I know this post was super verbose, but let me know what you thought! Go get your corner office!! ♥
P.S. You can shop my entire outfit (minus my company’s laptop case, haha!) in the scroll bar at the top of this post, or by the links below. I am wearing a size S in both pieces for reference. Size up a half size on the pumps!
Photos: Madison Katlin Photography