Life and Business Advice for the New Graduate

Another guest post at Bitch Magazine:

I haven’t donned a cap and gown of my own for a little while, but as a self-help and business book nerd, all the great career advice dispensed around this year keeps my Instapaper account busy.

There’s business advice hidden in funny books like Tina Fey’s Bossypants (paraphrase: If there’s someone you dislike at your office and they don’t have the power to change your fate, ignore them and move on) or even in general life advice books like Katie Couric’s The Best Advice I Ever Got. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Couric: “I realized that whatever your path, whatever your calling, the most damaging thing you can do is let other voices define you and drown out your own. You’ve got to block them out and find that place deep inside you, shaken but still intact, and hold on to it.”

What’s the most useful career advice anyone ever gave you? Here’s my best shot at dispensing words of wisdom that I wish someone had told me when I entered the workforce but I didn’t know until later. Feel free to add some to the comments. I’m sure me and my imaginary boo, Ryan Gosling, are missing something.

I know. I had to add Ryan Gosling in there somewhere.

Here are some of my favorite tips:

6. Don’t date in the office. What? I know. Hot. Right there. Where you spend all your waking hours. Down GIRL! (And by date, I mean whatever it is you think I mean by date.) Certainly, there are all kinds of excuses you can make to say why this is wrongheaded. I know a lot of couples who met at the office. Don’t crap where you sleep. It rarely ends well.

7. Ask for what you want. Like my imaginary honey Ryan suggests above, asking for a raise or a promotion is something that you should totally do. Lois Frankel gives great advice about this, as does Austin-based career coach Ann Daly. It’s scary, but scared money don’t make none. In other words, the worst that could happen is that your boss will say no to whatever you’re asking for.

8. Try to forget ‘What I Thought I’d Be Doing’ and enjoy the ride. Aim to enjoy where you are. Everyone has to start somewhere.

9. Save Money. I used to have a really silly relationship with money, shaped by growing up without much. Interviewing wise people over the years has underscored for me the importance of having a stash saved in the event that I need to leave a toxic or untenable situation and regroup.

10. Win. I used to hate attention and I would unconsciously sabotage myself, thinking that if I won all the time, people would hate me for it. Specifically, “boys club” women and intimidated men. It turns out winning is sexy. It also makes you happy and confident, which gives your skin a healthy glow. Go for it.

If you have some, I’d love to hear it.

The costs of dating

I wrote this post at Bitch Magazine about women who make more money than their partners. It’s something I think about a lot, especially because when I was a little bit younger, one of the things I often heard from women about guys and in general was that I had an “intimidating” career.

The only upside of being a writer who doesn’t make a bunch of money is that it has become a little easier to date. I can’t figure out if this is because I have a more flexible schedule, or because I’m happier and therefore more available and sultry-looking, or if it’s because I’m less intimidating now that I’m not pulling in five figures.

What’s confusing is that I don’t know if a decision has been made about whether women who bring home most of the money who are also in relationships are hot or not. It used to be common knowledge that that whole power dynamic thing in a relationship shifted with the purse (man purse?) strings.

It occurs to me that in the dating world, things might still operate according to outdated principles. In other words, it is expected that the person who is the pursuer in any dynamic is the one who pays for dinner and drinks and other things — no matter what his or her gender expression might be. If you go dutch, that sets a specific kind of tone. These are all impressions I have related to my own expectations in the dating world. I have purchased unnecessary drinks during dates and sometimes even paid for dinner, because it felt weird to expect for the guy to foot the bill for everything.

At the same time, like many of my friends and women I have met over the years, I am a person who loves being feted. Romance to me looks a lot like it does in fairy tales and rom-coms. Part of me thinks that’s pathetic and shameful as a thinking feminist; another part of me wants to just accept that I have these assumptions about what romance and courtship look like and just have a good time. Mostly, I just wish that courtship and dating were a little more linear so I could wrap my brain around them.

I guess that would suck all the fun out of them, though, right?

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