The Best Career Advice from “Mistakes I Made at Work” by Jessica Bacal
In my quest to get myself back on track and learn something new I have been listening to “Mistakes I made at work by Jessica Bacal on Audible. The book interviews 25 successful women and asks them about what mistakes they made in their climb to the top. The women are diverse and speak candidly about the things they would tell younger women about the many pitfalls they found themselves in professionally.
I found this interesting because telling people how you screwed up is never easy. Lots of the lessons were things we have heard before – things like speak up, ask questions, and be yourself. But there were a few things that I did not expect to learn that I thought were game-changing for career girls of color today.
The Glass Cliff. At the start of the book, Bacal talks about the “Glass Cliff” and it is as terrible as it sounds. It is basically the thought that women are looked at as incompetent for making the same mistake as men.
I was reading this and shaking my head. As black women, we often find that even more than white women, we cannot take risks that will leave us open to our colleagues thinking less of us in any capacity. I have found that doing the extra work of creating the right relationships can combat this but that does not mean it does not piss me off all the same.
Take Charge of Your Narrative. I have only begun to really dig into this one in my own work life. Like many hard-working girls, I always thought my work would speak for its self. Nope. Yes, do great work but be very careful how you talk about yourself. If someone says, “You did great on that presentation, I can tell you worked really hard on it”, DO NOT say “It was nothing or I can do it in my sleep” or anything of the like. Even if it was easy for you now, getting to that place took skills and if you are like me battle scars from all the losses it took getting to a place of easy. Do not be modest, confidently say “Thank you” if you are at a loss for words.
Also, do not wait on anyone to “big you up”, self-promotion matters. Let it be known when you come up with a great idea, save the company money or have some rock star results. I do not mean just in the review, talk yourself up when you see a window to do so. It is all about controlling people’s perspective of you. Many of us do not talk to leadership day to day, so when they hear about you make sure it is tied to a win as much as possible.
You Cannot Ignore Office Politics. I am rolling my eyes at this one because as much I hate it …. it is so damn true. ARGH! We gotta play the game more. I have worked with many talented black women… I mean girls who work not just hard but smart and I have seen them let go just because other people were “just not into them”. I am sure I will have more to say about this in its own post but for right now, I will say again… work is not about work as much is about how people feel about you personally. Play the game and keep how you really feel in the black girl group chat. #Shoutouttothegroupchat
Treat Every Job Like Freelance. This is my favorite advice to give everyone. We know that it is unlikely that we will have one job for 40 years and retire. We also know that companies are looking more at experience than education. Because of these two facts, every job is a chance to grow your skillset. I like to think of work like getting paid to learn and add to my toolkit. Personally, I love being a marketer. It is a key component to any business I may want to have in the future so I look at any opportunity to get better like a chance to master a craft that will help me do anything else I want to do in life. Turn the tables on how you look at your job and it will help you pay a lot less attention to all the petty BS that is bound to happen anytime a group of strangers are forced to work together.
You Need a Professional Sister Circle. You need a group of women who know you and your motivations professionally. I can personally attest to this one. Our personal sister circle is great for overall well-being but having a few great people on the side who know what you do and are in the industry help to gain perspective. As a marketer, I enjoy calling up another marketer and spitballing next moves, working through problems, and trading know-how.
Do Not Be Afraid to Quit. Are you also a queen of the safe footing only club? I hear this lesson but it is hard. I have no problem making a strategic move but just giving up because it is hard is just not my style. But I have learned that sometimes trying to prove you can take it only drains you of your energy. Learn when to stay the course and when to step off the course and have a seat. You do not have anything prove (I am saying that to both of us btw)
Overall Jessica Bacal’s “Mistakes I Made at Work” was pretty good. It is rare to hear professionals talk specifically and frankly about all the errors that made and continue to make at work. We live in a world that awards the perfectly polished picture more than the one we are all living.
I have made many errors at work and some of them are still happening. I often fail to ask for help and I make the error of thinking I can avoid “playing the game”, both are constant lessons.
What kinds of mistakes have you made and are still making at work or in your business that we can learn from?