I’ve always been that awkward person. The one who talks too loudly or not at all.
The one who never really nailed small talk, who overthinks social events, and leads with her heart rather than her head.
In my career my awkwardness has followed me around, tripping me up and making me second guess every move I make.
A few weeks ago I picked up Jennifer Romolini’s book Weird in a World That’s Not: A Career Guide for Misfits, F**k Ups and Failures and it has profoundly changed the way I look at my career and redefined my idea of success.
Romolini is a weird person who has created her own success in the world that’s not weird, and in a world that’s not always kind to weird people.
At 27, Romolini was broke, unemployed, and running around New York City in a cheap polyester suit attending every job interview she was offered in the publishing industry – and not getting any of the jobs.
Eventually, she returned to her hometown and resigned herself to a life of waitressing. Then she got a phone call. One more media company wanted to interview her, and after attending the interview, she got the job.
You see, after dozens of rejected job applications Romolini tried a different tact with this one. She was honest, she was authentic and she was just her weird self – and they loved it.
Romolini says the single most important advice she can give to jobseekers is ‘DON’T fake it til you make it’.
“Don’t oversell yourself. A smart boss will see right through it and will not hire you; a less smart boss will believe you and expect you to flex those skills on day one and you will start your job on the wrong foot and perhaps never recover,” she wrote.
“You have merit as precisely what are you at the moment. Stick with that.”
At the time, Romolini didn’t realise she actually had a lot to offer at the entry level. She had ten years of real life experience and she’d been through some real shit. Realising that, she says, would have saved her a lot of time and energy.
After getting that first job, Romolini went on to become the editor in chief and vice president of content at Hello Giggles, the editor in chief of Yahoo Shine, and the deputy editor of Lucky Magazine.
But it wasn’t an easy climb at up the ladder, getting the job was only the first part of the battle. Once she was part of the working world, Romolini had to learn how to navigate it.
In my early 20s I stumbled around Sydney (in a badly-fitted skirt suit) desperately trying to convince someone to give me a job. Eventually I was offered two jobs but I sucked at them.
I was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole and I never stopped to think what I could bring to these roles and whether I actually wanted them.
I was just desperate to prove to myself – and the rest of the world – that I could make something of myself.
But I just kept self-sabotaging my own career for almost a decade, which Romolini says is common.
We finally get the job we want and then we f**k it up for ourselves.
Cult following: The barefoot investor book. Post continues…
We overthink things. We complicate things. And we get in the way of our own success.
Romolini’s book made me realise that although I’ve spent a decade sabotaging my own success, it doesn’t have to stay that way. Weird people can make it in the corporate world, we just need to stop overanalysing things and start embracing our uniqueness.
Romolini won’t tell you what to wear to an interview or how to ask for a pay rise, but she will reassure you that everything you’re thinking and everything you’re feeling is normal. Everyone doubts themselves, everyone thinks they’re an impostor, but it’s the people who manage to these feelings and get shit done, who get to where they want to be.
Weird in a World That’s Not isn’t the kind of book you have to read cover to cover. You can pick it up throughout your career, whenever you really need a little enema of creative career advice.
If you read any of Romolini’s book, make it the chapter ‘What I Wish I Knew’, where she shares five pieces of advice for anyone just starting out in their dream career: You’ll suck at everything the first time you do it (and the second time and the third time); There will never be a positive consensus about you; Stop vacillating between “I am garbage” and “I am God”; Chill the f**k out; and Stop treating your career like a race to the death sprint.
I revisit this chapter every time I have a bad day at work. It helps.
So chill the f**k out, weirdos, it’s going to be OK.