notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Advice – The Good, The Bad, The Terrible

Over my many years, I’ve received lots of advice.

Overwhelmingly, it’s been good advice.

Like from my mother:

“If you have to choose between getting a chore done and having fun, pick the fun. Years later, you won’t remember how many chores were done late, just how much fun you had.”

And from my father:

“If you need a really big favor, go right to the top. People with only a little bit of power are often stingy with it. People with lots of power don’t have anything to prove. They can afford to be generous.”

And from my “Aunt” Rachel:

“Use the good china. Treat yourself like company every day.”

And my first boss:

“Hire the brains, not the experience. You can teach someone smart any job. You can’t someone to be smart.”

I’ve had lots of good advice like this over my lifetime, and it has served me well. And I’ve been happy to be able to pass it along.

But as I was thinking about all the good advice I have been lucky enough to have, I started to think about the bad advice I’ve received too.

And interestingly, I can’t really think of too many times I was given bad advice.

There are a couple of reasons for this:

First, because I was lucky enough to have extraordinary parents and extended family. I had mostly good advice because I was raised by good people.

Secondly, because I think I was prone to dismiss stuff that just didn’t suit me. I don’t remember bad advice because I disregarded it so readily. And how did I know as a kid what to disregard? Because of the first reason.

Here’s a piece of advice I dismissed that I do remember – because I was not a kid any more, and because it is part of a time that was important to me:  An unpleasant boss told me in a review that I was too soft on my subordinates. I needed to be tougher. I never considered for one moment taking that advice. Because I did not want to be tougher. I like being kind. That boss was mean. I am not mean.

So what was the worst advice I ever got?

I’ve thought about this a lot lately.

I can’t think of anything too terrible.

But there is one piece of advice where I can clearly see a consequence that did not serve me well.

I’m not sure whether this advice came from my mother or my father. My guess is both. Because it is part of an ethic that runs very strong in my family.

“Don’t brag. If you are good at what you do, people will see it. Excellence shines on its own.”

I can see the truth of this.

There’s a lot of mediocrity in the world. At best, there’s a lot of average shit. That’s why it’s AVERAGE, for God’s sake – because there’s so much of it. So good performances do stand out.

And it worked for me – in some ways. I worked hard and I was bright, creative and honest. So I got ahead. In school and in work.

However.

Here’s how it didn’t work for me. And doesn’t work for a lot of people. Most especially: For GIRLS.

Being modest. Not bragging. Waiting to be noticed.

DOES.

NOT.

WORK.

I’ve had ideas dismissed. The same ideas that are praised when someone more forceful (like a MAN) presents them. And I’ve had ideas stolen… because no one noticed when I said it.

men in boardroom

 

Worse – way worse, and I mean it – I have belittled my own ideas, because I presented them with overly modest disclaimers.

“This may sound silly, but….

I’m not sure this would work, but what if we try….”

And what I should have said? What most men WOULD say:

“I’ve got a great idea! We should….”

Self-deprecation with girls seems to be insidious, pervasive, and counter-productive. We seem to apologize for even having ideas.

We girls need to stop it.

(Some might criticize me for saying ‘girls’ instead of ‘women.’ But I’ve always liked the the word ‘girl’. It’s not a subset of ‘boy,’  like ‘woman’ is to ‘man.’ I like being a girl. I am a unique person – and a girl.)

And for a very practical reason, we girls should brag a lot more.

MONEY.

I NEVER (and I’m not exaggerating) got the same pay of any man who had the position before me. NEVER. If I got a job – or a promotion with the same employer – and a man had held the position previously, I was offered less money than my predecessor.

And here’s the real crime:  I took it. I ALWAYS took it.

And the reverse is also true. For every job I left – through promotion or whatever – where I was replaced by a man, he ALWAYS was offered more money TO START than I ever made at the SAME JOB.  ALWAYS.

WTF????

No wonder girls make 80% of what men make at the same job.

Check out this chart from the Department of Labor. It doesn’t matter the occupation, girls make less.

paygap

 

And look at the HUGE gap for Financial Managers. Guess what position I held before I retired?

And this haunts girls all their lives, since Social Security and pensions are based on your earnings.

I am not entirely blaming my employers for paying men more. Although they certainly seemed to have little problem offering me less and offering men more.

I did not sing my own praises. I did not claim my own worth. I was modest.

The man who replaced me when I retired last year is paid considerably more than I ever made on the job. I’m not angry with this guy. From what I hear, he’s doing a great job. But the company DID NOT KNOW he would do a great job when they made him the offer.  I WAS doing a great job, and they DID know it. So why did he get more money? BECAUSE HE ASKED FOR IT.

And I did not.

On job interviews, when asked about salary requirements, I always started my answer with:

“Well, although salary is always negotiable, I think….

Oh, how I wish I had said:

“I know that the responsibilities of this position usually command $xx – and I am worth every penny of it.”

I sound like I am blaming myself for a societal problem. Yes and No. I will say again that my employer may have been more than willing to pay a man more. Which is just not right. But we girls have to help make it right.

Of course, there is a risk to women speaking up. In claiming their worth. In bragging. Oh, my, it is SO unattractive for girls to brag. Am I right?

Here’s my advice to girls today:

SCREW THAT!

Brag more. Claim your worth.

albrightquote

 

 

 

 

38 Comments

  1. excellent, as always, and SOO true in so many ways. back when I was trying to push ahead I took many seminars diving into these same issues. one I always remembered was the way women voice an opinion–with inflection that always ends in a question–that is, asking for affirmation when it should have been made a flat statement. period. I’ve tried to drop those inflections, but still find myself ending with an unintended question mark. my generation–and I guess yours, and it’s hard to overcome.

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    • Oh, how us girls do that! So deferential. For what?

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  2. When do we get the message that we should be seen and not heard?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not even seen in many cases. We make ourselves small. How worried we are that we will offend!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. When I was in my early twenties, I worked for a company that paid women less than men for doing the same job (and some women were also paid inequitably – when I was hired, I was cautioned to never, ever talk about my salary; I found out later I was being paid about 20% more than all the other secretaries – and I wasn’t making all that much – and since people do like to talk, it soon came out that no matter the position, if a man was doing the work, they got up to 50% more than any woman in the same position). Having been raised to question anything I felt wasn’t ‘fair’, I stood up at a staff meeting and asked the company president why women weren’t paid or treated the same as men (the woman had to punch a time clock; the men filled their time cards in my hand!) and he said (without a word of a lie) “Because women are only working for pin money.” I started job hunting the very next day (unfortunately, there are still far too many inequities in salaries for my liking, and far too many women who don’t speak up; we need to find a way to change that!)

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    • I think many companies had that attitude a long time ago, and although most recognize how untrue it is, those habits and beliefs linger on.

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  4. I had a great career but if there’s one thing I could do over, it’s my career. I would be more forthright and vocal. I worked in a man’s world and it was difficult. Many times I would find myself in a situation and ask myself what a man would do. I don’t know when girls get those messages instilled in them but it must happen very young. In my case I think it happened at the christening.

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    • It’s Catch-22. In the corporate world, they want you to behave more like a man, but when you do, you are labeled as bitchy, overbearing and uncooperative.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes and often it’s the other women who call you bitchy. I thought we had come a long way in this so I was shocked that this happened at your last job.

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  5. In my last job working for someone else, a new position of General Manager was established. I wanted the job only to be told by the headhunter that the boss stipulated it must be a man. When a totally unqualified man was employed (mainly on the fact that he had been an All Black) I was told I had to help him as he had no experience. And he was paid almost double what I earned. Left that job and set up my own conpany. But still it seems this unfair practice is alive and well.

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    • All Blacks is Rugby right? I worked in the Sports Industry for years. The boys network was very strong. (And I also have had to train an unqualified man who was paid more than I. Ugh.)

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  6. Advice can be good or not so good some yes can be terrible but generally most advice isn’t that bad it may not suit me but that doesn’t make it bad, my mum told me never argue with a drunk, they can’t see reason, don’t argue over the little things or pick you battles as in only argue over stuff that really matters to you

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    • Good advice. My mother also told me never to argue with HER…. but she said, “Just say ‘Sure, Mom’ – and then go and do what you want.” She is so smart – she wants me to be respectful but have confidence in my own decisions. “Just humor me,” she says.

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  7. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I like your dad’s advice about going to the top. I am on a fundraising committee with the Truck Coalition and we’re contemplating trying to go to corporations for funds…your dad is right, when I think about it, we should go to the top in order to get the biggest donations.

    And I agree with others who commented here. I wish I had been more vocal earlier in my career. By the end, after dad died, I decided I had nothing to lose and I spoke out at most meetings. But for years I was quiet even when I knew the right thing to do was something different than we were being told to do. I’d tell women in college to get used to speaking up in class, be the leader, express your ideas, practice being assertive. You’ll need it for real life later.

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    • I spoke up often. But I also often backed down way too readily. I acquiesced constantly – in order to ‘be nice” and not rock the boat.

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  9. Excellent advice. I’m too old to take it job-wise but never too old to take it life-wise!

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    • I am hoping the next generation of women will be more outspoken.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Excellent advice.
    Why is it that women ALL OVER THE WORLD are taught to be silent? To be “modest”?
    I thought this was an issue only in developing countries like India…strange that the extent of developemnt does not seem to matter.

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    • It is as if we are taught to be embarrassed by our accomplishments, not proud of them.

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  11. No one ever explicitly told me not to be outspoken but somewhere along the way I was conditioned to do so. Reading your post and the comments along with it, shows how much of an issue this remains for women. I also present my ideas in a questioning self-depreciating tone – “Well, I don’t know if this would actually work but what if we attempted…” I haven’t encountered the wage gap yet, but I have encountered needing to prove myself more than a man – doing twice as much to show I’m capable and coming off like a complete B.

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    • I am also surprised by the response – I thought I would hear from more women who would say, “Not me!” This is perhaps more pervasive than I thought.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Christine

    As anybody that comes to my house knows, the advice from Mom that I have always followed is that fun comes before chores. More seriously, in forty years in the investment business, I never made as much as the men I worked with, even though I did the same work and often did it better. I took what was offered without complaint. I was making a good salary, so it wasn’t a question of need, but it would have made it easier for the women behind me if I had fought a little harder.

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    • We were brought up way too nice. I’m glad we were, but you’re right about not making it easier for the next generation.

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  13. Another area where too much humility has hurt me is in the arena of “self promotion”. This is not the bad thing that I have always thought it to be. Speaking about your strengths, true strengths not false bravado, is truly a skill. I have omitted genuine accomplishments from write ups or resumes just because I didn’t want to sound braggy. It has cost me jobs and opportunities that I knew I could handle or excel at but didn’t want to sound egotistical. Now I have someone close to me preview my reviews or applications and take their suggestions on what to add. This has really helped me with this hole in my self awareness!

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    • I could brag it up a bit on a resume, but I found it hard to toot my own horn to get a raise once I had the job.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I really needed this today. Thank you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. You echo what so many of us experienced through our active careers. Thank you.

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    • It’s kind of crazy isn’t it, how many of us have had the same experience? In one way, it’s reassuring – that we are not alone – but in other ways, it’s just plain maddening.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Reblogged this on World4Justice : NOW! Lobby Forum..

    Liked by 1 person

  17. great post follow me back too i need followers
    thanks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. My advice on blogging: Start writing at least twice a week, and comment often on blogs that are similar to yours. You will eventually grow your readership.Good luck.

      Liked by 1 person

      • but i need 50 follower for my grades
        can you do it for me hahah

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  18. I love this post, and judging by the number of comments you’ve struck a nerve. I totally agree with that advice re bragging but I just couldn’t bring myself to take it. I’ve had exactly your experience with jobs and pay though, it can be infuriating. The last incumbent of my job was full time and well paid, then when I joined the company they made it part time and less well paid. And he was lazy as!

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    • It happens so often, and we don’t complain! Because we don’t know how….. I hope the next generation of girls are way noisier!

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  19. Nan

    Loved every bit of it Nancy…Am your follower …

    Like

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