Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Career advice from Helen Gurley Brown

Last night, I picked up my copy of Sex and the Single Girl by Helen Gurley Brown in search of some career inspiration.

If you aren't familiar with Helen - you should be! Helen published Sex and the Single Girl in 1962 at the age of 40. Helen is a women's activist, an innovator, a successful magazine editor, and is way before her time. Helen held several positions (17!!) before she landed a secretarial job working for the ad man who later let her write copy. In her book she refers to this as "...the first good job I ever had." Her story is so Mad Men - wouldn't you say? I find her inspiring.

Helen's chapter on careers summarizes how to be (and why one should want to be) a successful career woman in the 1960's. I was surprised that women in the 1960's had similar career paths and struggles as women today. She outlines the three methods by which successful women have arrived at their careers, they are: (1) Vision; (2) Gravitation; (3) Accident. Her descriptions are spot on! The visionaries have decided to pursue a dream; gravitators are ambitious and work hard to meet life goals, but aren't directed to a specific goal; and the accidental successes are the women whose careers happened out of pure luck.

I think or should I say - I hope - that I am a gravitator. About gravitators she says: "There is never much question they will arrive. It's just a matter of their gravitating to the work they were meant to do." If I continue to network, research, and work to understand my likes and dislikes, I will eventually "arrive". Yay!

The book also lists reasons why not all women have successful careers. Here is my worst-case scenario, taken from the list: "Your good but inspiring job gives you profit-sharing, retirement benefits, a pleasant, comfortable life. You're in solid. Why risk this setup for something flashier."

Or even worse is if I ever become: "...a beachcomberess at heart and nurture no dreams of glory. You'd rather be more relaxed and less-income taxed."

Um, no thank you!

I leave you with a quote from the book and something that I strongly believe:

"...a job gives a single woman something to be."

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