“What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?”
It’s a question that gets asked a lot in journalism. It’s asked to give you a chance to reflect, but also to share a pearl of wisdom with the young business folk on the cusp of their careers so that, hopefully, they don’t make the same mistakes you did. As an interviewer, it’s a question we hope is answered honestly. But successful editor, Jennifer Romilini, admits this isn’t always the case.
“Whenever I am asked this question in public, I don’t really know what to say. (So I say something canned, like “A little sugar goes a long way!” Or something I think will get a laugh, like “Wear a bra!” Hardy har.)”
But when she put pen to paper to write her new book, Weird in a World That’s Not: A Career Guide for Misfits, F*ckups, and Failures (which launched last month), she was forced to be a little more pensive.
“The real advice I wish I could give my younger self is more intense and harsh than what I’d give to others, what I’d give to you. It’s not a sound bite, it’s not onstage cool. What would have been most useful to me in the early stages of my career, during the period between first-job terror and middle-management malaise … is embarrassing and intimate. It’s tough love. It’s not always nice. Here’s what I would have told myself. Maybe it will help you too,” she writes.
You’ll suck at everything the first time you do it
You will probably suck the second and third time too. Don’t get defensive about this; don’t decide that you should never do the thing again because you’re as worthless as a chin pimple. Don’t compare yourself to other people who have been doing the thing longer, who have practiced and are better. Who were maybe born better—who cares. Don’t pretend the reasonable person critiquing your work is wrong and awful and your sub-standard work is up to snuff because believing this soothes your ego. That thing you did sucks, but it doesn’t matter: with effort, you can become great at almost anything except maybe (at this point) professional sports. Accept this as reality, stop getting so mad, stop being so mean to yourself, and start working to make it good
There will never be a positive consensus about you
Some people just won’t like you, whatever. There’s no amount of extra-teeth smiling or forced charm or jokes or compliments or social games or happy-face emoji DMs that will change their minds…
For the rest of Jennifer Romilini’s invaluable advice, read the full extract on Mamamia. Trust us, it’s worth it.