Emily Bennington is holding her breath. Well, not literally, but, with a new book coming out this month, she’s certainly feeling the “excited energy” as she calls it. Good thing she knows how to thrive under pressure. Actually, Emily’s book – Who Says It’s a Man’s World: The Girls’ Guide to Corporate Domination – is all about showing women how to thrive in the pressure-cooker environment of business today. In this interview, Emily discusses her idea of business success, why “goals make us crazy”, and the most challenging part of being an author.
What are some of the most important points you want to make in Who Says It’s a Man’s World?
My intention with Who Says It’s a Man’s World is to shift the reader’s perspective on everything we’ve been taught about success. How’s that for a modest aim? But seriously, the core idea of the book is to define success based on who you want to be first and what you want to do second. This approach – anchored in mindfulness and being present in the moment at work – is very different from most business books that are honed-in on what I call “checking boxes.” While I encourage readers to have goals, I remind them that tomorrow’s success only comes from being present in the work of today.
But how can you be “in the moment” and goal-driven at the same time? Those things seem on different ends of the spectrum.
Exactly – and that’s the point. I’m guessing most women reading career books would classify themselves as “goal-oriented,” but the problem with goals is they constantly keep us focused on a future outcome. When your ability to feel successful is wrapped in goals, you inevitably spend the bulk of your mental energy wanting things you don’t yet have. The dream job…the higher salary…the better body…you name it. So when you want something but don’t have it – what are you supposed to do? Well, you can go to business books, all of which seem to tell us to “create a plan and work harder.” Or you can go to self-help books which tell us to “be grateful for what we have already.” There’s nothing wrong with these approaches except for the fact that neither one by itself is 100% satisfying. I’d like to introduce readers to a new way – one where you can still rapidly ascend the career ladder, but enjoy the journey too.
How does the book itself balance both of those promises?
The book is divided into five skill sections that build on one another – self-awareness, social skills, personal effectiveness, team building, and leadership. At the end of each section, readers have an opportunity to choose from a list of selected activities and create their own individualized career plan. Each activity has a point value assigned to it allowing them to tally their points and assess their own “promotability.” There is also a toolbox section with worksheets and templates readers can use to apply what they’ve learned to their own lives, but this isn’t planning for things down the road, this is planning for the person you want to be right now. So while the book is a practical career guide, it definitely has a strong thread of mindfulness throughout the text that addresses both achievement and fulfillment.
What kind of reader did you have in mind as you were writing? Who do you most want to reach with this book?
I had two kinds of readers in mind, actually. The first is ambitious career women transitioning – or aspiring to transition – into executive management roles. In my head I pictured the countless women I’ve met on the road who want to take over the world, but they’re just not quite as successful as they’d like to be yet. My hope is that the book challenges them to take a deeper look at how their own beliefs and actions are propelling them forward or holding them back.
The book is also a fit for my core audience of college students looking for answers as they make the leap from classroom to boardroom. I know these women particularly well from my first book, Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job. They have been absolutely bombarded with information over the years, but what they really need is answers. They don’t need the “why” they need the “how” and so I wanted to provide it for them in very specific action steps.
In your opinion, what is the hardest part of being an author?
This is an extraordinary career, but the skills required to succeed are very divergent. For example, you have to be introverted – and disciplined – enough to sit at your computer for months on end, reading and writing the same document over and over and over. Then, once the book is published, you have to be extraverted enough to speak in front of hundreds of people, build relationships with contacts who can help you promote your work, while always being your own best sales rep. It’s tough to find all of those qualities wrapped up in one person.
Emily Bennington specializes in two distinct forms of career transition: women leaders entering executive management and college students entering the workforce. She challenges executives to choose mindful, values-centered action. In addition to Who Says It’s a Man’s World, Emily is also the coauthor of Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job, a book she wrote with her first boss and mentor Skip Lineberg. Emily has led training programs for numerous Fortune 500 companies and has been featured in press ranging from CNN, ABC, and Fox to the Wall Street Journal, New York Post and Glamour magazine. She is also a contributing writer for Monster.com and a featured blogger for Forbes Woman.