Channel Your Inner Mediocre Man
(Note: there are some sweeping generalizations made below — please know I don’t think “all men…” OR “all women…”. That being said, I stand by this advice. And if you find yourself offended, please know, from the bottom of my heart, I do not care.)
Ladies, in over a decade of working “real” jobs, I have finally learned the best career advice that I now pass on to you:
Have the confidence of a mediocre white man.
Ummm, what? you may say. If you’re a white man that for some bizarre reason is reading this, you’re thinking “okay, wow — rude, I have #struggles you’ll never understand — I have to look at women’s EYES and not their BOOBS”.
Okay, that’s harsh. And glib. But I whatever, life’s tough, get a helmet.
Recently in my current role, I’ve found myself starting to mentor younger employees. One such firm initiative I’m currently involved in is a women’s initiative focused on the professional development of both my peers as well as mentoring those a level below us. Separately, I’ve been mentoring a 22 year-old white male hired directly out of college who works on my project.
A couple weeks ago I had a striking conversation with a younger woman in my firm — she was nervous about talking to her project manager because she had a new opportunity to go to another project that would help develop her professional skills and promote her own career growth. She had previously talked to her project manager about how she was feeling stifled in her current position, didn’t see a lot of growth opportunity and was interested in moving on to something more challenging for her. The advice she asked of me revolved around having the conversation with her project manager that she’d found another position and wanted to leave the project.
“I want to ask her if it’s okay if I take this new role…” she started hesitantly.
“I can work both projects until my replacement is up to speed.”
“I just don’t want them to be disappointed or mad that I’m leaving.”
As she nervously spoke, rambling the entire story out to me, I immediately thought of the bro I mentor saying the following earlier that week, “I mean, I just want to be paid my worth — like, I know my value.”
LONG, LOUD FART NOISE.
This guy has been with the firm less than a year. He had two internships previously. He didn’t do a full cycle of the project before wanting to change to something “more interesting — more cool, like, stuff with travel”. And no matter what I — or our manager (another woman) — have said to him, he continually suffers from shiny penny syndrome. Other companies have dangled roles in front of him, he’s engaged with them but luckily told our manager before said other companies have thrown him under the bus for contemplating the role.
The number of times he has told me that he just wants to be paid for his value are too high to count. And he’s convincing too! Some days I think, “Yeah! They’re taking advantage of this kid!”.
No. No, they are not.
My manager has said his work is middling, at best. It’s not awful, it could definitely be worse but it could absolutely be better. He has a lot to learn, foundational skills to develop, then hone, then perfect. But in his mind, our company (and the rest of the corporate world, for that matter), owe him.
The comparison between him and his approach to his career, and the young woman I spoke with weeks ago is stark. While women tend to bend their brains in knots — worrying about letting down their managers, emotionally engaging with their roles and wondering if they’re asking for too much, their male counterparts are demanding they be heard and appreciated.
It all brought me back to an argument I had with my brother years ago wherein he told me I must demand I be taken seriously and fight for more money while I calmly tried to explain I’ve been fighting tooth and nail for every opportunity I’d had up to that date and still wasn’t being paid for the work I was doing (because I’d “asked to do that work” — yes, that was a real thing the CEO of the company I was with at the time said to me when I asked for a raise to compensate the additional tasks I’d taken on).
Since the start of my career I’ve encountered countless men who are neither smarter than me, more experienced, or more prepared for a role than I was. I’ve also met plenty who do deserve their positions and compensation. What I noticed was there was no true difference in attitude between the former and the latter.
There’s a confidence men are allowed to display that make a manager perk up and listen. And I say “allowed” here because confident women are routinely still labeled “bitches”, or the more PC-term “difficult”. But I like to think the tides are turning — we aren’t quietly working until we’re noticed, we’re asking for more money, more management roles, more more more.
And we deserve it.
So channel your inner mediocre white male. Shout to anyone that listens that you know your worth and you demand the recognition that goes with it.