But what about the 30-somethings? That’s a question I frequently get about 40:20 Vision. It was never my intent to leave them out (40:20 was more a metaphor than a club) but now Denise Restauri has them covered.
In her new book, “Their Roaring Thirties – Brutally Honest Career Talk From Women Who Beat The Youth Trap”. Denise brings us life and leadership lessons from women who are tackling the thirties — a decade often filled with flux — head AND heart first.
The media abounds with Millennial missives and advice to Boomers on how to manage Gen Y, but somehow 30-somethings got the squeeze. When Denise, founder of GirlQuake and frequent Forbes.com contributor, went online to research 30-something women for an article, all she found was dating advice. But in fact, the thirties are a fascinating and complex time for women. They are closing the gap between ambition and aspiration. They are facing new choices from becoming a mom to caring for mom and rising in the workplace to a point where sexism often raises its ugly head. The book, featuring 26 interviews with women in the midst of this flux, is full of wisdom.
Here’s my interview with the author and amplifier of women’s “brutally honest stories”:
Christina: What is one thing that 20-somethings should learn from these 30-somethng women?
Denise: Be yourself. That’s the #1 thing. Don’t expect to be what people expect you to be. We are all different. We can’t put all 30-somethings in a box and package them up. We shouldn’t do that with any generation.
Christina: Was there anything you did find in common amongst the women you interviewed?
Denise: 30-somethings are finding their own way of making it in the world. Jayne Juvan is a perfect example. She used Twitter to break out of the traditional way of building “your book” as a lawyer.
“At a young age, I realized I needed to be the CEO of my career and take personal responsibility for my development. I wanted to build an international network quickly without relying on any one person to open doors for me, so I took to social media and Twitter.” – Jayne Juvan, 33, made partner at a national law firm at 32
It would be easy to go home every night and say, “It’s not working. I don’t know what to do,” or you can figure out how it will work for you like Jayne did.
The other thing I heard from these women is that your twenties are the decade of sameness but your thirties are the decade of change. Your thirties are when you start to say, “This is my life and I need to own it. I need to be me,” versus “I need to make him or her happy.”
In your twenties, your decisions are more dependent on other people. Life revolves around universities, friends, relationships and parents. We all graduate from college and make about the same salary. Four years down the road, someone who was making $25,000 a year could be making $80,000. But someone else working on the pro-social side could only be earning $35,000 a year. Your lives are very different. Your vacations change. Your lifestyle changes.
Also as you get into your late twenties and thirties, some friends start having children and that changes the dynamics. For a lot of women the biological clock has a big impact on making their own decisions. It’s not so much that it removes them from the table, but it is a constant concern.
Christina: So you should explore everything in your twenties so when you get to your thirties you can be better prepared to make these big life choices…
Denise: Your twenties are training ground for your thirties. That’s what almost every woman said. Explore and then start to firm it up when you’re in thirties. I think if 20-somethings look at their twenties as a time to build a foundation for their thirties, they’ll be a whole lot better off.
Christina: As a result of writing the book, is there one thing that you learned that you wish you knew when you were twenty?
Denise: I would tell myself, “You don’t need to know it all”. I wish I had been more vulnerable instead of, “I know it. I can do that.” I wish I had asked more questions and explored more instead of constantly being the overachiever.
I’d say, “Take chances.” Your twenties aren’t that serious. They’re serious, but not that serious. Take advantage of a time when most people don’t have children, a mortgage or a lot of responsibilities. Discover and figure out what you want to do. Don’t be tied to one version of what your life can be.
Look at Kat Cole. At age 36, she is CEO of Cinnabon (a job she’s had since she was 32) but she doesn’t see herself as done. There’s a whole lot more she wants to do.
“I got an early start so I am at this point in my career earlier than most. I’m a vicious learner and grateful to the people who have given me opportunities. I’ll continue to build business and brands for a while. I invest in companies. I may build my own company one day. Who knows, maybe my humanitarian work will lead me to becoming an ambassador and helping countries do great things. I am open to what is possible as long as I can learn and do what I am best at doing— helping people realize they are capable of more than they know.” – Kat Cole, CEO, Cinnabon
Christina: Yes. She shared some great lessons on leadership in the book. What was the most surprising thing you found in interviewing these women?
Denise: I was surprised by the addiction to perfectionism. Of the 100 women I interviewed for the project [26 are featured in the book] I’d say 95 of them self-identified as perfectionists. When I asked them “Do you want to stop being a perfectionist?” almost all said yes, but they can’t do it. They’ve been trained to be perfectionists. Then I realized, I’m the same way. Finally, at 60, was I able to stop.
Christina: Why do you think women can’t let go of perfectionism?
Denise: I think it starts with looking at why so many women are perfectionists. It’s engrained in us. As girls, we’re taught to work smarter, harder, longer. And do it all perfectly. As they continue on their journey, women use what has worked to get them where they are: be perfect. Women think that if you work harder, you’ll get noticed…you will get promoted. Men don’t work that way.
My advice to let go of perfectionism would be to give up the notion that perfect equals success. Often it’s the exact opposite because being perfect takes a lot of time and energy that can be used on getting the next job done.
Leslie Graff is a good example of this. First she rejected the idea that you have to be “one thing when you grow up.” Her current titles include Fine Artist, Psychosocial and Developmental Specialist, and Online Course Creator. Then she rejected perfectionism. As an artist she found that 85% of what she does is good enough for her customers. The extra 15% is the agonizing part…the time it takes to get a piece of work to perfection. That 15% takes her as long, if not longer, than the first 85%. In the time it takes to do that extra 15% she can do a whole new painting and sell it and her clients are perfectly happy with the 85%.
Christina: Were there any other stories that stand out for 20-somethings?
Denise: Rachel Shechtman has a good story. She’s the 37- year-old founder of STORY, a New York City store with a unique format, updating its theme and products every four to six weeks like a magazine.
Early in her career she wanted to meet Marcia Kilgore, the founder of Bliss, who she admired as a role model. When Marcia was holding a waxing demo at Saks, Rachel signed up. She sat in the chair and said, “You need to wax me so I can get to know you.” She followed up with chocolates, emails and finally a dinner invitation. It worked. Marcia hired Rachel to consult with Bliss. Rachel said she had absolutely no business doing that, but “she just kept doing it”. You have nothing to lose.
“I think the biggest thing I want to share is don’t be afraid to ask. It’s like you’re young and your training wheels are off your bike and you’re scared to push the pedal because you’re pretty sure you’re going to fall, but you really don’t want to be the kid with the training wheels anymore and then you do it and you’re like, “I want to do it again.” It can seem daunting or scary to ask someone for help or to cold call or email a woman and say, “Can I have coffee with you?” I think that kind of question is the twenty- , thirty- , fortysomething equivalent to empowering someone to take off their training wheels and ride, ride, ride.” — Rachel Shechtman, founder of STORY
I learned so much from each one of them.
Christina: Thank you! Check out the book and stay tuned for Denise’s 3 Gifts she would give a 20-something.
As the founder and CEO of GirlQuake and a Forbes contributor, Denise Restauri amplifies the voices of girls and women by giving them platforms to redefine the notion of power and create a global force for positive change. Denise is the author of the Forbes book “Their Roaring Thirties: Brutally Honest Career Talk From Women Who Beat The Youth Trap.” She has been at start-up, speed-up and stay #1 companies in both digital and traditional media, including Vice President of Sales at USA Today. Denise was the executive producer of the inaugural Forbes Women’s Summit, serves on the boards of female-led organizations and has been named to numerous people to watch lists including 21 Leaders for the 21st Century and Forty Women to Watch Over 40. Denise has appeared on NBC Today, CBS Early Show, ABC News and NPR All Things Considered.