Lessons from #GIRLBOSS

#girlboss by sophia amoruso

I kept seeing the book #GIRLBOSS all over Tumblr and on blogs, and I knew that it was written by the founder of Nasty Gal, a brand that I always admire but could never wear, but that was about it. This summer I read, basically, Marketing and PR textbooks, so a business book not saturated with jargon or business plans geared towards my own demographic made my heart sing.

#GIRLBOSS was a much more enjoyable read than the denser books I was getting used to. Sophia, it turns out, did not enjoy high school and did not go to college, but stuck to her guns and built an empire on something she just loved doing. She hitch-hiked from San Francisco to Washington State and dumpster dove and then came home and started an eBay store, which eventually evolved into Nasty Gal.

Sophis starts off the book addressing the question of feminism, saying that she looks at feminism not as blaming men for struggles, but as encouraging women to go out and work hard and earn ssuccess on their own, which I think is a good stance to take. For many, feminism is a touchy subject because for whatever reason, girls are still afraid of the title “feminist.” Sophia does an excellent job explaining that it’s not negative at all, just simply wishing women the same success that comes from working hard that men have always been able to achieve. Women can be bosses. #GIRLBOSSes, to be precise.

What I liked about this book was that it wasn’t a how-to book. It wasn’t, “hey, if you want to start a cool and edgy business like me, here’s how.” And it also wasn’t her humble-bragging, saying that she was “in the right place at the right time” and that her “success is irreplicatable.” She does mention that her success is rare (which is obviously why she wrote a book about it and why we love reading it) but she doesn’t tell readers not to try to pursue something they love. She emphasizes over and over again how hard she worked, not because she wanted to build a successful business, but because she genuinely loved thrifting and styling and taking pictures and sending the garments out. She just kept doing what she loved and it showed and customers reacted to her passion and excitement.

Today, there are so many bloggers and photographers and entrepreneurs out there trying to make it because they can make money and get sponsors, and that’s the wrong reason to do anything. Yes, getting a job is to make money, but even that should be something you’re passionate about and genuinely enjoy doing. You can’t really be successful in anything if you don’t love it. You won’t see results at the gym until you find a workout you love doing. Your blog will probably suck if you’re not passionate about creating content and interacting with readers and making good graphics. If you don’t love numbers and math, don’t go into accounting because it will pay the bills; it will be miserable and you won’t be able to pour yourself into it.

Sophia also talks a lot about employment, both being an employee and an employer. I read that section a day ago and I’ve already discussed it with my mom and a handful of friends. My generation gets a lot of flack for being entitled and such (read more about my opinion on this here) and I never really understood exactly why people thought we were so difficult to employ until I read that some people my age think they should be promoted every two years regardless of performance. This blew my mind. The point of a promotion is to reward hard work and initiative. I liked Sophia’s take on this as an employer, saying that she likes people who work hard simply because they want the company to succeed. Another thing she mentioned about the people she’s employed is how they’ve said “that’s not my job” to filing or other “menial” tasks. What she said that stuck out was that, especially for entry level positions, if you don’t stuff the envelopes or file the magazines, who else is going to? Certainly not your manager or her manager. I love that Sophia is instilling this work ethic in readers

She also talks about all of the jobs she held in her life and hated and got fired from or left after a few weeks. She said that even though a lot of the jobs sucked and weren’t right for her at all, they helped her appreciate the jobs she genuinely loves. I’ve worked plenty of jobs already that have definitely not been what I wanted to do, but they’ve been helping to lead me to jobs that I do love. It’s been a twisted trail, but somehow I’m getting somewhere I need to be.

The path went as such:

In high school, I worked at a local water park for two summers (hated it) and after the second summer, I didn’t go back. I was forced to find a job through a temp agency and I worked in a call center, despite loathing talking on the phone. The next summer, the call center position wasn’t available anymore, but I ended up working in the meeting planning department of the same company, which is the experience that helped me land my beloved internship at Paramount last year. After that internship, I really started to figure out how much I loved publicity and event planning which has guided me through my job search.

I hated a lot of the jobs I worked, but if I never had them, I wouldn’t have developed skills that led me to all the amazing palces I did get to go. These jobs that I forced myself to do helped me figure out what my talents and passions are, something I would have never guessed years ago.

Another thing Sophia writes about is how, in the early stages of Nasty Gal, when something didn’t sell on eBay, she didn’t consider it a failure, she just re-worked them until they did sell. This is a skill I’m still trying to develop. I’m a perfectionist and I like everything in my life to be perfect after the first try and if it’s not, I am infinitely frustrated. Since reading this, I have been striving to keep myself from considering things failures. If no one is responding to my job applications, I re-write my cover letters and re-format my resume and try again. I know that I can succeed as a professional, I just need to continue to tweak my applications to reflect that. I am not failing, my methods just aren’t right yet.

Despite having followed an extermely unconventional path to success, Sophia Amoruso offers tons of advice that is useful to people who follow more “normal” paths. And while it feels like some of the sections are just full of platitudes about working hard and doing what you love, there’s solid advice about working and finding a job that can apply to girls in any industry, not just fashion.


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