Posts tagged READING
THE MAKINGS OF A MODERN CAREER GUIDE
 
 
Little Black Book Otegha Uwagba
 

This article was originally published on Indie Thinking.

When it comes to career guidance, there’s certainly no shortage of books on the subject on offer. Rummage through the ‘careers’ section of any bookstore, and you’ll undoubtedly be confronted by an array of workplace manifestos urging you to ‘lean in’ and simply ‘think yourself rich’, perched next to volumes promising a 4-hour week, whilst exhorting you to ‘fail better’.

As a young woman trying to make my way in a creative field (advertising), I quickly found that these sorts of books contained little in the way of guidance for those who, like me, were just starting out – and crucially, they made few allowances for anyone whose definition of success didn’t align with their rather corporate narrative of corner offices and company credit cards. Nothing I found reflected the workplaces I was encountering, or career choices I was being faced with.

So, with Little Black Book: A Toolkit For Working Women, I set out to create something entirely different – specifically, a modern career guide that actually reflects the way workplaces are evolving, and could speak to a generation of women who are shunning traditional career paths, and rewriting the rules of the workplace as they do so. According to the Financial Times, 80% of the newly self-employed during the last UK recession were women, and nowhere more so than within the creative industries. But scan the bookshelves – or indeed the Internet – and you’ll find little to reflect this cultural and economic shift. There’s not much in the way of practical guidance for the generation of fiercely ambitious, entrepreneurial and creative women that I’m part of. So I decided to change that.

Unusually for a book of its sort, Little Black Book is devoid of personal commentary, which was a very deliberate decision. Most career guides tend to be full of commentary about the writer’s own lives and experiences, but more often than not those anecdotes pertain to a very specific set of circumstances and reading them can feel a bit like sifting for treasure, as you look for the pearls of wisdom directly relevant to your own experience. To be clear, my personal experiences are definitely still nestled within the pages of the book (trust me), but ultimately, Little Black Book isn’t about me – it’s about you, the reader. Containing only practical advice from start to finish, over the course of 128 short pages I cover everything creative women need to build successful and fulfilling self-made careers in the 21st century: from how to build a killer personal brand to negotiating payrises, via a crash course in networking like a pro, and tips for overcoming creative block.

How do I know it’ll connect? Simple – this is the book I wish I’d been given five years ago, and I’ve filled it with the things I wish I’d known when I was starting out: lessons I learned the hard way, and which I’m desperately hoping other women won’t have to. Then there’s everything I’ve learned from Women Who, the platform I created to support and inspire creative working women, which has mushroomed into a community encompassing thousands of women around the world. And of course, there’s the fact that Little Black Book features contributions from a host of trailblazing creative women sharing insights on how they approach their work, including acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adchie, Refinery29 cofounder Piera Gelardi, and The Gentlewoman’s Editor-in-Chief Penny Martin (to name just a few). My goal is for this compendium of essential wisdom and hard-won career insights to become an indispensable companion to women everywhere – because being a working woman is hard enough without going it alone.

 
STAYING CREATIVE DURING THE WINTER MONTHS
 
Pierre Cardin, Space Age

As I’ve mentioned in newsletters past (sign up here if you haven’t already!), I’m a huge believer in the ability of the seasons to affect everything from your mindset to your physical wellbeing – both of which in turn can affect your ability to do your best work. A lot of the optimism I was feeling a few months ago about the impending change in seasons was definitely down to a rose-tinted notion of cosy evenings spent in front of a fictitious roaring fire, as it's safe to say said fantasies have been cruelly slapped away by the grim reality of British winters and their trademark grey skies and constant drizzle. With the clocks going back a few weeks ago and December fast approaching, I’ve been giving some thought to how to stay creative and keep my brain ticking over during this, the season of little motivation and increased libation. When it comes to avoiding the winter blues, forewarned is forearmed – so here are a few ideas on how to get through the cold, dark months ahead, and ensure you’re as productive as possible.

 

GET OUTSIDE

Yes I know – the weather’s sh*t, which makes it extremely tempting to basically hibernate until March, but hear me out. Getting a daily dose of sunlight is crucial for keeping your mood and energy levels up, so particularly if you work from home, maintain (or introduce!) a habit of taking a walk during the day. It doesn't have to be long - 15 minutes will do. Not only is exposure to sunlight crucial for helping your body produce serotonin (a mood-boosting chemical), the cold is sure to get your blood pumping and wake you up. Win-win.

 

GET READING

Whilst I love a good think piece as much as the next person (and have discovered some of my favourite writers online), nothing beats getting stuck into an actual book for inspiration. Skimming through a mishmash of tweets, Instagram posts and clickbait headlines is the dietary equivalent of a packet of crisps – it fills you up, but it’s not exactly nourishing. The colder weather means you’ll probably be spending more time indoors anyway, so why not use that extra time at home to stimulate your mind with some literary brain food? If you’re stuck for inspiration, check out Girls At Library, an excellent online journal full of book recommendations from interesting women. Me? I’ll be getting stuck into Zadie Smith’s Swing Time, starting with a reading by her at the London Review Bookshop next week.

 

STAY SOCIAL

Don’t get me wrong, I love an evening in with nothing but a podcast for company – but humans are social animals, and we need regular social interaction to stay happy and sane. Making a concerted effort to stay social during the winter months is important for sparking fresh ideas, and stopping your brain from getting into a rut. Again, particularly if you work from home, be sure to schedule in regular socialising with friends, even if it’s just arranging to co-work together once a week.

 

LOOK AFTER YOUR BODY

As ever, looking after your physical wellbeing is crucial if you want to keep producing your best work. This winter I’m taking a two-pronged approach to keeping my health on track, paying special attention to both my diet and exercise. The run up to Christmas traditionally tends to be a time of increased indulgence, which is totally fine as long as you’re still getting your fair share of healthy foods too. Make sure you incorporate plenty of brain foods into your diet, such as oily fish (yes, smoked salmon canapés do count), eggs, and nuts. It might also be worth rounding out your diet with a few supplements too – try Vitamin D to make up for the lack of sunlight, and the B vitamins for energy.

As well as eating the right foods, staying active is more important than ever for helping boost your mood and energy levels, so try to resist the temptation to turn into a couch potato over the winter. If throwing yourself around a freezing park before or after work is your idea of hell, explore indoor classes such as HIIT (never tried it but heard it's good) or hot yoga (have tried it, and can 100% vouch for it). Whatever floats your boat, as long as it gets you moving - why not take a friend along for the ride and kill two birds with one stone? By getting some good habits in place now, you can build up slowly and avoid the usual 'feast-then-famine' mentality of bingeing on unhealthy foods in the run up to the end of the year because *Christmas*, followed by the shock of starting a punishing exercise regime in the New Year. Why wait?

 

What’s your secret to getting through the dog days of winter? Let me know in the comments box below!