51Wg0rM6gsL.jpgBased on the title, I approached this book as a career guide. Because, you know, those are the words in the title. But it’s more of a memoir/career guide. I mention this because I think it informs how we approach the book and am annoyed that the editor didn’t clarify this for us.

Also, let’s get something straight: Romolini is not that weird. I mean, maybe she’s weird in her private life, but decided not to go into it in this, her “weird” career book. She’s straight, cis, white, and college-educated. Her career path was pretty conventional and that she has a corporate career. She works in media in NYC, which makes everyone feel weird, but actually they are living the type of lives featured in romantic comedies. By the end of the book, she seems happy and is married and has a kid and is extremely successful at her career. Arguably, this does make her weird, but not in any negative way.

And again, despite the title, this book doesn’t seem to be intended for true weirdos. On several occasions, Romolini assumes that the reader is young, at the beginning of their careers, often woman-identified, and someone who has an “inner freak” as opposed to a highly-visible freak flag.

So what is a weirdo to do? If you already have this book in your hands, will you learn anything from it? Yes. There are lessons here for everyone, but perhaps even more for people who think they are normal. Those of us who are highly-sensitive are constantly trying to figure what we are doing wrong, but normal folks, they don’t seem as attuned to this. The best of Romolini’s advice goes back to: “Good judgement involves putting your ego and insecurities aside and seeing the situation for what it is” (Chapter 9). Of course, this is harder than it sounds, but it is an essential life-skill. Because basically, this means that you need to act like a grown-up. You need to take care of yourself. Your job doesn’t actually care about you – it will pay you for services rendered and that’s it. Maybe this is easier to accept if you work for a corporate overlord, but I know plenty of small nonprofits who like to say that they consider themselves “a family,” and I am here to tell you that that is a red flag. Because Charles Manson called his group a family too, and look at how that turned out.

I connected most to Chapter 14 (“Check Yourself”), where Romolini discusses trying to go after a big promotion and burning herself out and acting like a dick. Because oh lord, I have done this. I have become petty and my pettiness has spread to my co-workers and caused a whole lot of problems, for myself and the organization. It doesn’t mean that the organization didn’t bear any responsibility for poor communication or decision-making, it just means that I also acted like a dick, and I’m ashamed of that. Unfortunately, Romolini doesn’t really talk about how she really dealt with the situation. She wrote lists about what she enjoyed and I guess, that changed everything? It feels like cop-out, but I also understand that these are complicated situations and given the way the book was structured, there just wasn’t enough room to get into the weeds on this. Just putting it out there, though, that this could be a good topic for a sequel.

Discussion topics:

  • When has your weirdness been a detriment to you in your career? How have you managed such situations?
  • When has your weirdness helped you? Was this appreciated by your boss? Other co-workers?
  • What would you consider career-damaging weirdness to be? Can we re-frame this so it doesn’t exclude queer people, POC, and other folks who depend on code-switching to appear “normal” in traditional workplaces?

Round of applause/moment of appreciation: “Fuck fuckin’ fuck.” This sentence’s presence in a career guide made me feel very seen as a career coach.

Next: Rising Above a Toxic Workplace by Gary Chapman, Paul White, Harold Myra

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