The Street Where I Live

British by birth, New Yorker by nature.


Three Game Changer Words At Work (And In Life, Generally)

Careers and Working, Books & Words, Love and MarriageAlexandra king1 Comment
Bridget Jones TSWIL

Three little words. Not "I love you" obviously. Something else. Something less easy to think and feel. Something you should definitely say more.

I'm blessed to have a wise fairy godmother of a mentor, who happens to also be an award winning film maker and journalist. I met her because five years ago, she took a chance on a fresh out of school foreigner with too-long hair (me) and gave said haircut-avoider her first proper job. Since then, working alongside and for her, I've basked in the glow of watching her power house her way through life, in the most graceful way imaginable. Though she's at a professional level where Devil Meets Prada type behaviour is entirely possible, perhaps even expected, hers is a presence that is both commanding and gentle. She nurtures others and doesn't take no for an answer. You want her on your side and you want to be on her team. You want to earn her admiration and respect. As Sophia Amoruso would say, she's an ultimate Girl Boss.

There are many Girl Bosses out there, and I urge you to seek out yours and study her, David Attenborough style, as intensely as you would a window display at Celine, or a super hot shirtless Idris Elba look-a-like running through Prospect Park or a truly excellent piece of winged eyeliner mastery from your tricksy bestie (these are my examples, yours may differ). Anyway, I digress. I noticed that one of the things my own Girl Boss had mastered so well was negotiation and listening. Even when presented with ideas in turn misguided or ridiculous, or even in the face of outright hostility, she always kept her cool. In fact, she had a magic ability to make people feel heard, while firmly letting them know what was up. That was when I first heard her say those magic words.

"Help me understand"

Help me understand why you think that's the best option. Help me understand why you're feeling frustrated. Help me understand how to make this situation better. Help me understand.

Wowzas. Such a subtle, magical phrase, firmly placing you smack bang wallop in the centre of a perfect venn diagram of strength and humility. A little breath for you as you work out your options, a little moment of compassion and patience for a colleague or friend or stranger. I'm telling you, even if the person you find yourself with is being a downright A-grade a-hole, this magic phrase always manoeuvres you into a position of strength. I've placed it firmly in my repertoire and have watched it work magic on everyone from curmudgeonly car rental dudes to conversations with Time Warner Cable call centre staff (surely a pit of hell Dante missed) to (ahem) beloved husbands. Help me understand. Learn it. Use it. And, on a side note, don't forget to let your Girl Boss know how much you appreciate them. Which is what I am going to do, right this second, by pressing 'publish'. I'm curious, do you have an inspiring Girl Boss in your life? What has she taught you? I'd love to hear.

Do You Tell Your Friends How Much You Earn?

Careers and WorkingAlexandra king1 Comment
emmanuelle alt and geraldine saglio

I'm guessing your answer is a wayward kind-of no. Up until recently, even with my closest friends in the world, with whom I talk extensively about careers, whos bosses names and office addresses and working titles I know, we still never talked explicitly about that most crucial figure, the one that dictates why we're doing all this in the first place.

Last week, while discussing some money woes I was having with one of my close friends, who is also a journalist, I found myself suddenly rather apologetically asking if she might mind sharing with me what her salary was (look at how many qualifiers it took for me to just  write that sentence- I'm not editing them out as an example of this dilemma). Though we are both in the same industry, working in a similar level of responsibility, I realised I had no real idea what a reasonable salary expectation was for jobs like ours. More than mine? Less? Much more? Much less? There's just so much secrecy about earnings! Even JOB DESCRIPTIONS in the US don't list salaries, instead hiding behind non-words like "competitive," which can, in fact, mean 30,000 dollars a year for the equivalent in hours of hard labour. Where's the transparency? Though my question to my friend initially felt painfully intimate and gauche in the extreme (are Brits maybe worse at this? I'm guessing yes) she graciously told me, and I, in turn, shared mine, and suddenly we were able to have a super useful and productive conversation about what we both wanted to ask for and achieve in our careers, and how each one of us might approach our next steps to get the kind of salary we'd like and feel we deserve. I realised then that as I move forward in my career I'll be continually relying on this kind of honest dialogue between my peers to get the clarity I need and make the best choices in the jobs I choose to pursue.

I'm not saying begin a not-so-tacit survey of your co-workers, or approach people who you barely know, but please, among good friends, perhaps over a glass of wine (just sayin) let's be honest. And I'll add that being open applies even more in industries where oft-dodgy freelancing or short term contracts prevail, and especially when you're in your late 20s and 30s- still junior, but a good decade shy of your last internship, and at the point where making a living wage is something you should not be expecting, but demanding.

So please, let's talk about it. Because of the pay gap. Because we need to normalise talking about salaries so that we can ask for the pay rises we deserve (because we're not). Because being open with our peers about what we earn helps us to gauge whether or not we're being treated fairly. Because this is essential- for ourselves and the sisterhood at large. 

Let's stick together, share our stories, and ask for more.