I caught up with author, Debra Shigley, for an interview on her book tour for The Go-Getter Girl’s Guide which is in stores now.
Natalie: Tell us a little about yourself.
Debra: I grew up in Rockville, MD (outside Washington, D.C.), and graduated from Harvard. I started my career in television news, with an entry-level position at CNN. From there I moved to Atlanta magazine, where I was a style editor and writer for a number of years—during which time I went to law school by night. After law school, I was briefly an employment law associate at a top firm before returning to a writing career. I’ve been married for almost 2 years, and live in Atlanta.
Natalie: Why did you decide to write The Go-Getter Girl’s Guide and what’s your definition of a Go-Getter Girl?
Debra: Go-Getter Girls do have certain traits; she’s a woman who is smart, stylish, and savvy. But at the core, it is really about having goals when it comes to your life and career, and striving to achieve those goals.
As a reporter, I’d been interviewing many successful, stylish women and began to see common threads in their approach to getting ahead. These were real, actual women who had gotten ahead fast, and they had so much wisdom and great advice. I thought, wouldn’t it be great if other women had a shortcut to all this knowledge—whether you are fresh out of school or at any point in your career when you are questioning, “what is my next step?”
Natalie: The tagline for the book is “get what you want in work and life.” What are your top 3 tips for getting what you want?
Debra: If we’re talking about the workplace, I’d say the first is to self-educate. In other words, hone your resourcefulness and ability to get stuff done with very little hand-holding. If you want a certain opportunity, you have to take the initiative, do the research, and pitch your ideas. An employer is probably not going to just hand you your dream job on a silver platter!
Next, I’d say to find allies and advocates. The business world is not a true meritocracy. You might do good work or have a good product – but if you put your head down and just expect people to notice, you probably won’t get very far. You need to develop relationships with people who respect you, support you, and root for you when decisions about opportunities are being made.
Finally, I’d say if you know what you want, ask for it! Women are often afraid of asking for what we want, lest we seem too pushy or demanding. And statistically, we lag far behind men in how often we negotiate. Begin to train yourself to ask for stuff you want and negotiate in everyday life, even if it’s just what’s for dinner! Then, when you go in to ask for a raise or promotion, you’ll have had some practice.
Natalie: Lately, we’ve been talking about work-life balance and the study that shows the happiness of women has declined steadily over the last 40 years. What do you think about the study’s findings?
Debra: Yes, I’m familiar with the study, but haven’t thoroughly reviewed the findings. I think it probably doesn’t show the complete picture of modern women’s experiences. I know I’m happy—and I’ve interviewed hundreds of women who are happy and living the lives of their dreams.
One thing to consider is that women do have more opportunities and choices now than we did 40 years ago… One could argue that with so many options, happiness is also a choice. Are you doing things in your life to make you feel happy? Do you even know what will make you happy? Are you taking ownership of the choices you’re making—whether it’s your relationships, your career, your health & fitness? That’s sort of the essence of Go-Getter Girl-ness: taking responsibility for getting what you want out of life. Life throws us lots of lemons and it’s what you do with them that determine our success and fulfillment. Happiness, like many other things in life, doesn’t just happen by accident.
Natalie: What is a day like “in your heels?”
Debra: A bit of an adventure! Since I’ve been on the book tour, my days often include travel (in October I was in NYC, DC, and Hong Kong—the last one for my hubby’s work; next week I’m off to Seattle, San Fran, and L.A.); speaking engagements; signings; print, tv and radio interviews, also a lot of business lunches/meetings over coffee.
If I’m at home, I’m often working on a writing assignment, interviewing someone for my blog/next book, researching and strategizing new opportunities, taking phone calls. I also receive many emails from young women and readers of the book, so I answer those and do informational interviews with aspiring writers. I like to work out, usually midday or in the evening (not a morning worker-outer, as much as I aspire to be) I take pilates twice a week and other days it’s the elliptical, bike, weights or my fave Tracy Anderson mat workout DVD.
Natalie: Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule for the interview. Good luck with the book!