A year ago I joined Gusto to be the Head of Marketing. This wasn’t my first rodeo starting a new job, but it had been a while—I had spent the previous eight years in various leadership roles at Esurance. One of the incredible things about Gusto is the strong presence of powerful women. In fact, 51 percent of our employees are women, a number well above the industry standard in tech.

The women I work with are respectful, whip-smart, and edgy. We don’t hire jerks.

On a late-night flight on International Women’s Day last week, I typed out a message to these incredible women on our Slack channel #women_withgusto. 

The next morning, I was surprised to see that my late-night riff had resonated. I was embarrassed by the suggestion that I post it externally. But obviously, if you’re reading this, then you realize that I accepted that challenge. F*ck it.

F-It: The advice I give to women navigating their careers

Below is the raw advice I shared over Slack. I hope it is useful as you navigate your own career:

1. Don’t be afraid of your power.

I have interviewed, negotiated with, career counseled, and advocated for hundreds of women in my career. When it’s your time to go in and sell yourself — for a job, a project, a promotion, or simply some help — sell yourself strong. Be unafraid of your power. Don’t be entitled or showy — you don’t have to be. Be matter of fact. Don’t psyche yourself out. Don’t caveat; don’t contextualize. If your manager, prospective employer, colleague or advocate is put off by your directness — red flag. Move on, stay strong. A better situation awaits you. (FYI — I still screw this up often.)

2. Career investment = financial independence.

Never underestimate the power of that. Nothing gives you more leverage than knowing you are self-reliant. Find the salary, the budget, the savings, the fluency, the whatever it is that makes you confident you’ll never need to rely on another human for your needs. From that moment, your fears are equalized with the rest of the fortunate strata of the American population. Individual earning potential, survival from quitting jobs, losing jobs, failing projects — these things lessen your fear and free you to chase your dreams. (FYI — I still make bad financial decisions.)

3. Give back when it makes you stronger.

Madeleine Albright is credited with saying that hell has a special place for women who don’t help other women. Feels good to hear that at first, but you also don’t owe anybody but yourself anything. Being a role model can be exhausting — take breaks. Giving back gives you more power; do it for that, not because somebody made you feel like you should.

4. Don’t judge yourself.

Remember that women and other underrepresented groups around the world have it rrrrrough. Don’t compare—your story is uniquely yours and you can’t help how you feel. Only what you do. Allow yourself to get frustrated. Don’t judge yourself. And, also have gratitude for your advantages and empathy for others. This is not a mathematical equation.

5. F*ck it.

Find your way to say “F*ck it.” F*ck it might become the most powerful tool in your life; it is for me. “F*ck it, this job is not working out… I know I can find another.” “F*ck it, I have no back-up plan, but I am hungry and strong.” “I might be wrong, but f*ck it, I’m going to find out.” “I don’t think they appreciate me. F*ck it. I’ll do what I believe/know/can.” “F*ck it, this might be wrong for others, but it’s right for me.” “F*ck it, let’s see what happens.”

You are clever, you are beautiful, you are wonderful, you are perfect, and you are flawed. The world is you and you make the world. One day we’ll have no women’s day. ‘Till then, I’m so glad to be among you, cheering you, seeing you.

Tolithia Kornweibel Tolithia Kornweibel is the Chief Revenue Officer at Gusto. She is passionately results-oriented and grateful to lead radically talented teams on a mission to connect Gusto with small businesses and their employees. She lives in Oakland with her husband, Chuck, and their rascally pets.
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