Girl on Top author conquers the corporate ladder with dating advice
Nicole Williams’ enthusiasm so outweighs her diminutive frame you worry she might lose her balance. Her hand gestures are emphatic, and though she’s absolutely tiny, she knows how to appreciate a hearty lunch — complete with garlic mashed potatoes to share. (Blast her genetics!)
Williams is a best-selling author (2004’s Wildly Sophisticated: A Bold New Attitude for Career Success and 2005’s Earn What You’re Worth) and self-proclaimed career expert. She recently published Girl On Top, her advice for the modern career woman. The double entendre is intentional; the book takes familiar dating advice like “play hard to get,” and “don’t give away the milk for free,” and applies it to conquering the corporate ladder.
I lunched with Williams during her recent Houston visit and picked her brain about relationships, professional success and her next step.
Q: How did you get the idea to apply dating advice to your career?
A: I was actually at a friend’s wedding, and all her best friends were surrounding her with their significant others as she read her vows – they were self-written – and I’m standing there holding my husband’s hand, and I realized I was going to divorce him. So I spent the next few months in the fetal position until my friends finally told me I had to get up, get dressed and get back out there. And they gave me this basket full of dating books and self-help, and everything I read just seemed so applicable to the working world.
Q: A lot of the book is about knowing when and how to leave a job when you’re not being appreciated or you’ve no room to grow. How does that advice weather an economic climate like ours when many people are desperate to keep whatever job they have?
A: A recession is a time, really, when employers are free to cut the dead weight and let go of everyone who sucked anyway. There’s real talent out there, so it’s an opportunity to go after your passion instead of sticking around in a job you only feel lukewarm about.
Q: So what advice do you give women who are ambitious to advance now?
A: Now is the time to really strategize. Abandon the old wisdom of "come early and stay late." I’s not going to cut it if you’re not doing anything all day. Photocopying isn't going to get you noticed. Be picky and do things that allow you to really make your mark. It’s the same as in dating. When your time is precious, you don't spend it sitting on the couch. You go experience things that are meaningful to make a better bond.
Q: Some women seem to have all the luck in just one area of their lives, either professionally or personally. Why do you think that is?
A: I don’t know. I think one tends to bring the other. If you have a lot of success in your personal life, it’s usually because you’re confident and charismatic and people are drawn to you. What I see is women who have a lot of professional success but struggle in their personal lives. But I think if you’re really happy and successful professionally, you're confident and have something that's fulfilling you, you’re not glomming onto some guy because you’re so desperate to be loved.
Q: How do you strike the balance?
A: You prioritize what’s important to you. I dedicated my energy to my career for a while and felt really fulfilled, and it’s easy to rest at that 80 percent fulfillment and not feel like anything is missing. But now I’m in a relationship, so I make time for him because it’s something that’s important to me. And I’ve made time for my family recently, too, when they needed it. Life is ebbs and flows, you know? I’m going to take my book around and do this two-month book tour, and then I’m going to go home and try to get pregnant.