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Friday, May 24, 2024

REVIEW: ‘What Do You Need?’ by Lauren Wesley Wilson

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That wasn’t the answer you wanted.

Beating around the bush, hemming and hawing, those aren’t answers. A solid yes or no, that’s what you require, a simple affirmative or negative, but you may not get it. Is the answer hung up somewhere, or is it being withheld? You may never know but author Lauren Wesley Wilson says you should never stop asking. In her new book “What Do You Need?” your career might depend on it.

A little over a decade ago, new-grad Lauren Wesley Wilson took a job she thought she might like. As it turned out, though, she was the only woman of color in the organization and that held her back; there were, for instance, things that her white colleagues knew that she didn’t, “extras” that would’ve eased her way, insider info that would’ve made it possible for promotions and better contact-making.

That was a valuable lesson: being “a first-and-only” really does matter in the workplace, a fact that spurred Wilson to try something audacious. She invited a small number of women to a get-together in May of 2011 to ask one another “What do you need?” and to share personal and professional answers. From that gathering, ColorComm Corporation was born, and it currently offers chapters for women of color in many cities.

So what do you need?

First of all, you need to thrive in the workplace, and you need to understand that some places aren’t “set up” for that. You need to acknowledge that being first-and-only makes things harder. Ask for a mentor or learn how to find your own with gentle persistence and without being a pest. You’ll need to make a good reputation for yourself, and to self-promote. Become a joiner, cultivate a wide mix of contacts, understand your value, learn to assess risks and promote yourself, be willing to work, and know when it’s time to walk away.

Finally, invest in yourself the same as you invest in money, clothing, cars, and vacations.

“Your career should be just as important.”

Pick up “What Do You Need?,” hold it at arms’ length, and ask yourself if you really need another book of advice on how to get ahead if you’re a woman of color. Look closer, page through it, and your answer is likely to be “yes.”

Yes, there’s a lot of repetition, both within this book itself and when compared to others, but what sets it apart from those similar tomes is its encouragement to continually think so very precisely. Author Lauren Wesley Wilson doggedly returns to her title question to help readers sort through their options with more focus, while case studies and examples steadfastly lead them to apply the lessons inside this book to their own lives and workplaces.

Straight talk and an unwillingness to gloss over the facts complete this book, and make it one you’ll want to own. If you need to get ahead and you’re ready to concentrate and do the work, “What Do You Need?” might have the answers you’ve wanted. 

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