Even though she’s written a New York Times bestselling book (#GIRLBOSS), founded an e-commerce empire at the age of 22—at one point, Nasty Gal was valued at $200 million USD—and is currently the CEO of Girlboss Media, entrepreneur Sophia Amoruso admits that she’s still learning and growing in her career.
“When you’re constantly learning, when you’re a lifelong student, you evolve,” says Amoruso. “And you’ll evolve into better and better places and you’ll experience setbacks, but over the long arch of your lifetime, you’ll have learned more every day if you’re curious.”
We sat down with the OG #girlboss at beautyBOUTIQUE by Shoppers Drug Mart’s recent Be Bold with Beauty event to find out her best career tips, learn techniques for overcoming professional setbacks, and get plenty of real talk when it comes to work and ambition. Here are 10 great takeaways that you can use, whether you’re starting out with your career, or are already a boss in the office.
Be yourself, not what others want or expect you to be.
“None of us really know how we’re perceived,” says Amoruso, on the subject of self-doubt. “There’s who we think we are, and there’s what other people see. Especially when you’re in a more public position, or a CEO, it feels like there’s an even greater delta between who you think you are, and how you’re perceived. We all think about that; it’s probably a waste of time. Changing who we are to accommodate what people want us to be is never really a great idea.”
Your reputation is important.
“You build a reputation through fulfilling on your promises, through delivering work on time, through over-delivering your work on time, and people talk. People talk about how great it is to work with you, or how challenging it is to work with you.”
Be receptive to feedback.
“[With work] when you don’t deliver — and you’re always going to make mistakes — take that feedback very seriously so that you can learn from every opportunity.”
As a freelancer, protect yourself with contracts.
“As a freelancer, it’s important to protect yourself. When you’re small business owner or freelancer or side-hustler, it’s easy to be more casual about the way you work with people. Especially if you want to be liked, and you don’t want to be seen as a dick by asking for things or negotiating things. The fact is, the people that you’re dealing with who are paying you are most likely used to that, they don’t think that that is as big of a deal, or as off-putting, as you may. Number one is contracts, and then building your reputation.”
Do network, and ask for help if you need it.
“Do lean on other people. Do network. Do create a Rolodex for yourself. Do help other people, and do hassle other people to help you. Often people are really flattered when you ask for advice. It feels like you’re taking something from them, but they’re actually complimented by the fact that you think they know something, and that they can help you. It makes them proud.”
Let your curiosity lead you places.
“I asked [Joanna Coles, former Chief Content Officer of Hearst Magazines, on the Girlboss podcast] about ambition, and she said ‘I’ve never thought of myself as ambitious, I thought of myself as curious.’ Which I think is an interesting way to reframe ambition, because it’s not all about just achieving things. It’s about letting your curiosity lead you places that you may not have ended up in otherwise.”
Don’t be afraid to take risks.
“The best things in life are difficult, and that’s why you do them. You commit yourself to things that are much bigger than you even know how to keep your promise on, and you figure [it] out…if you don’t take those risks and find out what your limit is, you’ll never be able to achieve what’s possible for yourself.”
Reframe failures as learning opportunities.
“I think failure is normal, it’s the most ancient thing ever. Failure seems very final, but there are few things in life that are very final. Reframe failure [as] a learning opportunity; you don’t really learn from your successes. You don’t learn clinking champagne glasses, which I did for so many years, but it was also hiding some of the things maybe I should’ve been paying attention to.”
Always have a long-term strategy in mind.
“Really laying out a strategy for a business is a new thing for me, because Nasty Gal just exploded…it was a really fun ride, but I think it kept me from having to think about the longer term strategy for the company,” explains Amoruso. “And with Girlboss I had the opportunity to do that from the beginning, and I’m still learning exactly how to do that, but I know how important it is now to have that ‘north star’ for what it that we’re building. And I know how important it is to preach that all the time to your team, so that people can be inspired, and understand what I understand.”
Find your own path.
“Don’t take anyone’s advice at face value,” says Amoruso. “There’s so much advice out there, and it’s easy to be mind-boggled by so much conflicting advice about everything. Only you know what’s right for you. I feel out what works for other people, and I take some of it, but the only way to really do something new, or to do something that’s your own, is to throw advice away.”