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As someone who’s busy striving to find her feet in a new area of work, I’ve recently made it my business to find out every little nugget I can about what to do – and what not to do – when it comes being successful at selling your services to the corporate world.

This week, my latest lesson, learnt at a business event workshop for the self-employed, was a simple one : specialise, specialise, specialise.

As I sat listening to the Enterprise Champion of Business Link Yorkshire(yes, this is her official job title) explain the importance on strictly focusing on your potential market and firming staking your claim to this territory, I remembered the last time I’d been told this fine-tuning approach to cultivating a career was a canny move.

My former journalism tutor had the same advice while I studied for my Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism, 13 years ago. ‘Find an area to specialise writing in, make your name there, then you’ll have less need to look for work, as it will come to you…’

So, it was with this notion of cultivating my ‘specialness’ still ringing around my head, when a few days later, I read a piece in The Observer – albeit about an altogether different market – which threw this notion out of the window. And left me spitting feathers!

Lori Gottlieb, American author of Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr Good Enough, is urging women who haven’t found Mr Right by the time they reach 30 to settle for Mr Second Best.

Gottlieb attempts to qualify her laughable ‘theory’ by saying: ‘Every woman I know – no matter how successful and ambitious, how financially and emotionally secure – feels panic, occasionally coupled with desperation, if she hits 30 and finds herself unmarried.’

I’m not sure what left me more irritated and disappointed – the fact that Gottlieb was the latest in a long line of hollow mouthpieces who felt it their duty to dig out their rusty loudhailers to dictate to me and my peers on the grounds of gender, or was I more irked at The Observer for giving her such a prominent voice, in the shape of a half-page ‘news’ article on page 7?

Here’s the full piece:

Second best is never good enough, whether you’re talking couples or corporates.

Keep it special!


Comments on: "Single ladies and start-ups, stand up for being special" (8)

  1. Great advice and a brilliant piece of motivational writing, as always.

    Just read this, by the wonderful Liz Hoggard, on Lori Gottlieb:

    We’re all faulty, hopeful people – whatever our romantic status. A single life isn’t a second-best life. You don’t have to settle – just because you weren’t picked yet. The trick is to hold your nerve, then hold it some more.

  2. Hi Stella,

    It’s really interesting what you say about specialising. I realised I was hopeless at this when I tried to define my specialist areas on my journolink profiles and website — I’m all over the place, but then I do get work coming to me in a few different arenas, so I it’s a dilemma to block off those opportunities by narrowing my field. Regardless, I’m going to use that advice, hopefully to good effect in the photography business I’m starting up with my friend (ha ha, you can see how flaky I am, focussing on just the one business, journalism or photography might be a good start).

    Gottlieb’s waffle is very annoying, even to smug married’s like me — except for divorce lawyers of course, I’d imagine they’d be very keen to plug the book.

  3. Brilliant piece, Stella. You should add your thoughts to the Observer reader panel to the bootom of the article – with blog link for further reading!

  4. Toyin Ayinde said:

    Oooooh, a very good piece! I often forget that it’s about being magnificently great at one thing as opposed to good at everything. This is always great remembering.

  5. Well, I agree that some women do settle, but I’ve seen it below the age of 30 and not because they’re particularly desperate. I was single at 30, and for most of my twenties, choosing not to settle and am now in a relationship that was worth waiting for. He may not be perfect (neither am I) but he’s perfect for me.

    Did I give up and make do? Nah, it was just my time to find a really good guy. Will it last forever? Who knows and right now, and who cares? It’s my business after all…how dare this lady attempt to preach at us!

    Thanks Stella for your insight into the business realm too: will take note to specialise within mine.

  6. Charlotte said:

    Very thought-provoking, Stella! I fell into my specialist area of journalism without really planning it, but it has definitely worked for me.
    As for Lori Gottlieb – all very disappointing, I agree. You should have seen the Mail’s version! Well, you probably did. I have never made a mediocre relationship last much longer than three months, so am not sure marrying into one would be the best idea I’ve ever had. Each to her own, I suppose – a married friend once told me her husband wasn’t the love of her life and she felt no great passion, but knew he’d be a good husband and father. They’ve been married for a few years now, have a child together, and seem happy enough. I don’t – couldn’t – operate like that. I know needing to follow my heart might mean I stay single and never have the baby I long for [and let’s face it, I probably won’t, as the Mail gleefully informed me yesterday that even at 30 I only had about five eggs left]. But I have to take that chance – it’s just the way I am. I don’t think either approach is right or wrong, just different.
    Thanks for the very insightful blog!

  7. Interesting blogs Stella!
    So glad to hear other people were wound up by Gottlieb piece…
    People who settle for second best are never really happy, but loads do because they are scared to be alone!
    Same with careers, you may as well do something you feel passionate because you’ll probably be working till your 85 by the time we retire !!

  8. Liz Mellors said:

    Sadly some people do ‘settle’ for a partner rather than be single but I’ve known as many men as women to do so.

    But who would want to compromise in such a large area of your life just so as not to be alone?

    But it’s good that Gottlieb’s piece was published – so that smug singles like me can laugh at her naievity and pity her lack of imagination.

    Can she actually believe settling for an inadequate partner could be better than living the single life to the max?

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