This review first ran in the Dec. 18th edition of The Hamilton Spectator.
Weird in a World That’s Not: A Career Guide for Misfits, F*ckups and Failures
Ziplining at Mount Tremblant brought back bad memories of team-building with a telephone pole.
I kept reassuring my skeptical wife that the zip line and treetop obstacle course would be fun for the whole family. And it was until it suddently wasn’t. We were about halfway through the course and past the point of no return when the course became an endurance test that I was failing.
I was sore, cranky and no longer thinking straight when I finally got to the highest and longest zip line. Forgetting the cardinal rule of ziplining, I put my ungloved hand in front of the pulley and slid off the platform. The pulley jammed into the web of flesh between my thumb and index finger and left me dangling in a cold sweat.
I eventually unstuck myself and then failed to reach out and grab the loop at the end of the zip line that pulls you onto the next platform.
Instead, I snagged the loop with my left foot while sliding back towards the middle of the zip line. I was now stretched out and stuck as the families waiting behind me and watching from below shouted out words of encouragement. I’m not proud of what I shouted back.
And that’s when I had a flashback to a team-building retreat at another resort that also left me stuck in a high place. I had to strap on a harness tied to a rope, climb a telephone pole, stand on a Frisbee nailed to the top of the pole and then jump off while I trusted coworkers to slowly let out the rope.
Everyone on the ground shouted at me to keep going while I perched frozen at the top of the swaying pole with one foot on the Frisbee.
Jennifer Romolini also had to climb a telephone pole at an employee retreat, with the same results and reaction. “It was an absurd situation, one made even more so because the people around me seemed to be having a good time – they were into it and having fun. I felt out of place, awkward and exposed, a Woman Who Fell to Earth If Earth Was A Contrived Corporate Retreat.”
Romolini survived the retreat, stayed with the company for six years and was promoted four times. She’s now the chief content officer at Shondaland.com and author of Weird in a World That’s Not.
At 27, Romolin was a divorced and broke college drop-out living with her parents. She went to 23 job interviews before landing her first gig with a New York media company.
“For a long time, I was pretty sure I would never make it in the world, that I would never become successful in the way that successful people are,” says Romolini. ”The reason I would never do this was because I was too intense, too socially clumsy, too sensitive.”
Romolini eventually figured out that her weirdness was an asset. She didn’t need to fake it to make it. She’s now sharing her hard-earned advice for other struggling misfits who’ve yet to find their way.
“Follow your bad feelings. Ultimately, the process for finding the vocation I wanted and would excel at wasn’t soft or calm. It wasn’t worksheets or matching my personality type against a series of careers to see what lined up. How I found the colour of my parachute was by force, taking a hard and honest look at my sadness and insecurity, what made me the most pissed off and envious, the things I wanted to be so badly that I seethed.”
Weird in a World That’s Not is part memoir and part career advice column for the introverted and socially awkward. She tells how to write resumes and cover letters, what to say in job interviews and during meetings, what not to do at office parties and on social media, how to make small talk at networking events, how to get promoted and be a good leader and how to know that it’s time to go and move on to a new job.
There’s also a timely chapter on her one regret of not standing up to a demeaning and inappropriate male boss. “I urge you not to play along, not to act like it’s cool, like it’s cute ever, not when you’re 23 or not when you’re 53. I urge you because enough already; women deserve to be treated equally and respectfully at workplaces and other places, now and forever, the end.”
@jayrobb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.