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“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” said Confucius or Harvey Mackay or someone else whose name nobody remembers. Whoever said it, he was on to something – at least that’s what Jaclyn Johnson, one of the hottest female entrepreneurs today, firmly believes in. In “WorkParty,” her enthusiastic, inspired, female-empowered guide to cultivating the career of your dreams, she writes: “The joy has been sucked out of our careers for far too long. It’s time to bring it back. Who said business had to be boring?” Get ready for “a rallying cry for a new generation of women who are redefining the meaning of work on their own terms!”
By the time Johnson was 32, she had “sold a company, launched a much-buzzed campaign about a new one, bought her first home, and found the love of her life.” This is not to say that she didn’t have a million ups and downs in between. In fact, she pretty much did. So, how did she persevere? In her own words, “By turning distrust into determination, frustration into fuel, and heartache into hard work.” Also, by having fun. A lot of fun.
Even though born in the mid-1980s, Johnson has been a professional influencer for over a decade and a half. That’s right – she is one of those people who had been using hashtags before real hashtags were invented, who had been a blogger long before blogs became a thing, and who had found a way to make money on the internet before this was even deemed a reasonable endeavor. “I had happened into a career in a little something called ‘social media’ five years before it would hit the mainstream,” Johnson writes. “I was a boss at Blogspot, I was tweeting on Twitter, I was posting on forums (I know, #LOL), and I had a blog.”
Even though having a blog doesn’t sound that remarkable nowadays, back in “the pre-exclamation, pre-emoji days” – or in the PE-world, as Johnson describes the time – blogging was not only “a rare thing,” but quite “a chic thing” as well. The blog was called Some Notes on Napkin (or SNON, for short) and was a mix of preferences and playlists, crazes and commendations, and also “cut-out editorial collages put together in PowerPoint.” So, a sort of “an archive of inspirations, trends, and trendsetters,” a life journal of Johnson’s early 20s, your usual influencer’s social media page today. “If you don’t know,” remarks Johnson, “influencers (mainly) started as bloggers – as girls taking outfit of the day photos, as DIYers and the like – who turned their blogs into bona fide businesses.”
In time, SNON became a thing. With over 3,000 readers a day, it soon attracted the attention of, well, Attention, now a preeminent global communications firm, but then just a startup ahead of its time. Johnson was the third employee at the company, and was hired to manage social media – you know, before anybody knew what that actually meant. In fact, since nobody used such language at the time, Johnson’s unofficial job title was “supervisor of word-of-mouth marketing.” “Social media as we know and heart it today wasn’t really a thing,” remembers Johnson. “There was no snap, tag, or share yet. But there was Twitter, Facebook, blogging, and forums – all things I was familiar with and good at.” Indeed, she was. And her knowhow – and versatility – didn’t go unnoticed.
Johnson didn’t stay long at Attention. Not long after being hired by the budding startup, she was poached by an established holding company called IAC (an acronym for InterActiveCorp), and appointed to manage the social media accounts for several of the company’s clients and brands. Primarily, however, she was tasked with promoting a startup called Pronto, a now-defunct competitor of Amazon. Be that as it may, this was not just a slight improvement – this new job, Johnson tells us, “came with a director title, a six-figure salary, an unlimited snack section and a built-in espresso bar.” And it was in New York. Life was, in a word, perfect.
And then, suddenly, it wasn’t. First the dot-com bubble burst, and then the financial crisis of 2008 happened. Everybody around Johnson started losing their jobs and when one day she was called in for a meeting with the CEO of IAC, she was prepared to get the ax. Surprisingly, she was wrong. Rather than being fired, she was offered a new job at a sister company of IAC called CitySearch – “think Yelp’s older, unrulier brother.” Even though this meant lower pay and moving to Los Angeles, California, Johnson didn’t hesitate in accepting the job. It was either that or no job at all.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out for Johnson at CitySearch. An older female executive at the company, let’s call her Mrs. Jones, didn’t like what Johnson was doing, so she fired her. In retrospect, what she didn’t like wasn’t Johnson’s efforts per se, but the fact that Johnson was an unambiguously enthusiastic herald of a new age, quite different from the one Mrs. Jones had advanced in and excelled at. She also didn’t like Johnson’s “no-nonsense, in-yer-face” emails, but – once again – this had a little to do with their tone, and a lot to do with their content. Something was happening, but she didn’t know what it was, did she, Mrs. Jones?
Bruised but not broken, rather than looking for a new job after being fired from City Search, Johnson teamed up with a trusted associate to start her own company. After a promising start, she soon discovered that her partner had made some “detrimental decisions” for the company without her knowledge. A “brutal business breakup” followed, the second massive blow for Johnson in the span of a single year. Just a few years before, Johnson had been a wide-eyed, well-paid director of social media at a large company. In 2009, however, she was nothing more than just another jobless 24-year-old, quite “bright-eyed and naïve,” – but also, unwilling to give up. Moreover, she was determined to change the world of business for good.
You see, it didn’t take long for Johnson to realize that she was often discriminated against at the workplace on account of her gender. As far as we’ve come on our journey toward gender equality, we’re still woefully behind where we’re meant to be. And this is not just because of tradition or men – quite deservedly, the two usual suspects. As Johnson found out early in her career, it was also because of women themselves. On two important occasions, she was stopped from moving ahead not by “white men in suits,” but by resentful women. In 17th-century England, Thomas Middleton wrote a play titled “Women beware women.” Johnson, however, sees the other side of the coin. “Rather than a man, behind every great woman are great women,” she writes.
If they don’t want to go on living in a man’s world, women should really do something about it. Rather than getting in each other’s ways, they must learn to be there for each other at all times. But merely leaning in – to use Sheryl Sandberg’s phrase – is not enough; as Johnson points out, women must also learn to take one for their gender. After all, men are far more numerous than women at leading positions, so unless women stand up for themselves and each other, they stand no chance in emerging victorious from their ongoing fight for equality and justice. So, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, women of the world – unite! You have nothing to lose but your despair!
After falling out with her business partner, Johnson had no choice but to sell her first company for merely a portion of its market value. Fortunately, even then, she wasn’t willing to give up. In just a few years, she founded a new company, and this one turned up to be far more successful than her first one. By the time she was 30, Johnson was once again earning a six-figure salary and enjoying every single minute of her life at work. How did she do it? Honestly, she doesn’t have a clue. “No truly successful entrepreneur these days has followed some preordained path to success,” she writes. “There is no ‘right.’ There’s only saying yes, figuring it out, and knowing there will only be a few bumps along the way.”
What kept Johnson going through it all was her constant awareness that she was in it to win it. Rather than striving for money or finances, she strived to build a life around her true passions. Whereas the American Dream she was taught about at school was rooted in the idea “work hard and don’t give up hope,” her personal version of it was grounded in the belief that no matter how far it takes you, no ride is worth it unless you enjoy it. As she writes, “WorkParty = the New American Dream. Or, rather, that’s what I’m proposing. What I mean is: WorkParty is the hard work that the American Dream is based on, but driven by passion rather than necessity. When you’re workpartying, you don’t clock in or out, but tune into every minute because you are a part of something you love.”
Be that as it may, Johnson is adamant that she’s not some kind of a female version of Tony Robbins or the Wolf of Wall Street. Her office, she insists, is precisely that – an office – and not a partying room filled with “streamers and champagne.” Put otherwise, there’s a reason why it’s WorkParty and not PartyWork: rather than preceding her efforts, Johnson’s pleasure follows them. And that’s because she chose to earn money doing what she loves rather than loving what brings her money. In many ways, that’s the quintessence of her life philosophy. True, it’s not some grand theory of life or a blueprint for success, but let’s face it such things are not real. What is, on the other hand, are the lessons one learns on their journey toward their dreams, and the instructions such lessons can be boiled down to. Let’s hear a few of Johnson’s.
Knowing how to pitch your business to a potential client is not exactly a skill someone is born with, and yet everyone treats it that way. Johnson doesn’t. That’s why she offers every budding entrepreneur ten tips on how to better pitch their business. Here they are:
According to Johnson, there are six types of employees every startup needs to succeed. They are:
If you want to gather your all-star team, start today! And stick to the following tips and tricks:
According to comedian and TV host Chelsea Handler, “WorkParty hilariously and oftentimes heartbreakingly captures the real struggles of being a risk-taking woman in the modern world. It’s a much-needed combo of real talk, confessions and lessons learned along the way – it's sure to leave you ready to tackle, or give a middle-finger, to any obstacle in your way."
And, indeed, if you can ignore all the hashtags and redundant pop-culture references, the book might achieve just that. Not merely because Johnson is a 30-something female entrepreneur with an inspiring story, but also because she tells the stories of many women like her and because she is quite generous in sharing secrets, tips and tricks.
Essentially, that makes “WorkParty” not just another “how I did it” story, but the much rarer “if we could do it, you should be able too” type of guidebook.
Ignore the “nos.” To quote Johnson, “If you want to succeed, you have to be able to break from tradition fearlessly and sometimes recklessly and sometimes while feeling genuinely uncomfortable with everyone telling you no."
Jaclyn Johnson is an entrepreneur, investor, best-selling au... (Read more)
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