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12 Personal Branding Tips For Women, For Marriage

Like a lot of the things I share with you, these are not my unique ideas but rather represent a distillation of things I've observed, experienced, read and heard from others over the years.
I think of this as personal branding for marriage because it involves knowing your customer, so to speak. To be attractive means to present yourself in a way that is appealing. Obviously, at the same time, being attractive and partnered is worthless if you don't retain your integrity and move forward as a self-contained individual.
Yes, this is about heterosexual marriage. I am in favor of gay marriage, so there's no implied messaging that one way is better than another. Also, I am a huge feminist, but you can read the tips and be the judge of that for yourself.
If I had to sum it up in one sentence, I would put it like this: 
Make it a pleasure to be around you.
Here goes.
I. Consider the Commitment Carefully
  • Don't force a bad relationship forward. Some people are just not meant for each other, and they find out only after spending time with each other. If that happens, have enough respect for yourself and the other person to part ways. Don't look back and blame yourself for being a "failure."
  • Let yourself truly feel the joy of being together. You know that feeling when you're "in the flow," and all is good, you're flying and you never want to touch ground again? That's what togetherness feels like. Let yourself feel it - don't let the fear of (insert problem) ruin it.
  • Get over your own fear of making a real commitment. We've all experienced lousy things in our homes of origin. These things can be bad enough that you don't ever want to go through them again. The result can be that you enter a relationship but are afraid of committing fully to it, or you make the commitment outwardly but on the inside there's this terrified child constantly holding back a bit. It is very scary, but there is a definite connection between the amount you hold yourself in reserve, and the quality of the intimacy you experience in marriage.
II. Do The Work
  • Build up the three pillars simultaneously. Marriage is based on shared values, physical attraction, and the practical ability to survive - which most of us think of as money. If you are attracted to someone who has terrible values and no interest in earning an income (for example), you will get burned.
  • Understand the sacrifice. One reason marriage is deeply rewarding because you can count on your partner to be there when the chips are down - if you get sick, G-d forbid, lose your job, and so on. But marriage asks a lot of you, too, because you have to do the same for your partner.
  • Think logically, not emotionally. It is often true that you should "follow your heart" and that some kinds of attraction work, even though they don't seem to make any sense. But most of the time, you must employ your logical faculties in order to make your relationship work. When you allow your feelings to make decisions for you without getting your brain into the conversation, you are guaranteed to make a serious mistake.
III. Understand How Men Think
  • Give them a lot of room. Men have a lot of stuff they need to do outside your relationship. They need to be creative, they need to eat, they may have kids from another relationship to take care of, or parents who need their attention. They may have a job that's fairly demanding. They definitely want the ability to appreciate other women. Don't be a suffocating nag.
  • Get a life for yourself, too. Why are you thinking about your relationship all the time? It doesn't help you move anything forward in any sphere of your life and it's also the surest way to drive your man away. Think of a freezer - it works best when it's mostly full. Fill yours up to the 70% level with work, school or informal learning, friends and family, hobbies, community service, exercise, and so on. Remember - men don't want to be responsible for your regrets. That is a huge turnoff.
  • Let the man be the man. At work there is no gender. At home there is gender. A man needs to feel like he is in charge. Let him have that feeling.
IV. Communication
  • Set your boundaries and don't waffle. Men prefer communication that is unambiguous, clear, upfront, honest and direct. If you keep changing your mind, it harms your credibility with them and makes it annoying to be around you as well.
  • Don't share every single thought that's in your head. Women communicate differently than men. We tend to talk, a lot. We tend to share what we're thinking, as we're thinking it, following a stream of consciousness that may zigzag off in places and that may or may not bring us back to where we started. Don't make the mistake of assuming that your man ever, ever in his lifetime wants this. He does not want this. He will run to Timbuktu if you start doing this. It is more than annoying, to a man it is like having a flea scratching the inside of his brain. Stop.
  • Strive for calm. Do you need a manicure to make you calm? A walk around the block with very loud music in your ear? A day at Barnes & Noble, just to read and relax? To get drunk with your friends and/or watch a Melissa McCarthy movie? Do it. Whatever you have to do, do not come home and start yelling at your man. Don't call him yelling. Don't yell at him, ever. Very, very calm, cool and collected. Consider that men fear women's "craziness." Whereas your friends and/or your mother will tell you to "let it all out" your man will think you have lost your mind, even if your yelling is totally justified.
Do you think all this is regressive, politically correct, antifeminist garbage? Or does any of it resonate for you? Share your experiences in the comments.
All opinions my own. Photo by Angie Chung (via Flickr, Creative Commons).

How To Keep Your Job

Someone asked me for job advice and I ended up writing this in an email. I wish I could take credit for these ideas but they're time-tested pieces of advice I've heard over and over throughout the years. And like a good navy suit with a white button-down shirt, they're always appropriate.
Think of them as the infrastructure of your personal brand.
  1. Make a schedule you can keep to. Shows you do what you say you'll do.
  2. Confirm that you understand what is wanted. Repeat it aloud. Send the other person an email, short and sweet, if it's significant enough (like at the start of a project).
  3. Get very organized. Sort your work by fiscal year and subject. Keep the shared workspace organized. Keep email organized.
  4. NO PHONE CALLS in office EVER and no personal emails. This is obviously extreme but if you shoot for zero and hit 5% you're doing good.
  5. Find a mentor who will talk to you and help you. Make friends. Have coffee. Nobody is an island.
  6. Genuine effort and a good attitude go a long way.
  7. Check your work before you give it in. Don't just rush to send it off. Sit on it for a couple of hours.
  8. No talking to boss unless it's to ask, "What can I do for you?" No emailing unless it's "Here's what you asked for."
  9. Offer to help with seemingly small things. Your appearance should be equated with an end to pain.
  10. Try giving a shit. Read about your office on the news. It's as easy as setting up a Google Alert.
Photo by David Goehring via Flickr. All opinions my own.

Integrated Management In Government: The Critical Role of Branding

A Simpler Way To Manage People

A few years ago I had an interview for a supervisory job at an agency that shall remain nameless.

“What would you do with a workforce that is largely unmotivated?” the interviewer asked me. “How would you get them going again?”

On that day I must have been unmotivated, too.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I can’t make miracles.”

Needless to say, I did not get the job. But I’ve heard that question, or a variation of it, in nearly every single senior-level interview I’ve been on.

In the beginning I thought the right answer was to have an answer. Now I know that the way to handle this one is to talk about an approach - a process. Preferably an integrated one that handles people in a consistent way, from beginning to end.

It is unfortunate that the federal government is not set up to manage its human resources very well right now. Even the most qualified people find gaining entry difficult. Leaders say the right things, but their actions disappoint. Middle managers are routinely stressed out, compressed as they are between the demands of supervising work and having to do it themselves. Performance management is both a battlefield and a minefield, and it takes up so much time the incentive is more to minimize pain than to maximize productivity. And an overwhelming aversion to risk, change or newness tends to alienate the very people who can serve as a source of transformation.

I didn’t go into the government looking to be a human capital expert, but life here has taken me down that path, because that’s precisely what you do when you focus on internal communications, help supervisors document performance management issues, or become a supervisor yourself. All of these are experiences I’ve had in the government, and they have frequently been painful because the system itself is broken.

Branding people don’t often talk about this, but they do a fair amount of human capital work as well. People who don’t believe in the organization’s vision, mission, values or desired image are not going to do very much to support it. This means they’ll either fight with each other, create stovepipes, disengage or leave the organization altogether - frequently taking their top-flight talents with them.

So I’ve ended up immersed in this world of strategic human capital management. Reviewing Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results for articles about results, and trends. Blogging observations at GovLoop - often out of sheer frustration. Participating in the interagency Federal Communicators Network, which frequently led to conversations about how we manage our people and how we could do it better. Eventually, attending and speaking at events at the Partnership for Public Service, and FedScoop.

On every occasion, joining others who asked a similar question: How can we make things better?

As a branding person and a human being with a lot on her plate, I long ago came to agree with simplicity experts Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn that reducing complexity is the answer. As the former co-chair of the Federal Communicators Network, Dave Hebert puts it, “In the perfect world, HR would be completely plugged-in. You connect with people virtually, identify an opportunity for them to contribute, and make it happen, without a lot of paperwork.”

Simplicity, accessibility, relevant information delivered conveniently - this is the plea I hear from colleagues governmentwide, again and again, especially when it comes to onboarding. Bridget Roddy and I have worked together several times to bring students into my agencies through the State Department’s Virtual Student Foreign Service, a gateway to public service through which sixteen federal agencies permit college students to work remotely.

Bridget believes that technology would go a long way toward providing an answer. “The civic graph concept can connect everyone who wants to be a part of public service, or is already there,” she says. “We ought to have a Facebook-like connective tissue for government.”

I met Lisa Nelson toward the end of last year, in her capacity as leader of the GSA’s Open Opportunities program. She helped me figure out how to use the program, a rapidly growing professional development initiative that allows federal employees to “moonlight” at other agencies, gaining skills and establishing a broad network of peers they can turn to when they have questions or immediate problems to solve. Open Opportunities develops and connects the federal workforce deploying skills and expertise across the government when and where they are needed.

A longtime government employee, Lisa believes that success lies in finding talent buried in agency silos. And so while she thinks an integrated approach to managing human capital is a noble goal, she believes we must build a network of innovators, passionate, mission-driven individuals who can make a bigger impact if they are connected to other like-minded federal workers. To that end, “we must promote a cooperative approach to problem solving,” says Lisa, “this will help agencies and employees gain skills, talent and interagency experience.”

The Partnership for Public Service recently held its annual awards ceremony, where Bridget was a finalist for the Call to Service medal. and Bridget attended. “Cross-agency collaboration is everything,” she told me. “It was all they talked about all night.”

Which is all well and good, I wondered, but who would be in charge if we created an all-encompassing, interagency "HR Central?" Even beyond the “Collaboration Central" envisioned by GSA?

None of my colleagues had the answer for this. Start a new post inside the White House? Restructure OPM? Form a working group with a representative inside every federal agency there is?

Having raised two millennials, one thing is for certain: Tomorrow’s federal employees won’t have the patience for us to figure this out.


All opinions are personal and do not reflect those of one’s agency or the federal government as a whole.

Some Feminist Thoughts On Parshas Bereishis

This week we began reading the Torah anew - Parshas Bereishis. I confess that Bereishis is my favorite portion of them all because as an ENTP I like to begin at the beginning and establish first principles before launching into any conversation about the details. Also, in Bereishis we learn about Adam and Eve, and we do NOT learn about the real first woman, Lilith, and I marvel again at again at what goes down in this story.
Who was Adam's first wife and what happened to her?
---One version is that Adam didn't like her. And told G-d to get rid of her.
---The other version is that she didn't like Adam, ran away, and was confronted by angels who tried to force her to come back otherwise they'd drown her.
(There supposedly ensues a conversation between Lilith and the angels about her life's purpose, which is to kill infants in their beds, and a deal wherein she won't do it if they're wearing a certain protective amulet...this then morphs into the idea that she is the seductress who tempts otherwise good men and then spawns demon babies...that she is the "Queen of the demons.")
I was always kind of pissed at all of the above. The way Lilith was treated and the whole sexist tilt of the Creation story to begin with. I have always imagined Lilith as a tall, strong, muscular and beautiful woman with long flaming red hair, telling Adam to go fuck himself, really, when he started ordering her around.
Interestingly, she looks exactly like I imagine her if you check So I guess redheads are stereotyped as these wild seductresses.…/Lilith-In-The-Torah-Talmud-And-M…
Anyway, the Lilith story turns out to be a compilation of ideas that already existed at the time, combined with rabbinic thinking.
It also turns out that it is only one of two options for the "first" creation story. The second is that the first being was androgynous.…/Where-Does-The-Legend-Of-Lilith-…
In any case, what do we learn from all this?
--#1, The Torah is not sexist. People are sexist.--
When religious authority and the right to speak became male-centric, we ended up with very male-centric interpretations of history and law, founded in male insecurities and other psychological needs.
(This isn't the place to go into it, but there are numerous examples of this in the Talmud, so just leave that there for now.)
--#2, The rabbis are not infallible. The rabbis are not G-d.--
The rabbis from Day 1 have set up a situation where the woman is by default the problem in a domestic dispute. If the woman can't be "normally feminine" she is "crazy" and must be expelled from the family so that her influence isn't "catching."
(You can see this stereotype operating in Hollywood where the "good" women tend to be these very passive types who sort of fawn all over their families and have nothing on their brains besides their husbands and kids.)
--#3, The traditional "good woman" is founded on male narcissism.--
In any case, Lilith is out and then Eve is created "out of Adam's rib."
Now what does this mean?
It's very common to say "well she's his soul mate."
But the implication is so sexist. Adam (and by implication all men) is a narcissist. He can't be happy with his wife UNLESS SHE IS REALLY HIM.
--#4, Women with an independent identity are routinely penalized by traditional notions of marriage and relationships.--
In the rabbinic view, a A WIFE WITH AN INDEPENDENT IDENTITY IS A THREAT and by definition cannot really be "one" with her husband."
(Recall that Lilith had an independent identity, but this was tied to her mission as a destroyer of families, literally a baby-killer.)
--#5, A cowardly man blames his woman for his problems, throwing her under the bus, while a courageous one protects her.--
The Torah tells us in full what happened with the Fall from Grace - that first day, when male and female were expelled from the Garden of Eden.
After the sin, G-d goes looking for Adam - he's the man, right? The one in charge.
And G-d says, "What the hell happened? How hard is it to NOT eat an apple?"
Right away, Adam shows his cowardice - he blames the wife (not to mention G-d.)
"It's her fault," he says. "You gave her to me, and SHE gave me the apple!"
--#6, The Torah tells us that women naturally want to follow a good man and just as naturally want to oppose a bad one.--
The Torah uses the phrase "Ezer Kenegdo." What this means literally is "a helpmeet that is next to him and against him at the same time."
In other words, the man who acts good - the wife follows willingly and with joy and helps him in everything he does.
The man who acts bad - it's the wife's job to oppose him fully and endlessly.
The prime example of this is later on with the birth of the Islamic faith. This is really important for right now, obviously.
Abraham "takes" Hagar and she has Ishmael. (Consider that women have no rights - the Egyptian princess is taken, physically and sexually. No matter how well she is treated she has no liberty.)
Sarah sees that Ishmael is a bad influence on Yitzchak and says - Abraham you have to banish him.
Abraham doesn't want to listen, but G-d tells him that his wife is right.
--#7 - When you hurt the women you cause the world to be destroyed.
G-d's regret over creating the world, which is expressed in the Torah as well. The text says that the rulers of the world, the elite class, began raping the women from the common class. This was so intolerable that G-d was going to declare the whole experiment a failure...until Noah was born and He changed his mind.
(Even after women were cursed to be subject to male domination.)
--#8 - People are the problem, not G-d.
We got ourselves into the mess we're in and we can get ourselves out of it. G-d loves all genders the same. It is human beings who hurt each other through their actions and their interpretations and their rationalizations.
Anyone who says otherwise is either misinformed, a sadistic brute, or a power-hungry liar.

All opinions my own.