If there’s anything we love more than a go-getting woman here at Shecky’s, it’s a go-getting woman who’s also authentic. So, what makes Nicole Williams, founder of WORKS by Nicole Williams (nicolewilliams.com!), author of three best-selling books (the latest: Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success), Shape magazine’s career contributor, LinkedIn’s Connection director, new mom and so much more (yes, there is more!), relatable? Nicole provides tell-it-like-it-is career advice for every woman, creating a realistic guide on how to succeed. Oh, and she finally tells us that there is no such thing as balance (!!!!).
Feel like you need to ask Nicole some career advice in person…or just want to meet the woman behind this amazing interview? Good news! She’ll be at Girls Night Out New York City (June 22-24)!
Owner and Founder of WORKS by Nicole Williams / LinkedIn Connection Director
New York City, NY
Why did you found WORKS?
I needed it! My mom worked in a paint factory throughout her career, and from a very young age I could see that working a job that isn’t true to your potential and that you don’t enjoy actually sucks the life out of you. We spend 70% of our waking life at work, and when you hate your job, you hate your life.
Growing up, I was always inherently interested in what people did as their careers and how they got there for fear of working in the same paint factory (which I did to put myself through university). As I developed my career, I was always looking for the “smart” girl’s guide to career success. I wanted to be connected with women I could learn from and be inspired by.
I figured out pretty quickly that it’s the soft skill stuff that really makes a difference in your career—dating in the office (or at least feigning off advances), protocol around drinks after work, how to position yourself to ask for a raise, how to deal with (and not be) the bitch in the office (…and still get your own way). That’s the business I built. I see WORKS as a lifestyle brand…a place women can learn and connect with each other in a format that’s more entertaining than your typical, sleeper career content.
What did you do before founding WORKS, and how has that shaped who you are today?
My first “real” job was with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind in Vancouver after graduating from the University of British Columbia. While it was definitely where I got my “technical” understanding of career development, more importantly it was my experience at the CNIB that formed the career philosophy that I still work with today. It’s based in ability and possibility rather than disability and restriction.
I remember my first visually impaired client. He wanted to be a pilot and, while I knew I didn’t want to be on that flight, I was able to explore with him what about being a pilot was so exciting and interesting for him. [I] ended up finding him a job that he was passionate about, and something that was outside the typical careers usually thought of as appropriate for the visually impaired.
During my time at CNIB, I also realized that although I enjoy working one-on-one with individuals, I’m more passionate about working on a macro level; doing speeches and writing books—developing content that is more generally applicable to a greater number of people.
You wear a lot of different professional hats—author, columnist, curating career clothing for The Limited. Which one do you like the best?
You know, I love all of the different hats I get to wear. That’s the real pleasure of this business—the ability to mix it up. I never set out to be an author. It was really meant to be the foundation of the business, giving me some legitimacy in the other platforms we developed (TV, licensing, digital), but I find now that writing is where I get the most energy and enjoyment—that and speaking. Both are really all about creative storytelling as a tool to provide helpful information.
My other favorite part of this business comes down to anything that allows me to meet the women who I built this business for. I love feeling like we’re all in it together!
You’re a new mom, congrats! How do you balance everything?
Thanks!! I don’t…I’ve always said that balance is bullshit and now more than ever, I really do believe it. Success requires a sense of priorities and focus, and that has never been clearer to me than with the birth of my baby.
When I’m at work, I focus on my passion for the business and getting the job done so that I can hurry home and spend time with him. The truth is at this point I’m clear about my priority…my son. I still love my work but because I waited until I was 40 to have a child, I want to be able to invest the majority of my energy in my family and dig into spending meaningful time with him. I’m guessing I’ll be living this one out for a while—will keep you posted!
Growing up, what woman was your role model. Why?
I’ve had a number of different role models through the years. On a very personal level, my Nana tops the list. The “why” isn’t attached to her ambition or drive, the why is because of her ability to love with all her heart and the fact that she was the kindest and most generous person I have ever known.
After a career failure she told me that while she admired my ability to have big career goals, she was afraid of the proportional disappointment. I told her it was her unwavering belief and love for me that made all my risks possible—she was and will always be my role model. And then of course there’s Oprah for all the obvious reasons.
If you could offer one bit of professional advice for a young woman who just graduated college, what would it be?
Right after I graduated and before I jumped into my business with both feet, I read a quote that changed my life in the book The Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. He writes: “The price of self-destiny is never cheap and in certain situations it is unthinkable. But to achieve the marvelous, it is precisely the unthinkable that must be thought.”
That quote changed my life. My advice: think the unthinkable and then…be prepared to work your ass off to get it!
GIRL TALK TIME: What do you think of Nicole’s story? What job would you like to see here?