‘Just What the World Needs’

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A few weeks ago, I received a particularly blunt e-mail in my inbox. No subject line, no salutation, no signature. A single sentence: "Just what the world needs—a young girl director for a body shop magazine!" 

To be honest, I laughed when I got the email. One, because it’s not the first (and probably not the last) time I’ve received an email like that. And two, because I think that’s exactly what this world needs.

It’s no secret that this industry (and many others) has a talent shortage. And while there are many contributing factors to that shortage, I can’t help but wonder if it partly has to do with an old-school mindset so deeply engrained in this industry that it limits progress. 

Let’s look a little closer at the implication of that email and the stereotypes at play. One, that a young person shouldn’t be the editor of this magazine. Two, that a girl shouldn’t be the editor of this magazine. Three, that it’s actually a detriment to the industry that someone who falls into both of those categories is the editor of this magazine.

Maybe you agree with this reader. Maybe you don’t. Regardless, here’s my question for you: Why not me? Why shouldn’t a young woman—enthusiastic and passionate about this industry—be the editor of this magazine? Is it too hard to imagine that the basis of my job is dependent on a level of knowledge and experience, as well as a specific skill set, rather than gender or age? Just thinking about the answer reveals a whole slew of limiting behaviors and beliefs.

Sure, I didn’t grow up in this industry. I’ve never changed the oil in my car. But why is that a requirement to being part of this industry?

And if you think it is, well, the talent shortage might force you to change that belief. Study after study has shown that kids aren’t going into the trades the way they used to. It’s a shame, and I sincerely hope we’re able to make progress with schools, counselors, parents and kids to push more students into these wonderful careers. But, without that steady stream of people entering the industry as in the past, you’re more than likely going to need to widen your pool of applicants—and your definition of what this industry looks like. 

To be fair, this is a two-way street. I’ve made judgments of this industry, too. For years, I felt extremely out of place. I was convinced I had little in common with those in the industry. I felt defined by my “outsider” status, and I chose to let that define my experience. It almost pushed me out of the industry and this job altogether. But, over the past year, I made a conscious choice to put myself out there and keep an open mind. What I found was that, once I adopted a mindset of seeking out similarities, rather than differences, I had plenty in common with nearly everyone in the industry. 

Coincidentally, columnist Kevin Rains also wrote about limiting beliefs in his column this month, and in it, he quoted Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” I can say, from experience, that this rings true.

For the record, I printed that email and it’s hanging up at my desk. It’s my own constant reminder to continue pushing past limiting beliefs—both my own and that of others. 

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