Let’s start by saying this – Ann Shoket gets it. She knows what millennial women are going through and she’s somehow able to take the jumble of stress, fear, and ambition that’s spinning around in our brains and give us a book that addresses everything we’re thinking. I picked up (re: pre-ordered) The Big Life because I’ve loved Shoket since she was the editor of Seventeen magazine. I have the stack of back issues in my childhood closet to prove it. I loved her work then and it only took me 2 or 3 pages of her new book to realize I still do.
“You know you have more to offer than the world is letting you.”
YAASSS ANN! I don’t even know how many times I’ve thought this over the past few years. I feel like it’s a pretty common feeling among millennials. We know our worth and we want the chance to prove what we’re capable of. You think, ‘if only this person would hire me or at least give me an interview, they’d see how amazing I am.’
In The Big Life, Shoket talks about this desire to have your dream life. She understands that millennial women want fulfillment in all aspects of their lives, but this book isn’t about “having it all” and flawlessly achieving a perfect life. Shoket has a mantra: “Embrace the mess.”
In the book, Shoket talks a lot about how millennial women are revolutionizing what a career path can look like. It’s not a straight line to the top anymore. Women are creating their own positions, fighting for what they’re worth, and basically just bringing to life the visions they have for themselves. We’re not sitting back and waiting for things to come our way. Shoket grasps how the world is changing and how young women understand their own potential. “This moment of change in the world is your opportunity to make your life bigger instead of letting the force of change make you feel small and overwhelmed…
“You have the choice to be the architect of change or to let change happen to you. Take the reins.”
The book has useful real-life advice on how to network, ace an interview, and ask for a raise. She also gave really great advice that felt more like I was being let in on top secret information. For real, I underlined like half of this book. She talks about little things to do that will make you stand out to your boss, tips on how to build your brand, and how to become indispensable at your company.
One thing I really admire about Shoket is that she doesn’t claim to have all the answers. She did a lot of research for this book, which she made clear by featuring interviews with entrepreneurial women and sidebars written by women in their twenties. The sidebars were cool because some featured women who seemed just like me (one actually said “Kate, age 24”), while others were less relatable (like making six figures at age 22 unrelatable). Both ends of the spectrum offered a lot of insight, though, and it was nice to know that all these women crave the same happy, successful life I do.
Being happy with your life was a main theme throughout the book. It’s not a straightforward career book. It’s a book about living a life that aligns with what you want for yourself and what you know you’re capable of achieving.
“You want what you do for a living to feel like actual living.”
Another thing I appreciated is that Shoket doesn’t just refer to women’s futures. She emphasizes enjoying the present and embracing the journey. Your life isn’t just where you end up, it’s where you are right now too. If your current situation isn’t ideal, though, she has advice for that too. Well… she quotes Barbara Walters, but still: “Don’t imagine that your life now is the way it’s always going to be. You have no idea the adventures in store for you. You have no idea how interesting your life can become.”
Incase it hasn’t been clear, I definitely recommend this book. I’ll admit, I didn’t really connect with all of it (the dating scene and super ambitious NYC finance women who don’t sleep), but overall I really enjoyed it. Shoket not only understands millennial women and what we want for ourselves, she validates our dreams and encourages us to push ourselves even harder.