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Everything is negotiable (and other things I wish I knew when I was young)

By Leslie Feinzaig

Note from GLAM: We asked Leslie Feinzaig, Founder & CEO of the Female Founders Alliance, to share some words of wisdom for young girls. Here’s her advice.

1. Always negotiate

My 3-year-old is the best negotiator. She just won’t take no for an answer; she keeps asking until we give into something! In fact, I’ve met many young girls with exuberant confidence, but once we hit high school and college, somehow that confidence wanes. I wish I had kept that confidence, and the knowledge that every offer is a starting point that can be negotiated. This applies to everything from job offers to signing an apartment lease to deciding what movie to watch with your friends on a Saturday night. Negotiating isn’t the same as haggling – it’s finding solutions that work best for everyone, oftentimes creating more value for all involved. What’s most important for girls to remember is that it’s ok to advocate for ourselves, our needs and our desires.

2. Don’t downplay your strengths

I wish somebody had told me that it was OK to be smart. When I was a kid, I assumed that if I was smart people would think I was a nerd, I couldn’t be cool and friendly, and maybe boys wouldn’t like me. So, I frequently pretended I wasn’t smart.

Thinking back, that makes me sad. It would break my heart if my daughters felt like they needed to hide their strengths in order for people to like them. So, that’s my advice to you: whatever your biggest strengths and your most unique traits may be (and you have them, I promise!), please don’t downplay them. Be proud! You may think it’s not cool to be smart, or funny, or really great at board games, or a talented athlete, but it is, and it will be for the rest of your life.

3. Create your own markers of success

When you’re in school, the ways that you measure “success” are pretty standard, well known, and very linear. Things like grades, sports, getting into college and finding a job – you ace or fail, win or lose, and then it’s time to move on to the next thing in line. All of these measurements of success are set by others, and it’s your job to conform to them and perform based on them. But once you finish school, those external motivators become less standard, less linear, and less clear.

The sooner you learn what success means to you, you can start working on achieving it. So, spend some time getting to know yourself, what makes you happy, what makes you feel fulfilled. If you only focus on that linear path, you may spend half of your life doing what someone else thinks you should be doing without allowing yourself the freedom to decide.

Leslie Feinzaig is Founder & CEO of the Female Founders Alliance, a grassroots network of startup founders dedicated to helping each other succeed. What started as an online group in Seattle has grown >10x in a year and runs Ready Set Raise, a national accelerator for seed-stage companies. Leslie’s background is in technology and strategy consulting, with a BSc from the London School of Economics and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Leslie was named one of Forbes Magazine’s 100 Most Powerful Women from Central America & the Caribbean, Seattle Magazine’s Most Influential People, and Puget Sound Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. She’s a frequent speaker at events like TEDx Pura Vida, SXSW Interactive, Geekwire Summit, NW Angel Capital Conference, Seattle Magazine’s Daring Women, and more. Her writing has been featured in publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur, and AllthingsD. She was born and raised in San Jose, Costa Rica, and now lives in Seattle with her husband and their two daughters.

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