Business Book Club: Leave Your Mark

Originally published July 2015

Of all the books I’ve read on business this summer, “Leave Your Mark: Land Your Dream Job. Kill it in Your Career. Rock Social Media.” by Aliza Licht is my favorite as of yet. Licht is entertaining while dishing out some very real, very necessary advice on what you need to do (and even more importantly, what NOT do) to get the job of your dreams, succeed at it, master social media, all while improving your most important brand: yourself.

Licht got to where she is through a more dysfunctional route. Currently Licht is SVP of global communications at Donna Karan International, as well as Twitter personality DKNY PR GIRL, but she wasn’t always on track to be on top in public relations. In fact, up until her junior year of college, she was going to be a plastic surgeon. Refreshingly honest about the fear that comes with leaving your comfort zone and plan behind (along with the fear of disappointing people) Licht takes the reader with her as she describes the path she took, which not only includes an internship with a plastic surgeon, but also fashion closets, horrifying bosses, and the wonderful world of social media.

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What I Liked

Right off the bat Licht hooked me when she started talking about her unease with medicine and her desire to change careers. I’ve always been one for planning out every possible aspect of my life, but the more time I spend in college, the more I realize that it’s not possible to map out too much, as you are constantly thrown curveballs. At times I feel nervous that I’m not on the right path. And I’m only a sophomore in college. I have time to figure out what I want to do, so I shouldn’t be stressed yet. When Licht started describing her internship with a plastic surgeon that made her realize it wasn’t for her, I felt understood. I felt like Licht’s honest description of her fear of making the wrong decision was relatable, and set the tone for the book as one where Licht is candid with the reader.

Potentially the best part of “Leave Your Mark” was the frequency of INSIDER TIPS sprinkled throughout. While Licht did share her story, she didn’t make herself the focal point, rather taking the time to educate readers on things necessary to know in order to thrive in the job market. One of my favorite parts was the section covering cover letters. Cover letters to me are not only a foreign concept, potentially because I have yet to write one, but they also terrify me because it seems that it is your one shot to show the interviewer your passion for the job, something I’m slightly afraid that I won’t be able to do my first few times out. Thankfully Licht created a 20-step guide to writing a cover letter that covered the basic mistakes people make, and ways to go about fixing them. I fully intend on referencing this list when I go out to get a job to make sure I’m doing things correctly.

Another tip that I found valuable showed another benefit of “Leave Your Mark”: its honesty. Licht is advice is fun to read, but she’s not willing to sugarcoat things. When talking about promotions, Licht points out that “you don’t get a promotion for doing your job; you get a promotion for going above and beyond your job.” I have read multiple articles online about asking for a promotion, the best ways to phrase your request, and techniques to approach your boss, but none that I read told the reader that if they hadn’t done anything special they shouldn’t ask. If you aren’t proving that you are willing to push yourself, why should they promote you? “Leave Your Mark” provides advice, yes, but isn’t afraid to get real with the reader on important issues that require self-reflection.

The more I learn about marketing, the more I find myself interested in inbound marketing, search engine optimization, and personal branding. So when Licht included an entire section of the book titled “Creating the Brand of You,” it pretty much solidified first place as my favorite business book. She breaks down what personal branding is in a way I could relate. Previously I would have defined personal branding in a multitude of ways, never certain how to describe how it applied to me. But Licht nails it, saying that “personal branding is about identifying the best version of you and striving toward achieving and communicating that everyday.” By reading this, as well as the forty odd pages dedicated to branding, I felt as though I gained a greater understanding of a topic of interest, while being entertained with personal stories and gaining quality advice.

Something unusual about “Leave Your Mark” I very much enjoyed was the amount of time dedicated to the importance of social media. Licht emphasizes the importance social media plays not only in the reader’s work life, but the importance it plays in their daily life. Licht covers Twitter especially (no surprise considering she is a Twitter personality) but manages to highlight how social media truly impacts people. While other books might shy away from talking about social media, an industry that changes quite rapidly, Licht capitalizes on the fact that she understands the ins and outs of social media and is able to dish out advice on being social media savvy that other books are afraid to touch on. I personally am just getting into Twitter (better late than never?) so having a guide that makes me feel more comfortable about what I’m doing is definitely a plus!

My favorite part of the book however, is how I felt while reading it. I truly feel as though Aliza Licht got me, and I felt a connection to a woman who I have never met thanks to her writing. Towards the end of the book, Licht talks about how she found out that one of her bosses was wary about hiring her because she was afraid Licht would end up taking her job. Licht goes on to talk about the importance of “strong people supporting strong people.” She mentions that people “seem to be put off by people who know what they want and who believe they can be an asset to the team,” but that she views it differently because she was that girl. This part really got to me, because sometimes I feel as though I come off as too aggressive, in part because I’m passionate and I know what I want and I’m going to bust my butt to get it. Hearing someone else say she was like that, and acknowledging that it’s at times hard because not everyone is supportive gives me confidence that although I at times feel discouraged, I’m going to be just fine.

What I Didn’t Like

Overall “Leave Your Mark” was a fantastic book, and one of my favorites. But as with every book, there is always something that could have gone better. For me, “Leave Your Mark” had one tiny attribute that annoyed the crap out of me. When Licht said something sarcastic, she would occasionally denote it with “(*S),” which in the glossary she describes as “the homemade sarcasm symbol I invented because the world doesn’t have one.” While I get it was supposed to be funny, I found it completely unnecessary. Maybe it’s because my humor is more sarcastic in nature, but when I read “how original,” when the idea is clearly not original, I don’t need to be told it’s sarcasm. I am intelligent enough to identify the sarcasm on my own. I feel that by including this symbol to denote sarcasm Licht was inadvertently insulting the intelligence of her readers, even when it’s meant to be comical.

Another potential drawback is that while I enjoyed the social media advice, and found it very relevant, social media is constantly changing and thus the advice could become irrelevant fast. I worry that if Twitter dies out, or if an entirely new platform takes over, Licht’s book could seem as though it is outdated, even when the majority of the advice is still applicable. This could be solved by a ‘expanded and updated’ version, but it would still be frustrating to be considered outdated so soon.

“Leave Your Mark” reminded me of “#GIRLBOSS” in the sense that it is aimed primarily towards women, with “Leave Your Mark” especially catering towards women in the early stages of their career. The advice Licht gives isn’t only useful for women, nor is it only useful for people interested in fashion. Knowing how to write a resume, the best ways to interview, and how to deal with difficult co-workers are skills that everyone needs to know. So while the fashion aspect of “Leave Your Mark” might turn men off, I do believe men should be reading Licht’s book as well, and it’s unfortunate that the way it is marketed excludes them.

The Verdict

“Leave Your Mark” is one of my favorite business books. Between the sassiness in Aliza Licht’s writing, the advice on how to succeed in your career, and the connection I felt with Licht, I would recommend this book to anyone starting out in their careers.

For More On “Leave Your Mark” and Aliza Licht

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alizalicht

Website: http://www.alizalicht.com

TedTalk: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/The-Power-of-Being-Real-Aliza-L

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Leave-Your-Mark-Career-Social/dp/1455584142

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