When I first heard of Pamela Slim’s Body of Work in January, I knew I had to purchase a copy. I didn’t know how the book would change my own perspective on work AND the lessons I teach my students. After reading BOW in one sitting, I felt so inspired that my fellow superteacher Chiara Ojeda and I revamped our entire Professional Communication and Presentation course with a focus on students “finding the thread that ties their story together” (Source). Learn more about our new class focus here.
Body of Work isn’t just for communication teachers and college students… Reading the front and back book cover reveals praise from Brene Brown, Susan Cain, Dan Pink, Nancy Duarte, and Seth Godin. Like the people featured on her book cover, Pamela Slim is a communication professional and a thought leader. Having read books by Pink, Duarte, and Godin in the past and having watched Brown and Cain’s TED Talks, the praise means something to me. These quotes come from my mentors, the people I follow and study on a daily basis. Words and phrases such as “warm and wise,” “savvy and practical,” “inspiring,” “heartfelt, practical, and actionable” are used to describe Slim and the book. And, after reading Body of Work, I can affirm that the high praise by some of my favorite people is backed up by some strong content.
Body of Work will be a highly individualized book in that its goal is to help each reader uncover and tell his/her work story. The text is divided into 9 chapters beginning with “Your Body of Work,” a chapter that starts with why and gives a definition for this term. After we understand why and what, Slim uses examples as well as exercises (think workbook) in the next few chapters to guide readers through the process of defining and explaining your body of work. I also like Slim’s approach of asking her audience questions in many places to help us really dive into the task of defining our roots, naming our ingredients, and choosing our work mode. See the Table of Contents, and read an excerpt from the book here.
In her interview with Slim, Nancy Duarte uses words like “super informative,” “transparent” and “open” to describe her experience with Body of Work. Slim explains her inspiration and idea for the book in the interview beginning at the 1:00 mark and the “new world of work” at 3:25. The entire 11-minute interview gives deeper inside into the text, so check it out below:
Duarte mentions that Slim’s career has been about showing people their purpose and meaning in life, and this book did just that for me. Here’s how…
First, I defined my roots. I did exercises to understand my values and beliefs; the problems I want to solve; and the driving force for my actions and behaviors. The book came at a perfect time in my life because last week, I had a meeting with a co-worker named David Morillo to discuss a leadership training he was developing. He asked me (and will ask his audience) to go through an activity designed to isolate my most important core values. Of course, it was no surprise to me that I chose “growth” and “volunteerism” over all other options. As a lifelong learner, I believe in hard work and a growth mindset, so constantly improving and advancing myself and my knowledge base is what drives me each and every day. I thank my parents for cultivating this in me, and I think it is one of the most important values I could ever have as a teacher. That growth value helps me shape and mold my students even through resistance because it is such a huge part of who I am as a worker and leader. Volunteerism is the second most important value in my life (even over other values like “family” and “fairness,” “fun” and “creativity”). This value is influenced by my upbringing in the South, my close relationship with my servant-minded grandmother, my love and commitment to other people, and my community college education with a focus on leadership and service. These two values emerged through the leadership activity but also came out over and over again through the questions Slim asks on pages 22-25 of Chapter 2 “Define Your Roots” and her “Identify Your Roots” exercise on pages 30-34. Since knowing your core values, your roots, is an essential part of your body of work, this second chapter was my favorite. Read more about my roots and see how I share the story of my roots with other people here.
Second, Slim asks us to focus on our ingredients. These are our roles, skills, strengths, experience, values, and scars or weaknesses. I spend quite a bit of time documenting these on my CV, but some people never keep track of these! Her third chapter helps people who don’t make notes and keep meticulous records of work experience AND explains how our roots tie to those ingredients. In her next chapter, Slim asks us to consider our preferred work “mode,” which, again, ties to the work in previous chapters.
The next chapters, “Create and Innovate” and “Surf the Fear” felt unnecessary for me personally. Maybe this is because growth and innovation and creativity and challenge seep into my everyday activities and way of life. I did take a lot away from “The 20X Rule” Slim defines on pages 97-99. She talks about this concept in her previous book, and you can read more about it here. However, I do think many people can benefit from reading Chapters 5 and 6, especially those who may not have my same values and life outlook.
I got right back into the book with Chapter 7’s “Collaborate.” In order to be my best self, I need to be pushed by other people who are doing inspiring things. This inspiration and collaboration can come from students or colleagues, or it can come from reading books and blogs. Slim talks about this “ecosystem” idea on page 137. I can step back and consider the presentation/communication ecosystem I am involved with and feel the resonance of that section. Since I do meet and network with people intrinsically, I found the most value in the “Identify a Peer Mentor Circle” exercise more than the how/why to network section.
The final chapters on “Your Definition of Success” and “Share Your Story” went hand-in-hand for me because they are the stages I’m in now. I share my story and my body of work with others here. Body of Work is an essential book for 21st century employees who want to craft and share their story with others. Since both Duarte and Slim have a “body of work” concentrating on the importance of story, I wanted to leave you with this final thought from their interview: It is important to realize that everything that you share – including on social media – does become a story whether you think about it or not, and everything said in a public forum does communicate something about who you are and your personal brand (Source).
Have you read Pamela Slim’s Body of Work? Share your thoughts with me!