Former Anderson Ranch head Nancy Wilhelms’ new book offers a path to fulfilling careers
‘Yes! You Can Do It! The Young Woman’s Guide to Starting a Fulfilling Career’
By Nancy Wilhelms
184 pages, $14.99
Smoke Tree Press, 2021
Nancy Wilhelms started writing her book – “Yes! You Can Do It! The Young Woman’s Guide to Starting a Fulfilling Career” – two decades ago.
She put it aside as her own career accelerated, eventually landing her a post as executive director at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village, which she left in January 2018.
When she stepped down from the Ranch and started a nonprofit consulting firm, Wilhelms revisited her manuscript and took a trip to Mexico to dig back into the book. The working world it reflected, she found, had transformed with more women in leadership posts and few careers shut off for women, as they seemed to be when Wilhelms began her career as just about he only photojournalist in Milwaukee a generation ago.
“I’ve had the book in mind for 20 years, but it was a different book back then,” she said recently from Palm Springs. “When I left the Ranch I finally had time on my hands to work on it.”
She had begun the project by interviewing (mostly male) business executives about women in their organizations.
“They talked about women in their organizations, they talked about their daughters,” she recalled. “But when I sat down to write the book this time, I thought, ‘The world has really changed. So many women are in dominant roles. What these men said 20 years ago is lovely, but this is going to be a different book.”
Instead, this readable and info-packed narrative is a hybrid memoir and how-to book. Its narrative backbone is Wilhelms’ vast experience working with women, on-boarding them, mentoring and coaching.
“They all told me, ‘Oh, we like your stories’ and ‘We learned from your story,’” she recalled.
So she put those stories on paper for the book supplemented it with diverse stories of successful women (among them is Aspen Valley Hospital marketing chief Jennifer Slaughter, who worked under Wilhelms at Anderson Ranch).
“It seemed like a good combination of being able to do storytelling, provide practical tips and advice while bringing in the voices of women that I really admire,” she said.
Aimed at recent college graduates or women in career transitions, it includes Wilhelms’ own inspiring story of breaking into male-dominated fields and rising in the ranks, detailing the big changes and transitions she made throughout. And she has tips on how to figure out what you love and how to get paid for it, as well as advice on how to get paid what you’re worth despite the pay gap that still exists between men and women across industries.
“I’ve been in so many situations where I’ve seen really promising young people not understand what their value is,” she said. “I want to help them find that and help them have confidence going into a job interview.”
She finished the manuscript during the lockdown periods of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which she’s ridden out in the Aspen area and Palm Springs, and during which she’s seen many professionals start rethinking their career paths, seen a seismic change in the norms of whole industries upended and seen a redefinition of the workplace that is likely to change work forever.
Though launching a book in the pandemic would seem to limit a new author’s ability to reach readers – without a book tour and traditional book-signing events – Wilhelms has created resources on her website for the book’s audience, as well as an “Ask Nancy” section where she’ll offer personalized career advice along with a new e-newsletter.
The book has worksheets for exercises like making a personal inventory, charting a career map, preparing for job interviews and for an obituary exercise that challenges the reader to write an obituary based on their life goals. Wilhelms has found these tools helpful in her own experience and is excited about sharing them.
“The book is about advice, information and problem-solving,” she said, “and the tools actually engage the reader in doing the problem-solving on a personal level instead of just reading about it.”