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Taylor Swift’s Grammys Speech Is Good Career Advice for Young Women

Topics: Career Advice

Forget music; Taylor Swift’s biggest accomplishment might be inspiring her young, female fans not only to achieve their dreams, but to take credit for their accomplishments – and ignore the haters who try to diminish their success. Last night at the Grammys, Swift delivered perhaps the best response to Kanye West’s claim that he “made that [insert sexist slur here] famous” by asserting her right to be recognized for her achievements … and not even mentioning Yeezy by name.

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(Photo Credit: Eva Rinaldi Photography/Flickr)

“As the first woman to win Album of the Year at the Grammys twice, I want to say to all the young women out there, there are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame,” said Swift, during her acceptance speech. “But if you just focus on the work and you don’t let those people sidetrack you, some day when you get where you’re going, you’ll look around and you will know that it was you and the people who love you who put you there and that will be the greatest feeling in the world.”

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Let’s dissect the awesomeness of this response for a moment. In one short paragraph, Taylor Swift:

1. Put herself and her achievements first – no apologies, no deflections.

Often, in business, it seems that women are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they claim credit for their accomplishments, they go against centuries of societally mandated female humility; if they demur, they don’t get recognition and they have to read another hundred blog posts and articles telling them that women don’t get because they don’t ask. (But not from PayScale, needless to say. We’ve got your back.)

Women in Swift’s position have an unusual amount of power to change these cultural expectations. It’s thrilling to see her use it.

2. Reminded her audience that haters are trying to bask in their targets’ glory, not the other way around.

The only upside to having someone try to undercut you at work is that it means, necessarily, that your efforts are worth undermining. Swift’s speech put the focus back on her work, where it belongs.

The office rock star doesn’t need to make other people small; he or she can lift them up, instead. Someone who tries to take credit for your accomplishments might be able to frustrate you temporarily, but at the end of the day, they’ll show themselves for who they are.

3. Refused to refer to Kanye West by name.

I can’t be the only one who heard that speech and expected to see a split-screen of Kanye shrieking as he dissolved before a magic mirror. There’s a lot to be said for spending as little energy on negative people as possible.

4. Affirmed the importance of hard work and focus.

The worst part of dealing with hater colleagues is that they distract you from what matters: the work. To beat them at their own game, you need to reclaim your time and put your energy where it belongs.

5. Recognized her friends for their support.

It would be a Taylor Swift speech without some recognition of her #squad. As much as we might like to make a little fun of Swift’s ever-expanding girl posse, there’s a lot to be said for being true to your friends and supporters. Focusing on the people who always have your back is a better use of your energy than focusing on the people who want to bring you down.

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Have you ever dealt with an undermining colleague? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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