There are some things in life that you have to learn the hard way – through experience, trial and error or just plain making a mess of it. For instance, do you know how to throw a punch? Ask your for a raise? Or possibly one of the most important questions of all – do you know how to get a great haircut every single time? If you answered no to any (or all) of these questions, never fear. Helen Hawkes is here. Her book SOS: A Woman’s Guide to Sex, Optimism and Surviving the 21st Century is the perfect how-to guide for the modern woman. If you want to find a date in a foreign city, change a tyre, dump your partner, or survive office politics, this handy guide will see you throughSheSaid chatted with Helen Hawkes about living your life and surviving the 21st Century

How did the book come about?

The book came about because I realised that I’d had to do a whole lot of things myself and that no one had ever told me how to do them. I thought “Wouldn’t it be great if there was some kind of guide that actually told you things that your parents might not have told you – how to get a raise, how to dump a boyfriend.” I don’t remember my mum ever having given me a talk about how to get a raise. Having done all those things myself, I thought it would be a good idea if I put the things I know into a book and then I’d go to other experts – and you’ll see them in the book – and get them to share their knowledge on their specialty.

I think women spend so much time working on making the relationship work. If they put all that energy into making their own lives work and being happy, we’d be in a much better place.

What’s the secret to surviving the 21st Century?

Belief in yourself. It depends on what sort of field you’re in or where you live but it’s a pretty tough place for women still to nurture their dreams and their ambitions, to really value themselves. Because people always try to put you down, or say you can’t do it, or it’s not possible. You’ve just got to dig your heels in.

In day-to-day life, earning your own money, possibly trying to find a successful relationship, and just being happy, that’s all stuff the requires enormous energy and a commitment to really believing that you can. I don’t think it’s easy for women today. I think we’ve got a lot more advantages than we used to but it’s still tough.

There are still a lot of male dominated professions where women. If you’re in a job where it’s the men that are getting the fun jobs or the higher salaries, you’ve got to go in and say “I can do that job!” or “I want more money” and that’s hard to do.

Is there any one thing you think is particularly challenging for women these days?

Relationships. Women have got so much more now – an option to work – if they want – they still have the option to have children. And somehow we’re supposed to miraculously combine that with a high-powered career and still maintain a house and be, supposedly, a great cook or a demon in the bedroom, or whatever.

All my single friends say they’re fussy. The truth is that they are because they’ve got everything themselves and they think “How am I going to get a man to fit in with that?” or “How am I going to have a successful relationship?” it’s really tough. They want men that can communicate, and that are sensitive and all that stuff and yet they want men that can earn a good living and also be manly. It’s a really difficult combination.