Just last week, a Director at a well-regarded business school explained to me that she couldn’t get female business students to apply for the annual business plan competition. Despite her encouragement and rallying, she just couldn’t convince more women to enter. As I considered her quandary, I couldn’t help but see this as a problem that persists well after business school.
Everyone agrees that it’s a smart practice to ask for feedback. Don’t walk through life with blinders on. Show them that you’re proactive. Assume that you always have room to grow.
Have you ever avoided sharing good news—let’s say a big accomplishment—with a colleague or friend for fear of turning them off?
Just the other day I asked this question of a room of 150 ambitious, 20-something women. When polled to ask if attendees could relate, nearly every audience member raised her hand.
Let’s face it, when we’re busy and overwhelmed, our own professional development may be the first thing to fall off our to-do list. After all, not everyone has a job working for a top employer, many of whom frame professional development as a key part of one’s role (rather than a rare exception to the norm).
How can you keep your own growth and learning at the heart of your priority list?
JK Rowling pitched the Harry Potter book series to twelve publishing houses. And ALL OF THEM rejected her manuscript. She persevered and it was finally lucky number 13, a very small publishing house in London that took a chance agreeing to publish the work. Suppose JK had given up after 6 “no’s” and scrapped the project, stuck with her secretarial job, and gave up on writing?
Sometimes the best way to improve your game is to get out of your own head. At the New Jersey Society of CPAs women’s summit last week, I delivered 2 keynotes on how to be an unstoppable negotiator and on being receptive to risk-taking in your career. In between, I had the rare treat of developing myself – learning from 4 top women teaching mindfulness (Joy Principe), power (Kathleen Cashman), gender dynamics (Rita Keller), and self-branding (Eileen Monesson).
My lasting takeaway?
There's an underlying current of professional women who are seeking to reinvent themselves in 2014. They may be looking to "unstick" themselves from a tired rut--or, to inject a new and missing element into their lives.
I am part of this group.
While there's long been excitement and intrigue associated with taking a job abroad, many of us―particularly women―have also heard unflattering accounts. One executive I met recounted the time she went on assignment to Saudi Arabia, only to address a blank wall each day she kicked off status meetings. As it turned out, no males from her host country were willing to make eye contact with her. There's also the story of the fast-tracking woman who journeys to Asia Pacific, takes a job heading up a business unit and finds she's neither seen nor heard. Her host colleagues don't know quite where to place her, a point echoed by the fact that there are no women's restrooms on executive floors.
Many aspiring leaders wonder if they should become technical experts in a given area–“Specialists”–or if they should shape their careers as more well-rounded professionals–“Generalists.” While both career paths can yield positive results, my interviews with successful leaders showed that becoming a generalist can help you reach top levels faster and succeed once you get there. After all, a person with generalized knowledge knows enough about several topics to ask the tough questions and think critically about different functions.
Why is it so frustratingly easy to lose sight of the big picture? Our vision of what we want, who it is that we want to grow into, and where we're going professionally aren't just blurry, for many of us they look like a question mark. In our daily juggle, we can work feverishly, yet bob aimlessly, unsure of how it all fits together.
Increasingly, journaling is a core component of leadership classes and related training programs. Why? Journaling is an effective technique for reflecting on one’s strengths or areas of weakness, or in response to a significant incident that shaped you in some way. Journaling is a process of self-development that aids progress and is helpful when used alone, in a group setting, or with a trusted advisor.
The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. At least that’s what we thought when the daughters of working baby boomers flooded the job market. Gen Y women, boomers’ youngest working offspring, were expected to plunder the work world with unprecedented “uberdrive.” After all, they’ve seen their working moms make a living and raise a family; surely they’d take that formula and refine it, fueling it with even more wide-eyed drive. Gen Y women also present the most educated cohort of any before them, the least likely to see gender inequity as a problem at work, and report a voracious hunger for challenge on the job.
Amidst the steady stream of chatter about emancipated Gen Y girls and power-wielding baby boomer-istas, it appears we've forgotten altogether about the cohort of women in-between. Cast aside are the experiences of women ages 33 to 46, members of an ever increasingly 'lost' generation. Jeff Gordinier, author of the book "X Saves the World," put in best when he said, "We hear plenty about people in their teens and twenties, and even more about people in their fifties, but the stodgy old species known as the thirtysomething has been shuttled off, like Molly Ringwald herself, to some sort of Camp Limbo for demographic lepers."
As a working parent, I am no stranger to stretching my time and energy too thin. But if you’re saddled with demands, it is so important that you be vigilant for signs of burnout. Burnout is the feeling of depletion—mentally, physically, intellectually, emotionally—that leads to a feeling of disillusionment or disengagement. Most of us know someone who has experienced prolonged stress and consequently was burned by it for some period of their lives.
If you do even a little research on what top women executives have in common, you'll hear an earful about their educations, work experiences, and styles of leadership. You'll also learn about the strategic career moves they've made on their way to the top. Rarely though, will you get some insight into the more personal of realms: the state of their home lives and marriages. This despite the fact that opting in or out of marriage can have a clear bearing on a woman's career, and has probably helped or hurt your own path of employment, if even in a small way.
Long fascinated by the makeup of ultra performers (and with the 2012 Olympics currently underway), I recently picked up Denis Waitley's books about the psychology of winning. Waitley, a psychologist by training, is one of the most sought after performance consultants in the world; he even served for a time as the Chairman of Psychology for the U.S. Olympic Committee. Waitley has studied why certain people react optimally under pressure, and why others falter.
So many of the strategies and traits that Waitley lays out are paralleled in the work world. I've summarized the most compelling elements from his books here:
Today, as I release my new book, PUSHBACK: How Smart Women Ask-and Stand Up-For What They Want (Jossey-Bass), I can't help but reflect on the ways that book writing has changed me — both personally and professionally. Yes, some of these changes may sound intuitive, as though they're natural byproducts of taking on a big writing project, but many others have come as a surprise. As I stand at the finish line, taking a needed breath, here are the 4 book-writing lessons I'm most grateful for:
I've long been fascinated by the common traits of successful entrepreneurs. What makes them "go for it" when so many others hold back? Looking at typical attributes among this group can give us a sense of what keeps them successful and resilient. The characteristics below by no means exclude other traits, but tell you what many top entrepreneurs have in common:
Whether you're in the middle of the MBA admissions process or you haven't even decided if B-school is for you, you're no doubt considering the potential profits and losses of this important decision. Perhaps you've compared the curriculum specialties at various schools, researched different universities scholarships, and looked into what type of extracurricular opportunities will be available to you. But a question remains: Have you thought about how being female will impact your B-school experience?
Never has the life of a politician’s wife been less glamorous. Behind the requisite pearls and neat sweater sets, example after example shows political wives are being sullied and cinched by their mates’ once-prestigious appointments.
Is there a risk that you've been talking yourself out of? That's a question I often ask in my leadership workshops and one that creates quite a buzz in the room. Participants will call to mind those deep down goals they've been sidestepping and chatter follows about the baby steps they could take to make their goal happen. While the excitement is clear, there are inevitably lots of questions about what happens if a risk flops.
In this day of outsourced jobs and automation, it’s so important to find ways to become indispensable to your organization, your division—and your boss. An indispensable employee has an expertise that is critical to their organization, and often not easy to come by. Being indispensable creates a reliance on you as an employee that can translate to having more choice in work assignments, better job opportunities, and added bargaining chips when it comes to salary negotiation.
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