Changing the Game While You’re Still Playing

A Celebration of International Women’s Day

I have passion for supporting women through all stages of their career, and this year’s International Women’s Day theme of Choose to Challenge inspired me to share more about how we can embrace that theme, particularly when it comes to our career paths and starting new journeys. Whether you are starting over or beginning your career journey or looking to grow on the path you are currently traveling, there are a few common themes and considerations. What are your gifts, who are your mentors, how do you empower others and what is your brand? By answering these questions and embracing these themes you can open new opportunities and successfully start, grow, or shift your career in the direction you want. As I look back on my career path, these themes are strong contributors to what got me here today.

Acknowledging Your Gifts

Understand your gifts, acknowledge them, lean into them. Trust your gut and your instinct. So often we listen to our head, which can be a voice telling us we’re not good enough, not ready enough, not experienced enough. Listen to your heart about who you are and quiet that inner voice and find the confidence in your heart.

Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa fame is a great example of this. Did you know she began her career in nuclear energy policy and management and budget for the White House? That’s a long way from being a famed cookbook author and celebrity chef. She took a chance on her gifts, not her experience and left her career to buy a specialty food store, which was the beginning of her “new” career journey. She had never run a business or managed employees, but she followed her instinct and knew this was her calling. (Source: Time)

Take the time to figure out where you excel – is it in storytelling? Is it in building people up? Is it in bringing a project to fruition? When do you feel most confident? Find that out, practice it and lean into it. Yes, confidence can be practiced.

Julie Cark, Founder of Baby Einstein, left her job as a high school English teacher to become a full-time mother. Upon becoming a mom, she wanted to teach her baby things she loved most and realized there was no product on the market. She began by creating videos in her basement. She leaned into her gift of teaching and the love for her child to create a successful business. (Source: Forbes.com)

I love the phrase “be you, everyone else is taken.” Know YOUR gifts. When your gifts and your career merge, success will follow.

Seeking out Mentors & Empowering Others

It is critical to have people in your life that help empower you. Empowerment builds confidence. If you are in a leadership position, empower others; if you are developing in your career, work for an empowering leader. When I was still relatively early in my career, I took on a role that was outside my comfort zone. The voice in my head said I wasn’t qualified or ready. But, there was another female leader who saw something more in me. She empowered me to make decisions and challenged me to come up with and own the solutions, not just the recommendations. She trusted me, and that trust built my confidence.

My career has been dotted by various mentors, both male and female, over the years, and now I try to pay that forward. Sixty-five percent of women who have been mentored will go on to become mentors themselves, beginning a positive cycle of mentorship.

While we know mentorship is important, a majority of women report they’ve never had a mentor. Women aren’t as likely to ask for mentors. But we need to seek out mentors. Wherever you are, look for that person who is doing what you aspire to do. Ask for a few minutes of their time. Ask them to share their experience. Ask to ask them a few questions. Share something with them and ask for feedback. Challenge yourself to build a relationship. If you are in a position to mentor, embrace it and pay it forward.

Building Your Personal Brand

What do your colleagues and your boss say about you when you are NOT in the room? That is your brand. What opportunities do you want? Do you need to change or strengthen your brand to be considered? Who can help you with your brand? Who will be “in the room” when you are not to amplify that brand? Oprah is often mentioned as a great example of building her personal brand. She’s acted with intention about how she wants to be seen and what opportunities come her way. Think about your brand with that same intention. 

Here are some key questions to ask yourself when building your personal brand:

  • What do I want my colleagues to know about me?
  • What do I want them to think about me?
  • What three words do you want colleagues to use to describe you?
  • What experiences can I pull from to support my personal brand?
  • What opportunities do I want available to me?

Building your brand is a part of the preparation required to meet the opportunities that will come. 

Acknowledge your gifts. Be empowered and empower others. Be prepared by owning your personal brand. Be ready for opportunities that will come. And, recognize that you have a lot to offer.

Want to continue the conversation? On April 21, I am hosting a #ChoosetoChallenge webinar featuring changemakers Dame Inga Beale (first female CEO of Lloyd's of London) and Donna Julian (EVP of Charlotte Hornets) as well as our own wonderful Elisabeth Coates. If you’d like to join, you can register here.