I recently had the opportunity to attend the Boston Business Women’s Empow(HER) Conference and came away with so many empowering messages that not only resonate in the workplace, but transcend that into home and family life, the notion of, or perhaps ‘fabled’ work/life balance and tangible ways to make a difference in your role, and your career.
Here are some of my favorite messages and takeaways from the Empow(HER) Conference:
Never underestimate your impact
This is one of those statements that hit home for me, because you never know who you are impacting or inspiring, without even knowing it. And keeping that in mind – the notion of ‘quietly inspiring’ – is a motivator to do good work no matter if it’s lauded outwardly or not. Because almost always, you are probably inspiring or motivating someone on your team, in your family, or in your network, without even realizing it. And there is something to be said for harnessing confidence versus lacking it; it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and if you aren’t confident, it shows, and if you don’t believe you’ll be successful, nobody else will either.
‘Lean in’ to your career
This came up in several ways during the speaker sessions and I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment. I too, feel that if you are too comfortable in your role, you are not growing. You need to practice being uncomfortable. And sometimes that means stretching into a role that you may feel is “too” challenging at first.
Corinna Werkle from Reebok suggests that you should ‘take the opportunity when it is there, and worry about the rest later. As long as you have 50-70 percent of the qualifications, that is enough. Take the risk. Your confidence will make you capable of overcoming the weaknesses.’
Stephanie Shore from MOO shared a similar sentiment. She says ‘don’t allow yourself to decide ahead of time what you’re going to be good at. Many of us tend to do that job for say, three years, then raise their hand for the promotion. It is a mindset shift.’
Surround yourself with mentors, advocates, and a really great band
Similar to channeling confidence in your career, it’s also important to create your own network of people you can learn from and who can also learn from you. Stephanie suggests you “build a really great band” that fills in the gaps of the areas you may be not be as strong at and learn from them, too. She equates this to growing up trying to learn to play the flute and no matter what she did, it just never came to her. She suggests that rather than force something that may not come naturally, seek out an expert instead. Learn from them, and they’ll naturally learn from you, too. This is what she refers to as “leaning back” – what will you let go of that you won’t get right?’ A question perhaps we all should ask ourselves from time-to-time because that speaks to self-awareness, humbleness and that there is always room for improvement.
And finally, she has her own personal “board of directors” that she bounces off career changes and challenges to, learns from, and generally helps her excel in her career. I love this idea and think we could all formalize our personal ‘boards’ that includes our mentors, our confidantes and those coworkers that challenge us to grow further.
Be your own PR person
Clearly this one resonated with me, given my role in corporate communications!
Marie Rosecrans from Salesforce said something that stopped me in my tracks: “Don’t expect to get noticed for your great work, promote yourself.” While blunt, it is the truth. It is important to learn how to self-promote in a way that is not promotional, which sounds like an oxymoron but is not. It is promoting the achievements you have accomplished that resonate with those you are promoting yourself to; why is it important to them, the overall marketing plan (or whatever plan or strategy it relates to), and even the company? It’s not so much about saying “look at all the awesome stuff I did.” It is about relaying why it moves the needle on a broader initiative goal, or strategy. If you don’t connect the dots for them, nobody else will.
Marie also suggests spending 30-45 minutes a week or month on your personal PR plan to keep a record of your achievements, and areas to continue to strengthen. This is really smart, because after too long in a role, things you achieved earlier on, you may forget, or may not recall details as crisply. And it all boils down to being an advocate for yourself and asking for what you deserve (and backing that up with said accomplishments!).
There is no such thing as work/life balance, but there is ‘sway’
Jeanne Thompson from Fidelity uttered this sentiment throughout her discussion and it was by far, the biggest aha moment for me. She has long felt that the notion of work/life balance is impossible, equating it to a yoga pose, where you can typically balance for 10-15 seconds before losing the pose. Similarly, how can you expect a balance between work and life in the same vein, when our lives are so dynamic? She suggests you achieve “sway” instead. Sway is embracing the ebb and flow between work and life where sometimes, work needs your full attention, and other times, your home life demands it. The onus is on us to set those boundaries and be all-in on the moments in our lives, both professionally and personally, that matter most.
I think this goes back to some of the earlier comments around taking risks in your career and being your own advocate in your career journey. There will be times where you need to make a judgement call and sway depending on what is going on in your life and at work. There will be times when you have to say no, and other times, where you have to show up in earnest on the work front, and it pays dividends.
In closing…your career and your life is about being relentless in the pursuit of your goals and your life.
This event confirmed many of the things our guest bloggers have said in our Wednesdays for Women blog, as well, so if you haven’t read them all, grab a cup of coffee and catch up!