Career With A Purpose 2.0

I wish I could have told myself to be more resilient, positive, and hopeful……

For women in the professional world today, the doors of opportunity are wide open, and women are more educated than in any previous generation. It would seem, then, that nothing would stand in the way of any woman gathering the requisite knowledge, sharpening her skills, and working her way into a fulfilling career.

It is certainly true that today’s women do this with great success and grace. But what’s surprising is that the inner struggles most admit to having are specific hurdles that do not seem common for the male gender.

Confidential surveys reveal what women would not say in the Boardroom, but what they often confess to their friends…(1) they struggle with lack of self-assurance in their professional cultures, cultures where confidence matters. Another female hurdle not common for their male colleagues is that (2) most women have a negative concept of power. Additionally, in their male-dominated, goal-oriented cultures, (3) many women are secretly afraid to set higher goals for themselves for fear of failure.

Entrepreneur Ingrid Vanderveldt, Publisher Moira Forbes, and Northwestern Mutual Senior Vice President Joann Eisenhart addressed these distinctly female issues recently in a leadership breakfast at the Freedom Center in Cincinnati. In a panel discussion, entitled “Women, Power, and Empowerment,” the three shared insights, advice, and personal stories of success and failure.

Permeating their conversation with memorable and charming professional examples, they mentioned several antidotes for lack of confidence:
• look around for role models to follow,
• listen to advice (but don’t believe negative things about yourself)
• know your strengths (and don’t compare yourself with others),
• study to make yourself more knowledgeable on work related issues,
• be prepared with necessary reports for meetings,
• build relationships with coworkers,
• introduce yourself to senior officers of the organization,
• take thoughtfully considered risks, and
• get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Regarding power, Vanderveldt, Forbes, and Eisenhart cited compelling studies showing that most women have a negative perception of being powerful or using power. Such a perception may hinder the impact a woman can have.

So, for women, it’s more helpful to think in terms of “influence” rather than “power.”

The different forms of power are typically thought to be: position power, expertise power, relationship power, and empowerment of others. So instead of being in denial about their own power, women may want to ask themselves, how can I influence others through my position, through my education or expertise, through my relationships, etc. Whatever we want to call it, the fact remains that we all have extraordinary power potential, and it’s important to get comfortable with our own personal power. We can leverage our influence across multiple spheres to make a difference, pay it forward, and bring the next generation along with us.

And regarding the third unspoken hurdle common to women (setting goals), the panel leaders discussed honestly considering our needs, dreams, and goals.

Once a clear goal takes shape, a woman should ask herself: “what am I involved in that doesn’t align to that goal?” Over time, she can take baby steps to unhook from those competing tasks and only add things that complement her plan and her values.

As women consider goals, the panel also advised making it a goal to bring others along. Mentoring is usually thought of as being very time consuming, and many people worry about not having enough expertise to share. But another way to look at it could simply be the sharing of ideas over coffee. Relationships are an invaluable encouragement and the exchange of experiential knowledge can be of great significance.

Finally, the panel mentioned the fact that women are the breadwinners in 42% of the homes in America. But breadwinner or not, its important that women spend some time focusing on their financial health. Establishing and understanding one’s own financial security is as critical as exercising and maintaining a healthy diet. Women take care of others in so many ways, they owe it to themselves to establish good principles of financial health in their personal lives.

A parting thought was this….

When thousands of women were asked in a recent survey…what they wished they could tell their younger selves, the most common answer was: “I wish I could tell my younger self not to worry so much or be so hard on myself.”

Corollary to that, many said something like the following: ‘No one is perfect and no life path is perfect. I wish I could have told myself to be more resilient, positive, and hopeful. Life is more fun that way and more fun for the people around us, too.’

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