We are currently at a very exciting time in the world of business. With the emergence of the sharing economy over the past few years, advancements in technology and AI, an enhanced business focus on global responsibility, and so many other developments, companies are finding themselves with staffing gaps that they'd never even thought of before.
Even at Thomson Reuters, where I lead Corporate Social Responsibility, the once ironclad career ladder with a set progression of steps, titles and responsibilities that you would reach after 3, 5, or 7 years no longer exists, and there's opportunity for individuals to carve out niche roles for themselves within existing companies and startups.
More and more, candidates with what seem like completely unrelated skill sets are being hired in new hybrid roles - many that they've designed for themselves. The reason is that a core set of competencies, not experience in one specific role, is becoming more valuable to companies. Especially in the startup world where businesses are constantly pivoting, companies rely on agile, creative, adaptable employees who can tackle one problem after the next, and connect the individual dots within a company on a larger scale.
Every job I've had since I left the finance world at age 23 has been one that I envisioned and created for myself. The key is identifying your passions and unique skills, figuring out what that looks like for you, and finding companies that fit into your vision. Now, to be sure, the traditional career ladder is very much still there, so finding companies that are forward-thinking and open to change and adaptation is key - but it might surprise you who those players actually are.
I knew at a young age that my passion was for connecting others and helping to better our community and world. I had originally planned to be a doctor - I started pre-med but after college, ultimately took a position in Finance. Being a cog in what felt like a very big machine (not to mention a boy's club), I knew that I needed to find ways to differentiate myself from my colleagues - for the benefit of my career and also to be true to my own values.
Finding Your Passion
In terms of finding your passion - it's never too early, or too late, to get started. I meet so many young women who feel like they haven't yet found their “calling," and many feel lost because of that - like they don't know what direction to go in and therefore wind up being stagnant. Certainly, there's a benefit to identifying this early and making it your one-track mission, but if you're not there yet, my biggest advice for you would be to just go out and explore. Try new things. See where you feel energized, gratified and invigorated. Be observant about your own feelings.
In terms of finding your passion - it's never too early, or too late, to get started. I meet so many young women who feel like they haven't yet found their “calling," and many feel lost because of that - like they don't know what direction to go in and therefore wind up being stagnant.
What Drives You
Examine what drives you. Do you enjoy managing others, or do you prefer to work alone? Do you enjoy building teams and creating job functions? Are you comfortable diving into new challenges that you haven't faced before, or do you prefer to stick to what you know? Do you enjoy working on a series of short-term projects, or do you prefer broader, longer term projects? For me, working with teams to build something was my first passion, and my passion for learning and development came along later.
Evaluate Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Employers are looking for candidates who can fill multiple roles at once, and it's better for you to have a variety of relevant, but seemingly unrelated skills that can offer value in several areas of the company. Examine your skill set. Are you good at writing, connecting with others, data analysis, or coding? Are you super organized? Do you have language skills? Are you good at helping others solve problems, or do you prefer tackling them on your own? Set out all the skills that you feel you can jump into, and then piece them together to see what a hybrid role might look like for you. At the same time, if there are skills you're lacking but would like to acquire, it's never too late to learn more. For me, tapping into my strengths meant building teams and generating ideas and initiatives from the ground up. I enjoy freedom and flexibility and the opportunity to take calculated risks within a company for the greater good. That's how I originally came to Thomson Reuters to lead learning and development, but that job over time developed into another role where I was leading global corporate social responsibility.
My philosophy on leveraging your strengths is that it's important to know your boundaries and limits as well as what you need and want from a position. For me, I know that I need variety in my work, to be constantly busy, and to be able to build a great team from the ground up. I also know that socializing and time with family is very important to me as well, so I built a system that allows that to happen.
Do Your Research
Identify companies that you'd enjoy working for. Especially among millennials today, company culture is a key factor for attracting talent. Does the company have a culture that you identify with? Would you feel fulfilled working there? Do you prefer working for established companies where processes and roles are set, or do you prefer smaller, developing companies where you can make a larger impact?
Maybe you want to create a new role within your existing company. The best way to do that is to make a list of areas in the company or within your current role that aren't being served. Quantify exactly what additional areas you'd like to take on, or what a new role would entail, as well as why the company needs it. It's ok to start small with one or two new initiatives at a time. Simply raising your hand and showing that you have an interest, and then acting on and fulfilling that interest will show that you can follow through.
Keep abreast of the news. Where are other companies investing that yours isn't? Are you seeing trends in the field that could be applied to your work? Seeing an opportunity early on and jumping at it can give you a head start and provide immense value to your company.
Know The Key Players
The key to being heard in the workplace (or anywhere, really), is to understand the other person's style and thinking, and approach it from their perspective. I was a student in the second class of women to ever attend Washington & Lee University, and at the time, many alumni and students were unhappy with the idea of women joining their ranks.
However, understanding why they felt this way, their concerns and their goals, helped me to approach them with new ideas, and we were able to develop programs and groups to support female students. Understanding what drives the other person, what their needs are, and how you can bring value to the table will help you get ahead. Sell your unique expertise and experiences, and position those things as beneficial to the other party.
Show Your Passion
Have you ever been passed over for a position (or declined to hire someone) because you simply didn't display a passion or excitement for the position? It's more important that you may think to explain why you're passionate about an area or opportunity - maybe it's a personal experience, or something you got a taste of at a previous company but wanted to learn more about.
Sometimes the best candidates are the most passionate, not necessarily those with the most experience. I took a position at JP Morgan straight out of college - I'd been on the pre-med track during college, and never took a single business class, but my skills and passions were able to translate into the finance world.
Take Leaps of Faith
I've always believed that when it comes to new opportunities, you should always say yes. There are a million ways to talk yourself out of doing something - but instead of doing that, tell yourself yes, I want this, here's what I need to get there, here are the reasons I shouldn't or couldn't do this, and then work them out. No obstacle is truly insurmountable with the right attitude.
We are living in a time when women are rising to new heights which means they are regularly being confronted with the fear of being "too much". For women in business this is pervasive and costly.
A few ways women can be perceived as "too much" are:
Speaking up about their successes and achievements.
Sharing one too many photos of their cute kids.
Telling one too many people about that date night.
Looking a little too good in that swimsuit.
These can lead to being publicly attacked on social media or privately slandered which in turn leads to women dimming their light and walking on egg shells in hopes of avoiding conflict and judgement.
The minute a woman feels it's unsafe to shine she will begin to overthink, worry, and fear how she shows up in the world.
Forgetting to announce the book is done and the interview is live.
Choosing to focus on what's still on the to-do list rather than what's been checked off.
Many female entrepreneurs are subconsciously altering their behavior in an attempt to not attract too much attention to themselves, rather than focusing on allowing authenticity and magnetism to attract their ideal clients and community.
Women are afraid of being criticized, ostracized, and abandoned by other women for simply being who they are. This leads to quite the quantum when being who you are is simplest way to accelerate the growth of your business.
New research shows men are far more comfortable with self promotion than women are. Researchers found that men rate their own performance 33 percent higher than equally performing women. What we know is that self promotion pays off and this is where women are missing the boat.
The world needs more women to step into leadership roles and no longer be intimidated about creating six and seven figure careers.
Here are five ways to release the fear of being "too much":
1. Approve of yourself.
While it feels good to receive outside validation it will never be enough if you don't first appreciate yourself. The key to having a healthy support system is to make sure you are part of it. Being your biggest critic is what your mother's generation did. It's now time to be your biggest cheerleader. Becoming aware of self talk will reveal what belief is ready to be re-wired. Create a simply mantra that affirms how incredible capable you are.
2. Connect deeply to those you serve.
One powerful way to shift out of people pleasing behavior is to get clear on who actually matters to the wellbeing and success of your life and business. Leadership is not about being the most popular, instead it's a decision to be brave for those who can't be. Take a few minutes each day to visualize and meditate on those your business serves and supports. See your future clients moving toward you every time you choose to stand in your power and use your authentic voice.
3. Remember the legacy you wish to leave.
Having your life purpose and legacy in writing is one of the most transformational exercises you can do. Reading this often will keep you focused on what matters. Knowing what you wish to leave in the hearts of those you love most is incredibly grounding. You didn't come here to keep your mouth shut, dilute your truth, or dim your light-you came here to make a difference.
4. Forgive those who have been unsupportive in the past.
The past has a way of informing the future in a negative way when there is unresolved pain. Take a few minutes to get quiet and ask yourself who you have unforgiveness towards or maybe their name came to mind as you read this article. Listening to a forgiveness meditation or writing a letter to the person you are ready to forgive are both simple and effective ways to process and heal.
5. Be part a community of bright, successful women.
Meaningful relationships with others who have similar aspirations is what will keep you out of isolation and playing small. These connections can happen in a networking group, online community or a local Meetup. Thriving in every area of life is depend on you knowing where you belong and being celebrated there. Don't wait to be invited, go actively seek out people and places that support your dreams and desires.
6. Accept you can have it all.
Women have been fed a lie for generations that says, you can have love or money. Decide you can have it all and allow it to flow to you. You can have a successful career and an amazing mother. You can balance motherhood and loving marriage. Don't let anyone write the rules for you. This is the time to create the life you desire on your terms.
7. Celebrate everything!
The fastest way to leave the haters in the dust is to celebrate everything! At the end of each day lay in bed and recall the best moments. At the end of each week, publicly acknowledge and celebrate what's good in your life. Once a month, have a celebration dinner and share it with those who have helped you in the journey. If there's something good happening, talk about it with everyone who will listen!
May you be a woman who chooses to shine so that others may be reminded of all they can be and do.