When I began my career, what I did was part of my identity, my self-worth. My father was a successful advertising executive—Mad Men in real life. I wanted that same thing. It appeared glamorous and smart. An adult playground where the wittier and more in touch with your inner child you were, the more successful you'd be.
I landed a job working for a corporation that had its own in-house advertising group. I made friends with several co-workers around my age and we bonded over coffee and kolaches. The executives referred to us as “the brain trust." Those were heady and happy times, when accepting a paycheck for all the fun I was having seemed like stealing.
Then, life happened. Other opportunities arose and I jumped at them, eager for adventure and success. As I grabbed each ring, I found myself less and less satisfied, and further and further from not only what I loved doing, but from what my strengths were. Suddenly, I was decades into my professional life and the landscape around me was completely unfamiliar. I had gone from happy, creative child-genius doing what came easily and naturally, to a middle-aged woman with permanent scowl lines that I blamed on too much squinting at computer screens, instead of the true cause: utter confusion and devastation. I now spent my workday in a thankless role that no one understood or appreciated. Including myself.
Time For The Big Question
The signs that you're not as happy with your career trajectory as you keep telling yourself include things like finding it hard to fall asleep – or wake up, headaches, muscle aches and pains, or feeling mentally and physically exhausted. You also may find you're not performing up to your usually high standards. Your inner voice is telling you something, so listen. Ask yourself, “Am I headed in the right direction?" If you're experiencing the symptoms above, the answer is NO.
I realized one day that I was unhappier more of the time than I was happy. I looked down the road at the next 15 years doing what I was doing and knew it simply wasn't sustainable. I hadn't paid a lot of attention to how I got where I was, but one thing was clear: I needed to pay a lot of attention to where I went next. I reached out for guidance from a former employer—a woman who had successfully launched her own advertising agency some 30 years ago, and whom I had worked for early in my career.
She asked me simply, “What do you want to be doing, if you could write your own job description?" I thought about it for about 10 seconds and responded with my preferences and strengths. As it turned out, I was just what she and the other co-founders of PrimeWomen.com were seeking, and they were what I needed.
That sort of astral alignment, by the way, is how you know the road you need to take is the one directly under your feet.
Play To Your Strengths
Every one of us has our own genius—a talent, gift or passion. Remember what that is? If you're not sure, there are plenty of ways to find out. One, ask your friends and family. They know you better than anyone and have insight you may be overlooking. What did you love doing as a child? What do you like doing in your free time? What could you do every day without getting paid? What hobby or passion do you have that you couldn't live without? The job you seek may not be exactly that one thing, but it will likely incorporate that skill or strength.
Think about how you like to work. When are you most productive? Do you like working independently? Collaborating? Do you prefer a planned work day, or rolling with the punches as they come?
If you want someone to walk you through some of these questions, meet with a career coach. It only makes sense to invest in yourself during this process. After all, whatever job you choose, you'll be spending a large portion of your life doing it.
Watch For Signs
Have you ever noticed when considering a change, the universe sends you little messages to let you know which way to go? Sometimes the signs are hard to read – or maybe you're especially good at focusing on the road ahead and not noticing the signs flying past as you rocket forward, pedal to the metal. Slow down a bit and put your mind in 'receive" mode. Changing jobs can be a frightening prospect. “The devil you know" versus the one you don't. What if you find your new situation worse than the one you're currently in? What if you don't do well? What if it's different than you expected?
From planning weddings and running restaurants to raising kids and doling out wedding-planning wisdom with her radio show “The Event Jeannie," Uyanik has proven herself to be an inimitable woman with a work ethic that should be emulated. If you have a wedding to plan, who you gonna call? C&G Weddings!
While all valid concerns, if you do your homework before you accept a new position, you'll limit that risk. But you need to pay attention to the signs as you move along this path. If you keep hitting roadblocks, it could be the universe telling you to choose another direction. The more smoothly the process goes, the more confidence you can feel in each step you take.
Now, if you are wondering if you've missed any signs from the universe, the fact that you stopped to read this article may be one. What are you going to do about it?
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."