For working women at all ages and stages, the stress of growing friendships, family and career can often cause a deficiency of what I call “Vitamin C” or Confidence. To get ahead without leaving your best self behind, here are 15 healthy doses of Vitamin “C” for 2015:
- ADMIT WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE IT ALL GOING ON. When you show that you don’t have all the answers and ask for help—either up or down the career ladder—you have the opportunity for both individual and team growth. Women are often afraid to leave themselves vulnerable to criticism…but you’ll get more kudos for tapping into collective brainpower than barreling ahead when you haven’t generated the A+ idea on your own.
- EXPAND YOUR CIRCLES OF INFLUENCE. Make meaningful professional connections through the ever-expanding array of women’s professional associations in person and online. You’ll find a wide range of groups for professional women in aggregate or by industry and job function—as well as affinity groups for working mothers in your community, in your alumni associations and even in your children’s schools.
- GET PERSPECTIVE ON A DIFFERENT PERCH. There are two big reasons to donate some of your precious few non-work hours as an unpaid volunteer. First and foremost is, of course, to give back and help people and projects in need. The second reason is to help people and projects in need while you apply your problem-solving skills in a completely different setting. These “off the beaten path” experiences get you out of patterns of thinking and doing—and inspire fresh new ideas.
- RIDE THE RISING TIDE FOR WOMEN. With at least one woman likely to be major contender for the presidency in 2016—and the renewed focus on diversity in corporate America—confidence for and among women is rolling in. The timing could not be better to showcase your talent and experience.
- FIND BIG MENTORING IN SMALL PACKAGES. We’ve all been saturated with data on the benefits of career mentors and sponsors—but it can be discouraging when these relationships don’t materialize with ease. The fact is that you don’t have to form deep, formal or time-consuming relationships to gather valuable wisdom and advice. While you’re keeping an eye out for influential advocates, look to the people you interact with every day for simple messages, examples and actions you can emulate to reach career goals.
- TAP INTO YOUR READY-MADE “PERSONAL BOARD”. We all tend to downplay advisers who are not in our business or in the business world at all. Often the “mentors” and “sponsors” in your personal life know more about what feeds your soul—and they can be even more insightful and helpful than those who wear the same professional hats.
- CONSIDER MEN COLLABORATORS NOT CONSPIRATORS. The vast majority of men—especially those who have wives, sisters and daughters–want to see women succeed. Few are plotting ways to widen the pay gap or thwart the rise of women. There’s strength in the sisterhood, but also many opportunities for career growth when you take the time to understand, appreciate and leverage different gender communication and management styles.
- FIND THE WORK THAT FITS YOUR LIFE. Maybe 2015 will finally be the year that women realize there is not one rigid, traditional, corporate way to work. Explore all the part-time and full-time options in and out of the corporate world—as well as entrepreneurial ventures you can launch on your own.
- GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO “LEAN OUT”, even if it may seem like all the smart women are leaning in. You may need a breather from the corporate grind, a few years home with your kids or time to sort things out for aging parents. The important thing is to lean out carefully and strategically—always finding creative ways to keep your resume gap-free.
- FILE “WORK-LIFE BALANCE” AWAY WITH DINOSAURS AND DISCO. You’ll never find perfect balance—or long stretches of time when you’re focused only on home or work. Switch your goal to blending work and life, and find peace with the fact that there will always be times when you have to give a little–or a lot–more in one direction.
- LET YOUR CHILDREN KNOW WHAT YOU DO AT THAT PLACE CALLED WORK. When kids of any age see Mom walking out the door again, they often have no idea where she’s going or what could be so interesting away from home. Give them a visual: take them to your office, introduce them to a few people you work with and always tell a lot of kid-friendly stories about what you do. When your work is not a mystery, kids feel included in all parts of your life.
- STOP ASKING YOURSELF IF YOU CAN “HAVE IT ALL” AND FOCUS INSTEAD ON WHETHER “DOING IT ALL” IS YOUR BEST BET. At this one point in time you might flirt with the idea of doing nothing that spells w-o-r-k, but in the context of long-term financial security, a retirement that could last 30 years or more and the need to fund all of life’s “you never knows”, most women need to keep building their talents and generate even a small income at every age and stage.
- BUDGET SANITY HACKS FOR WORKING WOMEN. Since women control 85% of overall consumer spending, an increasing number of products and services will be developed to attract your dollars and make it easier for you to combine work and life. Spending a few extra dollars on anything that gives you more time with family and friends is sanity—not luxury.
- GIVE YOUR “TYPE A” PERSONALITY A REST. Working women who have mile-long lists of home-related weekend projects fall in a heap Sunday night with frustration and defeat. Keep your down time simple: aim for two or three fairly easy things you can actually accomplish in addition to—not in lieu of–important family and personal time.
- TAP INTO AMAZING CAREER RESOURCES AT EVERY PRICE POINT. Don’t go it alone—what appears to be big price tag for a career coach can actually be a relatively small investment toward a higher-paying job. And there are endless pocketbook friendly seminars, books, articles and general zeitgeist information—to pinpoint and position your personal brand and keep you employed well past 2015. —KAS
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