A lot of times I get asked questions around what it takes to be a career woman in the corporate world. Invariably, my answers vary based on whom I am speaking to. Simply because a lot of things make up that elixir – Desire to work (or need to work for some women), Passion, Dedication, Commitment, Hard-work, Experience, Qualifications, Personal Brand, your professional networks and advocates and the kind of person you are.
While a lot is written and discussed on this subject, some critical points often get missed out. In this post I am sharing 50 things I wish I’d truly understood when I started my corporate career, albeit many of them are less spoken! While I have burnt my fingers many times on many of these points, the aim of writing it is to probably help you / some working woman in her career journey.
1) The word CAREER starts with CARE. So take full responsibility to CARE for yourself, your professional growth and success
2) Have career goals and objectives – Both short-term and long-term. You will go and grow only as far as you want to!
3) Plan your career in line with your goals and objectives. Have a Plan A. Plan B. And Plan C. Many women are guilty of having no real career plan
4) Know yourself – Discover your strengths and weaknesses. Be aware of them, accept them (including the fact that you are a woman) and find ways to improve and improvise.
5) Believe in yourself. If you don’t there’s a chance that others also won’t
6) Value yourself if you want others at work to value yourself
7) Learn to say NO – at the workplace and at home. And No means NO. Make sure you understand it, and those around you understand it too
8) Find a mentor. Having one early on in your career can sometimes be the only factor in determining how long your career will span, and how far you will go
9) Invest in professional networks. They will hold you in good stead on the rainy days.
10) At work - Show up. Own up. Speak up.
11) You are the “CMO” (Chief Marketing Officer) of your work and career. Promote yourself and your work. Again, a lot of women lose out because they don’t get due credit and visibility for what they’ve done
12) Read the news / Know what is in the news – General knowledge is always good
13) Invest in your physical health and wellness – This will be one of the most important variables if you are serious about a long term career
14) Learn to use technology for your benefit. Make an effort to know what you need, understand the power of technology and find ways to make technology work for you.
15) Stay relevant in your field – read, take examinations / certifications, participate in community discussions, etc.
16) Build your personal brand image – At work and out of work. Brand YOU should stand for something unique and reflective of you
17) Communication is critical to success – Invest in enhancing you oral and written communication skills. This can sometimes be the most critical aspect of your career growth
18) Presentation skills – Both creating presentations and making presentations is a must-have skill. Invest in learning
19) Learn to negotiate. It does not come naturally to most women, but it can be learnt over time
20) Learn to ask for help . It is OK to ask
21) Make a personal resolution to learn something new periodically. Learning is one of the best ways to love yourself
22) Find ways to improve productivity at work and home. Small things make a big difference
23) To have a fair chance at success as a working women, learn to prioritize your work
24) Knowing when to shut-up and when to speak-up is a personal asset. Speaking when you shouldn’t and not speaking when you should can become a liability
25) Choose your battles wisely – at work and at home. You have finite energy and time, and not every battle is worth a fight
26) When in doubt, use common sense, presence of mind or the Buddha Expression. They almost always work!
27) Every now and then ask yourself the difficult questions. They will burst your bubbles and show you the clear picture
28) Develop a daily routine and stick to it. For at least 3 months before you make any changes.
29) Periodically, think and measure your ROTI (Return on Time Invested) for the things that you do – at work and out-of-work. If the returns don’t justify your time and efforts, pause and reflect and change course
30) Give yourself some “ME Time” - every week to do at least 30 minutes of something you love. This will rejuvenate you
31) Understand that while emotions define most women, control on your emotions will define your career path and its longevity
32) Have “genuine” interests outside of work. Cooking, Dance, Writing, etc. Whatever! Find something and do it every now and then
33) Have friends out of work. They will be critical to keep you going through the rough tides, and will provide the much needed ear, shoulder and perspective on those dark gloomy days / nights
34) At work, it is about business. Don’t take / make everything personal
35) Office politics is real and here to stay. Find a way to deal with it
36) If you are at cross-roads / in a tough situation at work, make sure you speak up and share it with the right audience at the right forum. Even if it does not directly help you, it will indirectly help all the women who may face a similar situation in the future. One small voice can be the start of positive change, right?
37) While earning is important, managing your finances and investments is even more critical. Save regularly, invest wisely and review your personal finances periodically. If you can’t / don’t have the time, hire professionals to do it. It is a worthwhile investment. Again, a lot of women are guilty of being clueless about where all their money went
38) “The most important career choice a woman makes is who she marries” BY Sheryl Sandberg. This is 100% true. Understand its depth and accept its reality
39) Work-Life Balance is elusive, and somewhat of a misnomer. Bottom-line, it is your work, your life and your balance. If it works for you, then all is well
40) There is great inspiration and power in the “All women social networks”. Find one or two that interest you and become a member. Listen, Express and Share.
41) If and when you become a mother, there will be a time-period (ranging between weeks to 3 years or more) when there could be a career break / you need to apply the career brake. That’s OK! If you are serious about a long term career , positive and objective, things will fall in place over a period of time
42) Focus. Flow and Flex are the three foundational pillars for a working mother’s career continuum. They all play their role in the career graph of a working woman
43) Once in a way, take up the cause and help another working woman. Just imagine the difference it can make if 1 working woman supported 1 other working woman for sometime
44) No matter how complex, formidable, complicated and unique you think your situation is / maybe, remember that there is at least one other woman in the world who has faced a similar situation and found a way out of the adversity. So it is possible. Believe in it
45) Every now and then, connect and speak with a working woman who is finding her way amidst the jungle for her spot in the sun. Personally, I always take away some wisdom, nuggets or insights from every such interaction, and they help me tremendously
46) Try to stay positive no matter what! It does you more harm than good, and easier said than done. But worth a try!
47) Have an open mind to try out unchartered territories at work.
48) Age and Karma almost always catch up on you – no preferential treatment for women here J
49) Your happiness is in your hands. You are the “Chief Happiness Officer” of your life. Play the part, and play it well :)
50) Thank (often and in your own personal way) your parents, your education, your teachers, your friends, your colleagues, etc. who all played their bit in shaping your career. Nothing takes you from good to great as fast as gratitude.
On that note, Thank you for reading me. And have a great day and a long prosperous career ahead.