The Choices We Can Make For Creating Success

Do you ever have moments where you realize that despite stress and pressure, everything is going to be okay? Last weekend I had the pleasure of being a panelist speaker at the Women of Isenberg Conference, held at UMass Amherst by the Women in Business club and the conference steering committee. And it wasn’t in my presentation, but sitting in the session following mine, that this clarity overcame me.

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In the past, I’ve reviewed some key takeaways by going through my notes from what other speakers shared. This year, my takeaway was more existential than any one piece of advice I heard. Listening to the experiences of others, I didn’t feel alone. I felt kinship and admiration that the women at the microphone had overcome obstacles I had also previously faced to achieve happiness and self-defined success in their lives and careers. I heard the stories of happy outcomes, and within them the hard work, the resilience, and the perseverance.

What I heard from the women on stage was that what was most important to remember is life is full of ups and downs. The quality of life with those ups and downs is highly impacted by how we react and who we surround ourselves with.

We have a choice to be positive. Or, complain and wallow.

We have a choice to take action. Or, sit back and do nothing.

We have a choice to be courageous. Or, decide any risk is too much risk.

Isn’t it clear where we need to be headed with our choices? And for those of us who are in and aspire to leadership roles, there is even more impact on those around us by how we make our choices and reactions.

As leaders, we need to force ourselves to be challenged, and be receptive of and advocates for those productive challenges. No idea is ever as great as it can be when first presented. A diversity in thought and experience adds to the initial benefits to improve what is possible. And a challenge doesn’t automatically mean no, but is a recognition of barriers that can be overcome.

As leaders, we need to lift up others around us in spirit, recognizing the power of appreciation. From a simple thank you to rewards and major recognitions, and everything in between, go to the very base human nature of needing to feel involved, engaged, and a part of the team. We’re better together than alone.

As leaders, we need to remember that we and our teams are humans, capable of yes, making the impossible happen, but also not infallible or perfect. Career isn’t everything, and family and home sometimes need to come first. Breaks in action or slowing down on the accelerator are perfect career opportunities. It doesn’t need to be nose to the grind every single moment. Breath and reset.

Lately, I felt like I had been struggling through life. I wondered if I was using my resources enough, burning both ends of the candle, giving too much when I didn’t have enough energy or time. I’ve been fortunate to receive some kind words recently, from my professional world, volunteer arenas, and personal life. Everything came together, and seeing the success of others at the Women of Isenberg Conference reminded me that nothing except a few points in a plane is truly linear (remember geometry?!). Success is an internal measurement, though society likes us to believe it measures externally for us. Onward doesn’t always mean upward, change isn’t always for the better, and we aren’t always right at first glance.

The important thing is to enjoy work, enjoy life, enjoy the people we love. Have fun every day with whatever you choose to pursue. It makes the efforts more tolerable and gives us the ability to savor sweetness of success, however we define it.

Remember that things will be okay. If you feel like you’re failing, it is because you care. It takes time and self love to learn we aren’t failing, we aren’t falling behind, and we aren’t imposters. Not everything is perfect, but we have choices in what we do with what life and career bring to us. Besides, a ladder is a lot of work to climb. Doesn’t a career jungle gym sound like more fun?

Why Friends are Important to Our Careers

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This time last week, I was in Minnesota with three amazing friends for a weekend getaway. The day before we had re-united, exploring Minneapolis at the sculpture park and watching the magnificence of the Mississippi River and the beauty of nature in the city alongside it. As overscheduled and overcommitted people, we try to catch up when we can, but with time differences, work travel, long days, and personal responsibilities, it is hard to get more than a few texts in even if two of us live twenty minutes away from each other.

Sunday night I returned home, exhausted from the weekend. It was a happy, punchy exhausted – tired from too many laughs, heart to hearts, and deep questions leading to thoughtful and even deeper conversations. My happiness bucket was filled in a way only time with amazing friends can do.  Getting away and focusing on each other and celebrating our friendship had long lasting effects this week, including decreased stress levels from remembering the funniest moments.

Monday morning back at work, despite a shorter night’s sleep than I would normally like to start the week, I noticed I was more focused than usual. I was buoyant, almost, able to face any challenge. I was ready to take on the day and whatever came my way. What a surprising reaction! But in all actuality, it isn’t. Friendship is critically important not only in our lives, but in a more focused way, also on our careers. From support to revelry and everything in between, friends are there for us. It may be next door, across town, a state away or across the country or world, but a phone call or text or email with a word of encouragement can be exactly what we need. And who knows what we need even just as well as we do than our friends?

There are two primary types of friends related to your career: life friends and work friends. Both types of these friends have benefits, but not one hundred percent with upside. I tend to find that life friends provide greater value and benefit than work friends. The expanse of topics you can cover is almost endless – you’re only limited by the amount of privacy you and your friends like to have in their lives. Conversations with my friends related to work open up topics I’d never think to broach with work friends, including pay equity, harassment, and ambition. The answers are honest and may come with advice from lessons learned the hard way.

The better opportunity than even having work friends goes straight back to mentorship and sponsorship. The benefits of these kind of relationships are all over the internet, so I won’t rehash them, but it is something you should pursue if the opportunity arises. Each of friends, mentors, and sponsors all bring office politics into play, but mentors and sponsors are the only way to truly rise above it. Unless you are friends at work with others who yield greater influence, it is likely that you need to recuse yourself from certain discussions or avoid taking sides so that

Sometimes I find that my “life friends” are my best career mentors, even as peers and in different industries. There are some truths and situations that are consistent no matter what you do for a career, from bad bosses to good bosses and finding new jobs to gunning for promotions. The politics may be different between organizations, but the talks I’ve had with my friends are comforting – I might be taking the best action I can, the gaffe was not as bad as I worked it up to be, or they struggled with the same thing and here is how this friend addressed it. They’ve also been a wake up call, that maybe I do need a change or to work harder or re-think my attitude. We’ve focused on the positive, dwelled on the negative, and always look for the opportunity in any situation for not only ourselves, but each other. Sometimes a friend is simply a listening ear – and this is less simple than you would think to be an engaged, active, supportive listener! In the past, a friend has been even more incredulous about a scenario than I was, and that is empowering to me to step up and take action or recognize worth or feelings.

Friends care about our feelings and well being, and look at us as a whole person and not just an employee. This makes a considerable difference as to what we can attain in our lives personally, and not just professionally. Whether it is seeking happiness or love or health, we sometimes need to remember that it isn’t all about work and that we are whole people. It takes someone to remind us to get a good night’s sleep, to hit the grocery store instead of another night of take out, find our zone in a favorite workout, and to go do something fun. When my friends have reminded me of these type of actions and self-respect, I feel cared for and begin to re-detect a need for “balance”, whatever balance means in that moment.

I’m thankful for my friends, no matter how often or not often enough I have to see them, and however we are able to communicate (or on many occasions… not communicate, unfortunately.) Knowing the love of a friend picks us up, and it can take a flight from BOS to MSP to remind us of how good life really is. Hearing a “thank you” or a laugh or a “love ya”, whether in real time or in our hearts, can carry us forward and remind us what is important in life and to us in all aspects of each of our lives, including goals and aspirations in all arenas. Friends provide support for our professional selves, or a break away from it. Be sure to cherish and cultivate your friendships, for it leads to happiness, confidence, and success if you let it.

How 9 Women Inspired My Career

 

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I might be late to the party on International Women’s Day, but I want to take the (belated) occasion to thank the women in my career who have helped to mold and shape me. I’ve been lucky to have be influenced by incredible women, considering I’ve been in male dominated industries my whole career. This is by no means an exhaustive list of every woman who has made an impact on my life, but a thank you to those who have become friends and mentors and were inspirations at key points in my career.

  1. Jody – The negatives don’t get anything accomplished. It is important to focus on the end result and goals to drive self and others to a solution.
  2. Janice – You taught me the importance of flexibility, patience, and being true to your own style of working with others can be effective in getting the job done.
  3. Angie – I learned that having personality and fun at work was in all reality a better thing than being “only professional” all the time.
  4. Rebecca – The transition post-college was difficult, but you challenged me to be great and taught me the basics for successful project management.
  5. Sarah DL –  Your attention to detail made your projects successful, and you kept others accountable for their own work because one person can’t do everything.
  6. Sarah AI – The work will always be there, but the fun times should have room both in the schedule and on spontaneous occasions.
  7. Alicia – You made me realize how important it was to have friends at work, for both the good times and the bad times.
  8. Janine – You let nothing stand in your way of proving yourself and exhibit perseverance in everything you do.
  9. Krystal – The power of friendship transcends industry lines. We’ve been at key points in career trajectory at similar times, and to have the closeness with someone who understands the ups and downs with little detailed explanation is comforting. You’ve helped me sort through some of the existential questions like “what do I want to do?” with clarity to find happiness at work.

Thank you to all of you for your belief in me – I am beyond thankful you all popped into my life!

I’m holding off on highlighting the women who impact me in my current role because I am quite fortunate to have numerous amazing women to work with. My mother deserves a post of her own someday!

Who are the women in your life who have positively impacted your career?