International Women’s Day 2016 is a good day to decide to face head on the challenge you face as a woman in integrating your personal and professional life. I have shared here 15 actions for you to consider in making that happen.
1. Set Goals You Want To Achieve In Your Life, Dreams You Want To Make Come True.
Too many women put everyone else first, meeting everyone’s else’s needs and run on empty themselves. You can be a better person, woman, wife, daughter, sister and friend when you respect your own needs and grow yourself. You need to be prepared to jump the obstacles to achieve your goals and make your dreams come true – even if it means extending your deadlines. This means that at every major turning point in your life, you reassess them – when you get into a relationship, marry, have children, change jobs, get a promotion, return to study, buy a house, when children leave home, you retire or experience some life-changing event. When you neglect your spirit and what energises you, you lose yourself.
2. Work With Your Partner And Family In Creating A “Plan” For Making This Happen.
The important others in your life need to be on the same page as you. Setting goals is a mutually supportive process in any relationship. Your goals need to be congruent with your partner’s, not subservient to his.
Does your plan support the growth of both your careers? If you have children, is he going to share the parenting? Developing the skills to be able to have those important conversations is essential. See this article I wrote (some years ago now but still relevant) for an example of how to have those conversations:
3. Get Clear On What You Are Prepared To Negotiate On With Your Partner/Family And In Your Work, And What Is Non-Negotiable.
When you (both men and women) are clear about this, can articulate it with integrity and act on it with consistency, it inspires respect. If it doesn’t, then relationships – whether at work or home – are likely to be strained and stressful.
4. Get Yourself The Support You Need To Make It All Happen.
If your partner is un-supportive or you have significant differences of opinion on key issues, or if family/parental expectations are putting you under great pressure, see a counsellor.
If you have limiting beliefs about your self-worth as a professional, if you are overly risk averse and fear change, if you lack assertiveness, or you are indecisive, for example, get yourself a coach.
If you know where you want to go, but are not too sure what the best way is to get there, get yourself a mentor.
5. Keep Your Focus And Clarity With An Accountability Or Performance Partner.
Another way to keep you inspired, motivated and empowered is to find another person with whom you can meet on a regular basis who will keep you accountable for achieving your goals. This can be a mutually supportive relationship. It is also a cost-free relationship.
If you are in a relationship, you also need to be having an on-going conversation with your partner on how you are going to support one another as a couple.
6. Become Part Of A Professional Women’s Group Where Like-Minded Women Hang Out.
These groups offer considerable support, advice, affirmation and validation. Women who belong help advance the careers and enrich the lives of one another with inspiration.
7. Build And Maintain Your Relationships And Connections With The People Who Can Support You In The Development Of Your Professional Self And Your Career.
Given you are clear about where you want to go, who are the people who can help you get there? Make sure there is diversity. If you are an accountant, don’t just have accountants in your network. Have people in business, human resource people, management consultants, retired people who have had successful careers, for example.
8. Find The Men In Influential Positions Who Really Do Believe In The Contribution Professional Women Have To Make And Are Committed To Their Advancement.
These men can often be excellent mentors. They can guide you in what you need to do to break through the barriers to the success you want. As well they can pave a way for you and introduce you to people in their networks who can also assist you. If you find yourself working in an organisation that has excellent women in the ranks but few in leadership and management positions, you need to assess whether you will achieve your goals in that organisation. In other words, are the organisation’s goals congruent with yours?
9. Learn To Self-Promote With Self-Confidence And Integrity.
This is a major issue for women. You dislike the ego-driven self-promotion that some men use, but often can’t find another model. This is where a successful female mentor can be enormously valuable. Building your profile and reputation is important for your career development.
10. Learn To Be Assertive.
Many women confuse assertiveness with aggressiveness. They are very different and it’s important to know the difference. To be able to do what I am are suggesting here, you need to be at ease with being assertive.
11. Seek Stretch Assignments And Projects.
This is an excellent way to fast-track your learning and to do it on the job. You can approach your manager or CEO and offer to work on a project or assignment that you know you normally wouldn’t be offered. You probably won’t be paid extra for it and you may have to do some work on it outside normal business hours. It will, however, sharpen your skills, demonstrate your competence as well as your commitment to your career development and to the organisation.
12. Take Calculated Risks.
“Gently, yet often, exercise your risk threshold like a muscle. Eventually it will become stronger and able to withstand greater pressure”, said Frank McKinney.
Apply for jobs where you may not meet all the criteria. Women normally won’t apply for jobs unless they have at least 80% of the criteria. Men apply if they have 30%. Be prepared to negotiate pay increases and work/life balance. Approach people in your network and ask for the support, referrals or any other help you want. What have you got to lose? Very little.
13. Always Present Yourself In The Best Light.
Women are much more strongly criticised than men. You need to pay extra particular attention to the way you dress and groom yourself as well as the way you behave and act.
14. Make Your Health And Well-Being A Top Priority.
One of the biggest challenges for you as a woman is finding time for all the demands that are made on you. Time isn’t always the issue, energy is. If you are going to have the energy to be and do all you need and want to be and do, you need to look after yourself physically by eating well and exercising. You also need to look after yourself emotionally by taking time to smell the roses, relax, unwind and recharge. This is also about priorities and knowing what is important in this moment.
15. Don’t Give Up When The Going Gets Tough!
Too many women find the struggle of balancing the competing demands of their work and family too stressful and give up on their work. When this happens:
make it “Our” problem – yours as a couple, not just yours as a mother or professional woman:
- talk it through with your partner;
- talk with your mentor or coach;
- be proactive first, before being reactive;
- get clear what the issues are. Ask yourself: what do I really want to happen here? Think laterally: how could I make that happen in this situation? Or: what’s the closest I can get to what I want in this situation?