Just recently I’ve had a change in management as the organization I work under has hired in a new director, who just so happens to be a very successful senior level business women. As soon as I was able to, I got a few minutes scheduled to sit down with her and ask a couple of questions regarding the struggles professional women in leadership face today and what she has learned from her experiences in her career thus far, in particular, regarding two experiences she has gone through on her career journey.
Starting with the further back of the two events about 20 or so years ago, when she had just started her family, had a little toddler and was pregnant with her second child and she and her husband moved to a new state that they knew no one in for her job and she also decided to enroll in the local university’s MBA program at the same time. Talk about a crazy time for a young first time mom/career women to go through! I asked her what she learned about herself from going through such a challenging situation and what advice she has for others who are looking to embark on a challenging situation or are currently going through one. She had great feedback and offered several great points to keep in mind and think about.
One was making sure you have some type of support system in place, even if that means just your spouse or just a friend but in order to make through difficult situations you have to have someone else that you can rely on for the support to get through. Second, was to swallow your pride and if you need help then simply ask for it. There are plenty of people out there, more than you would initially think, that are willing to help you if you just ask them for it. Third, recognizing and accepting that there will be trade-offs you will have to make in order to everything at once. In her situation described above, she had to make a trade off and even though she was in the MBA program she didn’t get the opportunity to take part in a lot of the social activities the program lended itself to because of her family situation and career all going on at the same time; but she recognized that these were tradeoffs she was willing to make and had to accept the fact that if she was to do all of this at once and do it successfully, she couldn’t be giving 100% of herself in all areas of her life, there had to be a trade off somewhere.
From what I had heard her say about herself I also knew that she was very passionate about community and non-profit work, not just charitable contributions, but actually being involved in non-profit organizations or sitting on their board. My question to her around this was how she felt this type of involvement leant itself to professional development, and her answer has resonated with me quite profoundly. She said that even though you may not think you don’t have anything to offer to a non-profit, to think again. So many of these organizations out there are in great need of basic business help, such as how to properly manage and run a meeting from getting out the agenda ahead of time, sticking to the agenda, sending out a follow up communication on the meeting notes and actions needed, and the list goes on and on. Simple things that we, who work in business every day, take for granted, are items these non-profits would be so grateful for.
She also said, that from a professional development standpoint, maybe community work or non-profit involvement isn’t for everyone’s development plan, but for her she knew it was right. She had gone for many years without the bandwidth to really get involved in a non-profit and over the years had always felt like there was hole, like there was something missing, and she knew as soon as she started up her charitable work, that this is what she needed to feel whole. Her advice here was not to make you feel like you need to become full-fledged involved in non-profit but even just putting in some volunteer hours for a local non-profit goes a long ways. Her final piece of advice was again, maybe the charitable work isn’t what you are missing to make you feel complete, but she strongly encouraged taking the time to do the soul searching in order to find what it is that you feel is missing from your life to make you whole and go for it, because when you feel like you are complete, it goes a long ways in both personal and professional development.