This conference was an amazing experience; I learned a lot and was inspired by all the women that I met there. Their words and guidance are what motivated me to start this blog. I am a first time manager and I want to share what I am discovering so that others might learn from it. I think it's only fitting that my first blog be about what I learned while attending the conference that so inspired me.
There were several speakers there: Lisa MacKenzie with the Channel Company, JJ DiGeronimo, the president of Tech Savvy Women, Tara Palmieri with Oracle, and Gavriella Schuster with Microsoft. Each woman taught me something different and I was able to speak with most of them one on one during the networking event. They encouraged me and gave me some really great advice. Below, I will highlight the things that were most impactful for me.
When I checked in at the conference, there were lanyards available to us to hold our badges, a fairly standard practice. What wasn't standard was that there were two options: a lanyard covered in black, shiny rhinestones or a lanyard covered in bright, silver rhinestones.
It may seem a bit silly, but I froze momentarily. Should I choose the black, more professional option or the bright, bedazzling silver? What would a more seasoned manager choose? The black would be more toned down, but the silver was more my style. I wavered, clearly overthinking it.
The woman checking us in gave me some simple, offhand advice: "Be bold!" she said cheerfully as I lightly discussed the options with her. For some reason, this simple statement really struck me. Why not be bold? Why not put myself out there? This would set the tone for the rest of my evening.
I walked into the conference room with a shiny silver lanyard around my neck.
I had never been asked or asked myself this question before. I have been asked what I want to be when I grow up, what I want to do with my life, and what I want my five year plan to be, but no one has ever asked me what I want my impact to be. How do I want to impact my company? How do I want to impact the world?
I wish I had a full answer for this question already, but I am working on it. It's a heavy thing to decide what you want to do to make an impact, but thinking it over has given me insight into myself that I didn't have before and I believe that answering this question fully will really make a difference in my career and at my current company.
Position Yourself for Future Impact
This was the title of JJ DiGeronimo's speech, and when you stop and think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Are the tasks that you're committing to positioning you to make the impact that you want to make? She had us make a list of our commitments to determine if they were worth the time/energy we were spending on them and if they were aligned with our goals. You can read more about that in her book, which I just ordered on Amazon- Accelerate Your Impact: Action-Based Strategies to Pave Your Professional Path.
It can be hard to say no when someone asks you to do something at work, but you should take a moment to determine if the commitment you're making is helping position you for where you want to create impact and if it's a good use of your time and energy. Do not be afraid to say no or to propose less strenuous alternatives.
Almost Everyone Suffers from "Impostor Syndrome" at Some Point
According to the Harvard Business Review, "Impostor syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. 'Impostors' suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence."
Not everyone feels this way all the time, but it's completely normal to sometimes feel like you don't belong in the position you are in. For example, I said above that I am a first time manager. Sometimes, I feel like I don't have what it takes to be a manager, despite some very smart people telling me otherwise and my own evidence to the contrary. The women addressing us, women who I view as having "made it" and as being incredibly successful, all agreed that they felt this way sometimes and if they can feel this way and still be successful, so can I and so can you. We are not impostors and I wouldn't be where I am now if my management didn't believe in me.
Take Up Space!
Do not be afraid to take up space! Women are generally conditioned to take up as little space as possible, whereas men are conditioned to do just the opposite; ever see someone "man-spreading?" TAKE. UP. SPACE! Be noticed! You deserve your seat at the table just as much as anyone else and you have value or else you wouldn't be there. Spread out your notes and get comfortable.
In general, women do not network above their station whereas men don't seem to have a problem rubbing elbows with the big wigs. Don't be afraid to get to know the people at the top of the food chain. They can teach you a lot and help you achieve your goals. It's hard to rise in the ranks if no one knows who you are.
Speaking of Goals...
Have goals! This has probably been said a thousand times in a million different ways, but it bears repeating; have goals! Give yourself achievable yet ambitious goals. You can't create impact without goals.
Take Risks and Make Mistakes!
This point resonated with me just as much as the "BE BOLD" section above; do not be afraid to make mistakes. It's been said a hundred times or more, but hearing it in this context helped me a lot. Taking risks is very important in business and in life. Don't be afraid to take risks and own and learn from your mistakes. Mistakes are human and we shouldn't be afraid to make them. I realized that I had become scared of making mistakes in my new role, but that's just silly; making mistakes is how we learn.
Feed Yourself a Highlight Reel
Do you ever find yourself reflecting on your day, thinking about everything that you did wrong or that stressed you out? It will take some time to train yourself, but stop that! Instead, feed yourself a "highlight reel." What went right? What did you accomplish? Did you learn anything? Focus on the positive more than the negative.This will probably help banish that impostor syndrome I talked about above.
And Finally, Highlight Your Accomplishments
This is very important! Men tend to be judged for new positions by their potential, whereas women are judged by what they have accomplished. Of course, this isn't true in every scenario, but it's important to note. Make a list of your accomplishments (regardless of your gender) and the results that they achieved. Use metrics as often as possible.
"Bundle your value." What value do you provide today? What do you plan to do next to drive results? What is your current impact and what are your future aspirations? I wrote up a list of all that I have accomplished in my current position and the results that my team and company experienced because of them. List it out, big or small! This was really helpful in showing me that I DO have a positive impact on my company and that I do have what it takes to be in management.
...for reading my first blog here! I have several other blog ideas I can't wait to share with you, from my current reading list to that one time I decided to contact every C-suite executive and VP available while I was just an intern at a health insurance company. I wanted to define success and they seemed like the best people to ask.
Please feel free to leave feedback or suggestions in the comments section below; I promise to do my best to read them all!