Calling All Working Women! How To Own Your Future.
If you’re like me and have been working as a woman in the business world over the last ten years, you’ve likely seen a lot of change for the positive, some for the negative, and some ignorance to the issues that face women in the workplace.
Be it navigating the political climate of a corporate workplace, running a business, launching a startup or working for a small organization, being a woman with professional goals, dreams, and financial needs mean you also have to be a warrior, a psychic and willing to take a lot of shit. Am I right?!
If you want to start a family and--gulp--also keep working, if you want a promotion into the leadership circle, if you want to launch a business, and/or if you’re already in one of these positions looking to navigate times of uncertainty, success and all the in between this blog is for you!
My name is Elisabeth (Lis) Thomas, and I’m an Entreprenista Mama. Since 2007, and if I’m honest about ten years before that, in a variety of service jobs, I’ve worked in multiple professional roles for various companies. I’ve also owned a boutique social media management and content marketing firm for the last five years, and during that time have learned a ton about the business world, client services, management, working as a mom, and the list goes on. Throughout my career I have asked myself so many times, where is the support for working women? Why are there not more resources for mothers who work, or women starting their career? This idea kept itching at the back of my mind, wanting a place to unfold. To be fair, some of you lovely warrior women out there may feel like you have it all figured out, and maybe you do. Please PM me and tell me your SECRET if this is the case...I really want to know! 🙏But for all of the women out there who want more support, are looking for guidance as you navigate the workplace or significant transitions in your life and job. I get you. I’m here for you. Let’s muddle through this together!
So, without further ado or introductions, here is the first Entreprenista Mama blog: How To Own Your Professional Future.
First, let me start by saying that ‘owning your professional future’ does not mean that you need to know where you want to end up--most of us don’t--or commit to one type of job or company. You may have heard from your parents or grandparents, teachers or mentors that there are rules around how long you should stay at a job, what skill sets you should build, why to avoid having gaps in your resume, etc., etc., etc. But you know what’s awesome? About seven years ago the rules changed! Thanks to the millennial generation joining the workforce and saying, ‘no thank you!’, I’m not going to stay at a job for five years before moving on, or wait until I’m asked if I want a promotion, or find a job to stay at until I retire. And because of this shift in attitude with so many workers, companies started to change their cultures, and we all get to reap the benefits! Granted, you still need to work hard and demonstrate your worth in any job, but the days of being a corporate cog are quickly disappearing, and women in the workplace have a lot to do with this change. Hooray us! 🙌
But how to make sure you own your professional future is still a big topic of conversation for women today, and the truth is, there’s no rulebook. We’re writing the rulebook as we go. That said, here are some of the things I’ve learned--sometimes the hard way--that I feel will help you figure out the path you should take without apology or compromise.
Business plan for you
This first piece of advice may sound a little self-helpy, but I promise it’s not what you might think at the start, so no eye-rolling yet. I came upon this future-owning tactic by mistake, and thank goodness I did! Back in 2013 I was desperately trying to launch my own social media management business and needed some self-direction. I was also navigating being a first-time mom to my daughter, Nikayla. She was nine-months-old and required SO much from me, and I found it hard at times to focus on launching my business, plus make sure I was giving her the love she needed. Anyhow, I realized at some point that I was selling myself as part of the package that prospective clients would need to resonate with and trust before they would allow me to manage their social media channels. So I wrote a business plan focussed on, well, me! And it worked! I quickly had more work than I could handle, and before the end of 2015, I had to hire help. But that story is for a different post. The point is, by writing myself a business plan, I indirectly gave myself confidence and direction. I could walk into a room and say, this is who I am, this is what I can do for you, and yes, I am qualified. But I needed to write it all down to know. Since that day, my business has changed a many times over. But now, every two years, in addition to updating my company’s business plan, I also update my personal biz plan so that I have a roadmap for the next two years. Side Note: This approach can also be called a vision board, but I find those don’t cover enough bases. This ‘future-owning’ tactic works wonders...trust me. Here’s a great post on creating a simple business plan for yourself. So get on it!
Beware of the easy road
Being aware of your comfort zone does not mean you should take an unnecessarily hard road. I know women who do this regularly for no apparent reason, and it’s just painful to watch. What I mean is that sometimes it's easy to get stuck in a comfortable work situation that's not very satisfying. Before long, you’ve been at a company for too long to move on smoothly or find that you are doing a job you hate but feel stuck and out of control of your future. It’s kind of like staying in a relationship with a bad boyfriend (or girlfriend) just because the idea of breaking up with him is just too hard. You wouldn’t advise your BFF to stay with their lousy S.O. if it was not a good fit, would you? So don’t let yourself fall victim to the same fate at work! If you know your current job is not a ‘forever fit,’ or you’re starting to feel ready to move on. Start the process! As hard as it may be to get out of your comfort zone and take the road less traveled (sorry for the cliche), do it.
Don’t let fear decide
Letting fear control you is similar to the last point but potentially more important. I’ll explain by telling a quick personal story. Back when I was just a freelance marketer trying to grow my little firm into a ‘real company’, I had a period of time where I was so slammed I could barely get my head above water. I knew I needed to hire help, but also was fearful of what adding another person to my little business would mean. It didn’t help that at the time I was getting a lot of conflicting advice from other professionals in my life. For about six months I just ran with this weight like a hamster on a wheel, not able to keep up or do great work for my clients. I was letting fear dictate my future with my inability to hire someone to take on some of the work. Then one day I just had enough. I asked a client if they knew anyone who could help me. They did. I interviewed and hired my first team member within a week, and immediately the weight of the decision was lifted. It was just the fear holding me back. So what's the moral of the story? Your inner compass is strong and powerful. You will have times in your career (maybe you already have) where you know what you need to do, you’re just afraid the outcome will be disastrous, or people will judge you, or you’ll lose your business or job. I get it. I’ve been there. But what’s worse? Not moving into a new phase because you’re afraid of the outcome? Or pushing through the fear? You may fail, but either way, you’ll learn. The most fabulous rewards always come with a little risk (or a lot). But standing still is not a recipe for success in any scenario.
If it feels wrong, it probably is
This tidbit of advice can take on a lot of faces. It can be the job interview where the team seems a little ‘off’ even though you can’t put your finger on it. It can be the colleagues who pressure you to do something or not do something that ends up costing you a promotion. It can be the boss who’s ‘just a little too friendly.’ It can be the coworkers who give you a hard time for still pumping milk during your lunch break for your baby at home because ‘you should have stopped breastfeeding by now.’ Whatever the situation may be at work, if you find yourself in a position that feels weird and ‘icky,’ don’t ignore it. Find a person (maybe HR) to alert and don’t let it go. Many times in my career I have just let something go so that I didn’t offend anyone or make waves, but as women in the workplace, we all need to be on alert and support each other. We will not continue to see positive change in the for working women unless we are all invested in creating an active campaign of support and accountability within the workplace with women and for women.
Change is good
Gone are the days where working at one job for your whole career is necessary or even possible. I have witnessed good friends laid off who thought they were at their ‘forever job.' On the other hand, I have witnessed women friends get amazing promotions and satisfaction in their career changes by moving companies or changing positions. Give yourself time to get the experience you need, but if you feel like it might be time to move on or ask for a promotion, it probably is time. Owning your professional future, more than anything, means taking the initiative and responsibility for your future. It’s your life. What are you going to do with it?
It’s not you
This one’s been hard for me to learn. Sometimes I feel like I’m still a newbie at having thick skin. But the reality is that 90% of the time when someone gives you the cold shoulder, acts like an a-hole, treats you poorly in a meeting or on a regular basis, you have to remember that ‘it’s not you, it’s them.’ Essentially, try your hardest to ignore bad behavior when it rears its ugly head in the workplace, keep your head in the game, do your work, and the antagonist will eventually move on. But above all, don’t engage with someone who’s acting irrationally. It will only hurt you in the end.
Admit your mistakes, learn, move on
We all make mistakes in professional life. Some of them will be small and some big. The only real mistake you can make is pretending to be perfect and not admitting when you’re wrong. Whether you’re a business owner, a manager or just responsible for yourself in your job, realize when you’ve effed up, learn from it, then move on. People have a short memory and attention span, but I’ve learned that when it comes to mistakes the only way to make real problems for yourself and create enemies at work is by either hiding a mistake or refusing to admit you made one. Don’t be that person. You’re better than that. I know you are.
At the end of the day, these are just things that have worked for me. I hope my insights help and inspire you to be the rockstar Entreprenista I know you are!
Have more insights about work life or career advice for women? Send me a message and let's connect!