The other week I was fortunate to hear from four leaders in higher education. All four also were women. I’m not sure if that really mattered, but the event was billed about hearing from women leaders. And they did share challenges they had faced as women advancing in their careers.
Their stories resonated with me, and I took away several lessons.
Take advantage of opportunities. One of the leaders said she didn’t necessarily have a career path, but she took advantage of opportunities, particularly the ones that excited her. She noted that paths always opened up new opportunities.
Say yes to the right things. One leader said she sometimes has problems saying no. “Perhaps it is a fear or a belief that it might close off some opportunity,” she said. She has learned, though, that only individuals know what they are trying to achieve. Her advice? We should stay focused on what we want, not what others want.
We should stay focused on what we want, not what others want.
Follow your passion. You know what you love so talk about it and share it with others. Believe in yourself and be open to the next opportunity. Another leader urged audience members to discover what brings them joy.
Don’t set limitations. One leader said she had to give credit to how she was raised – specifically, without limitations. Consequently, she believed she could do whatever was important to her.
Find silver linings. One leader said that when something is negative, she thinks about the negative from multiple angles and tries to determine what could be positive or good about the situation. As she put it, “It’s a mind game that gives me a better perspective.”
Be strong. As a leader make deliberate choices about with whom you surround yourself. The leaders also encouraged amplifying the voices of women in the room in an effort to bring men and women into the conversation as co-equals. And don’t allow yourself to be pushed off to the end. One leader said she was at a conference and the last speaker (a male) had a plane to catch. She was asked if she would switch, and she said no, noting that he should have arranged his flight schedule according to when he was slated to speak.
Be open to mentoring or mentoring others. Find a mentor who will push you and provide you with different perspectives. If your mentor is just like you, “one of you is dispensable,” noted one of the leaders. Find someone with who you can have extensive conversations and talk in detail about your goals.