At what point in your career is it acceptable to intertwine your personal life with your professional aspirations?
Most people say never. Others say it depends. I say always.
No – I do not mean share the details of your family drama with your co-worker or use company time to plan your best friend’s birthday party. I’m referring to an aspect of your personal life that is a bit more discreet and sometimes overlooked.
Take for example the time you have spent training for your half marathon. Have you ever thought that maybe the personal time you have spent running was a key contributor to developing yourself as a diligent and progressive professional? Or have you ever given credit to the fact that just by being a parent, you have unintentionally developed the core qualities of a leader – patience, intuition, and the natural ability to nurture and mentor employees?
It’s intriguing to me that the word “personal” has been given such a negative connotation in the workforce that we don’t even give it a second thought. In fact, we spend most of our effort separating the two that we neglect to appreciate that our personal trials and tribulations have set the foundation of our hard work and developed the confident and strong professional we are today.
Can you imagine how happier we would be and the joy we would have working 40+ hours a week if we could just be “ourselves” at work? We could be a parent to the younger employees or be an endurance runner on the project that others have already given up on. What if you love playing video games on your personal time? Why not transfer that focus to beat level 10 to exceeding your company’s revenue goal this quarter. Love shopping? Start dressing to impress and feel more confident at your next executive meeting. Is traveling your thing? Plan the next team outing and go somewhere different; consider it your next staycation. The list goes on…
If we truly combine our personal and professional life, I strongly believe that we would not only excel in our professional career but we would have more fun doing it. It’s not in everyone’s destiny to get paid to do the same in their personal and professional life. Unfortunately, we are not all reality stars. The only thing we can do is stop considering one more important than the other. We can stop complaining and start shifting our perspective. We can start being the high-performing professional Monday through Friday, but don’t forget to do the same with your personal attributes. Repeat the behavior on Saturday and Sunday, and don’t forget to do this for the rest of your professional life. After all, isn’t that what they meant when they told us to “make a living doing what you love to do”?
“Mom, can I have a candy bar?”
“No honey,” her mother says.
She reaches for a Snickers bar anyway and asks, “Why?”
“Because we are going to have dinner soon,” she replies reaching for her daughter’s hand. “When we get home you can have a snack.”
Satisfied with the reason, the little girl put the candy bar down and stood quietly, holding her mom’s hand.
It was at that moment that I asked myself why we as adults don’t ask simple, innocent questions anymore. I’ve sat in numerous business meetings, holding my tongue and asking questions in my head but never had the audacity to ask them out loud. Why? I’m not sure.
From the little amount of life experience that I have, I have noticed that the more questions that someone asks the quicker they are able to advance in their career. Let’s take for instance the over-achiever at work that is constantly asking for a promotion or a raise. Between you and that person, who seems to get recognized at work more often? Even though I know this, I still struggle to ask questions in my professional career so maybe there is something to be learned from the little girl that wanted a candy bar. If you want something – ask for it. Honestly, the worse that can happen is that you don’t get a candy bar today instead you get a snack later.
When everyone in your company is striving to achieve the same objective, how do you standout amongst your colleagues? What makes you different from Bobby and Suzy if everyone is trying to seek the approval of the same executive management and out perform each other? No really.. I’m asking you because I have no idea.
There are times in your career when you push yourself out of the ordinary to go above and beyond your expectations with the hope that your efforts will pay off in some form of reward. Sometimes the reward is paid in monetary value other times it is just the simple acknowledgement of your company. Whatever your incentive may have been or is, there is no guarantee that the time you invest and the effort you have made will play out in your favor. So what can you do to increase your chances of being recognized for your high performance?
(1.) Be genuine. Don’t expect to be rewarded for efforts that only benefit yourself. Your talents are worth more than that. When you begin working on a project, think of ways that your efforts will result in mutual benefit for your entire company and your professional development. Think as big as what you can do to contribute to your company’s financial bottom line or as small as sharing your previous experiences with your teammates to ensure their success. Simple and small but extremely genuine.
(2.) Trust your instincts. When you’ve set a foundation of pure intentions, don’t second guess yourself. Trust your instincts on what you feel is right. At the end of the project, if your name is on the dotted line, make sure that whatever decisions you have made are your decisions. Listen to the voice inside your head and don’t doubt yourself because you were assigned to the project for a reason.
(3.) Know your shortcomings. Even super heroes knew their weaknesses and it never stopped them from achieving their goals. Even if you aren’t good at one thing, you are great at many other things, so leverage those strengths to obtain your objectives. Knowing your shortcomings doesn’t mean you dwell on them, it simply means you know what your limitations are and you master them through compensating them with your strengths.
(4.) Be a team player. Teamwork makes the dream work. If you are the most senior on the project, your team relies on your experience and leadership but your team also has the ability to contribute a new and fresh perspective, so allow the opportunity come to life. Conversely, if you are an emerging professional, don’t be timid to think out loud and share your ideas. Your team will appreciate your energy and enthusiasm.
(5.) And, above all – be confident. Don’t be afraid of a learning opportunity. The lack of confidence usually stems from fear — the fear of mistakes, rejection, falling short of expectations, and judgement. But the truth is – the outcome is bound to happen, so let it happen confidently. No matter what happens at the end of the day, one thing is for sure – you’ll learn from it. So, sit up in the conference room and speak up at your meetings – you are who you are and you should be proud of it.
If you’ve been true to yourself and put all your cards out on the table but there’s still no traction in your professional career then it leads us to a totally different topic – do you fit into your company’s culture? Have you outgrown your position and exceeded your talent offerings and is it time to move on to allow other people’s talents to shine through? Maybe its time for you to leave your legacy and continue on your journey….
Are you comfortable in silence? Or better yet, are you confident in silence? Whether you are in the car with your boss or on a first date, it is inevitable that there will be a moment of silence that you begin letting your mind wonder to places that asks random questions or generates thoughts that usually turn into words that break the silence.
Your thoughts are powerful. What you think can change so many components of your life – your mood, your attitude, the direction of your career, a relationship, or even a conversation between two people.
Think hard – when was the last time this happened to you? Who was it with and what were the words that broke the silence? It changed the direction of the conversation, did it not?
So, why is it that we watch what we say more than what we think? Shouldn’t it be the other way around since your thoughts lead to the words that come out of your mouth? When you begin to think negative thoughts about your career, don’t your words usually turn conversations into job opportunities? Or, when you begin thinking about the person you can’t live without, aren’t the words usually associated with “love” and “marriage”? The examples are endless, but the focus remains the same. Your thoughts are powerful enough to dictate the conversations that you have with the people around you. Be careful what you begin your day thinking… even if you it doesn’t bother you, it may affect the people around you. Start thinking in a positive way and the words will follow…
I tried to explain why I appreciated the moments of silence between two people last week but I failed to put my thoughts into words – until now. This is why I appreciate silent moments. I’m a controlling opportunist, and silent moments are opportunities for me to control my thoughts. Even if I can’t change every aspect of my life or the people around me, I can at least change my thoughts that change my words that might even change the outcome of my life. It’s a simple task that requires a lot of discipline and determination. To constantly think in a positive way is almost impossible, but people do it. It’s evident through the friendly and uplifting moments that you share with friends and family. Now, if only you can change that kind of behavior into habit. I’ve started it in the New Year and I’ll continue to practice it until I perfect it. I apologize in advance for negative words and multi-directional conversations that seem to not have a purpose. As you can see, I’m new to the idea of censoring my thoughts. My only hope is that this concept of “thought censorship” will not only infect the people closest to me, but also affect everyone that I come into contact with – starting with the reader of this entry – you.
Watch your thoughts – they become words.
Watch your words – they become actions.
Watch your actions – they become habits.
Watch your habits – they become your character.
Watch your character – they become your destiny.
Recently, I came across this thought provoking poem, and I not only wanted to share it with my friends but I wanted to start a series of blogs on the workings of my own body and mind. So, here is a precursor of what is to come….
No matter the differences, there are always unifying commonalities among all of us. When you are sad, don’t you cry? Or, when you feel lonely, don’t you usually yearn for companionship?
The foundation of life is all the same; the only difference is someone’s purpose. We are constantly striving for a sense of meaning or a sense of balance. Isn’t it ironic that life is created in extremes of opposites – love vs hate, happiness vs sadness, success vs failure, etc.
From my experience, I have discovered that there are three types of people (1.) the extremist – the ones that are constantly on one side of the spectrum. These people are constantly fighting the “in between” (2.) the middle-ist – the people that are just content with falling in between the situations of life. These people are the ones that I have always envied. How is it possible that someone can be content between “success” and “failure”? If I can mimic this behavior, I would definitely not have ulcers, that’s for sure. And, finally there are those that create their own niche of behavior. Basically, I created this group as a default category.
So, what type of person are you? Are you an extremist or middle-ist? Can you define your purpose for life? For success, or even love? As perplexing as life is, I want to think out loud and explore the phases of my own life starting with my first entry the next few weeks on the first sentence of the poem – “Watch your thoughts – they become your words.”
How do you know if where you are now is where you will be tomorrow? You don’t. Whether it is on a professional or personal level, you don’t know what will happen in the future. What you do know is the decisions that you made in the past and the way you live your life today will determine how happy you are and how content you are in the moment.
Everyone makes mistakes. The only difference between those that still succeed and those that don’t is the way people react to their past. Successful Susie learns from her past, vows not to make the same mistake twice, and focuses on the now. On the contrary, Failing Freddy dwells on the things he can’t control like his past mistakes and wonders why his career and/or relationship is at a stand-still.
The time you spend dwelling on your past is time you won’t ever be getting back. You can’t change the past. So, why are you wasting your time thinking about what you know has already happened? You made a mistake – cry a river, build a bridge, and get over it. It was a learning moment, but you still have the “now” to redeem yourself and your professional worth. Mastering this technique is easier said than done, but it is possible. You become successful when you accept the imperfections of yourself and the people around you. And, you will be genuinely happy when you accept the complexity of life and cease the moment of now.
Similarly, emerging professionals have a tendency of spending the majority of their time thinking about the future. Not that there is anything wrong with planning ahead or envisioning future success, but there is a fine line between setting a goal and driving yourself crazy thinking about “what if” scenarios. What if I don’t get a raise? What if this relationship doesn’t work out? What if I’m not good enough? What if I make a mistake? What if…? What if…? What if…?
By allowing yourself to focus on the now, you avoid the snowball effect of this kind of endless questioning. If you transferred all that effort toward the things you can control now, you would be maximizing your time and energy toward something that will reap immediate results. There are some things you can’t control; the future is one of them. The faster your accept this fact, the faster you will see movement in your career.
I’ve spent my entire life going through the motions – church, family, school, friends, and work. I’ve accepted ultimatums and embraced obligations. And, very rarely did I ever make decisions based on what I wanted or felt that I needed. People use to call it selflessness. I call it being out of control. Up until now, I’ve been surrounded by people that I couldn’t get away from. From high school to college, then from graduate school to internships, I had no control over who I was going to spend my time with or what I’d be doing. The only thing I knew for certain was that I needed to please others, and so the vicious cycle began…
Effortlessly, I would spend my days following the footsteps of others and never asking questions. I developed the mentality of a true military brat – “It is what it is.” But here I am today feeling in control. I can finally say that the time that I invest in now are the things that I know will soon be rewarded by the satisfaction of my own choice. So the truth of the matter is, this foreign feeling of control is not only invigorating but extremely addicting.
Control is the theme of my life right now. I pick and choose what I do, when I do it, and the way I want to do it. I’m sure this feeling doesn’t last forever. Nothing ever does, but until then this is my life, and I plan to do exactly what life intended me to do – live.
Sorry, this isn’t a post on how to find your future husband or wife. I am no Dr. Phil. And frankly, you shouldn’t be reading a blog trying to figure out how to find your one and only. If it has come down to that, you should really consider joining eHarmony. No one will judge you because the people that will know are the people that are already subscribed to the same dating site. Think about it…
This post is actually about finding “the one” job that makes your heart skip a beat, palms sweaty, and your face light up every time you think about what you would be doing 40+ hours a week for the rest of your life. Speaking from experience, finding a job is like finding your soulmate. You eagerly seek for “the one” when you graduate from school. Some people find themselves “falling in love” with just any job or convincing themselves that this job is “the one” when frankly, you can do so much better or you and that job just weren’t meant to be. And, sometimes when you “think” it is the “the one” you find out after 3-4 years that it just wasn’t meant to be. But you still learned invaluable lessons and you know that the next job will be that much better for you because you invested in the prior job. And when the time is right, you find the job that took your breath away, you grow old with your position, and you retire happily ever after.
Let me rephrase what I just said to support the similarity of the generic term “soulmate” and your professional “soulmate”:
This post is actually about finding “the one”
job person that makes your heart skip a beat, palms sweaty, and your face light up every time you think about whatwho you would be doing 40+ hours a week for the spending the rest of your life with. Speaking from experience, finding a jobyour soulmate is like finding your soulmate that one perfect relationship. You eagerly seek for “the one” when you graduate from school. Some people find themselves “falling in love” with just anybody job or convincing themselves that this job person is “the one” when frankly, you can do so much better or you and that job person just weren’t meant to be. And, sometimes when you “think” ithe/she is the “the one” you find out after 3-4 years that it just wasn’t meant to be. But you still learned invaluable lessons and you know that the next job relationship will be that much better for you because you invested in a real prior jobrelationship. And when the time is right, you find the job one that takes your breath away, you grow old with your position that person, and you retire live happily ever after.
Kind of scary, isn’t it? But kind of true, right? Your first job and your first relationship require the same effort in terms of commitment, dedication, patience, and honesty. When you are looking for a job, you go on endless interviews, apply for multiple jobs in various industries, and you might even shed a tear or two when you don’t get the job. But eventually, you finally get the offer letter and your career path changes in an instant. Likewise, when you are looking for “the one”, you go on endless dates, meet various random people, and you might even shed a tear or two on those clowns that weren’t worth it in the first place. Then, you end up finding that one person that made it all worth it and your life dramatically changes in an instant.
You see, sometimes your “soulmate” turns into wedding bells and little mini-me’s; other times you just gain the appropriate experience that will get you to where you want to be. Needless to say, your relationship or job isn’t going to be all Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Gucci. You’ll have your good days, but you’ll also have those days where you are sleeping on the couch, or leaving the office at 8pm. You never know what will happen but you found something that makes the endless hours worth it, so you keep going until you either put a “ring on it” or you call the quits and continue your quest for your fairytale ending. And no matter how long that takes, it is okay to change your mind because the term “soulmate” is so arbitrary that it doesn’t matter. I mean after all, you always have Monster.com or Match.com if the first few don’t work out. There are options and “the one” is out there. So, submit that resume or ask for his/her number. What is the worse that can happen? You are back to where you started. You lose nothing except maybe a little pride, but that can be repaired with a little Godiva and a lot of wine. You are still just as beautiful, smart, and independent even after they say “no” and that doesn’t change. In fact, it only gets better!
The choices you make in life are like gambling your time, money, and energy in hopes of winning the ultimate jackpot. It took me two weeks to come up with that. Not the best topic sentence in the world, but I really wanted to blog about my first gambling experience, especially since it was out of my character. I walked in the casino feeling skeptical and walked out feeling much more daring and alive. I can see why people get addicted to gambling, or become an adrenaline junkie. It is invigorating and when you have enough self control to walk out on top – you feel invincible.
When you risk something without knowing if you’ll win or lose, you are taking a chance. Whether that chance is with love, a job, a promotion, or a new friend. For as long as I can remember, I categorized people into two groups when it came to gambling. The first type of people were those that simply watched people gamble, and never bet a single hand in fear of losing a buck or two. Or, a second group of people that only max bet because they believe in the gambling theory of “you have to bet big to win big.” But after my first experience winning some, losing some, and taking a chance at the jackpot, I now wonder if there is a third group of people. Those that are able to weigh the pros and cons and only bet what they are given. No more or less. No expectations of losing or winning – just simply, doing. I wouldn’t call myself a “go-with-the-flow” type of person, but that night I remember I just went with it. I found a machine and I took a chance. I didn’t dwell on losing; I just kept playing.
Its funny how much gambling resembles life. You bet and invest in opportunities never knowing the outcome, but you do it anyway in hopes of ending up on the winning side. Sometimes you win other times you lose, but either way you just keep living. Nothing in life lasts forever – not even jackpots. I learned a valuable lesson that night. Life is about taking chances. Your next job interview is Blackjack. Your next relationship is a slot machine. And, your next promotion is a game of poker. You won’t know if you’ll win or lose until you play. So, set your limit, cross your fingers, and keep playing the game of life… you might just win a jackpot!
Growing up, I was usually a quiet kid. Parents liked me. My peers were drawn to me. And, my teachers adored me. But, when someone would tease my friends or my brother I got really feisty and would defend them like it was my own life. My favorite “comeback” as a child was “I’m rubber; you’re glue.Whatever you say will bounce off me and stick to you.” My classmates hated it and it drove older kids crazy.
Now that I am a young adult, I still find myself defending others but now my favorite “comeback” has evolved to “I know I’m not perfect, but are you?” I’m not as confrontational as I use to be but I still find myself in childish ultimatums and quarrels with my adult friends. I suppose the inflicted pain of betrayal or slander still hurt the same even as we get older. It just takes a little longer to get over them now then it did as a child. When we were 5, it took ten minutes or less to forgive, forget, and start playing again and now it takes 10 days, weeks, years, or maybe never to forget a single one-time mistake or regret. We are all guilty of it, and I don’t have a solution to change it. All I know is that it exists and I despise it.
I’m not proud of this and I DON’T recommend this, but I deal with people issues by doing one of three things (1) avoiding, (2) ignoring, and/or (3) replacing. Why? Because, it is an easy way out. Why else? But honestly, I try every time to deal with the issues directly with my nemesis, but I think my natural response to conflict kicks in before I can. My instincts tell me that time is the only thing that will heal my pain and as the days, weeks, or months pass by I realize how pathetic and cowardly that excuse is, but by then it is too late. And, most of the time I end up replacing my fight, argument, or disagreement with something that ends up consuming me from the inside out anyway. Most of the time it is regret, guilt, or something in between, you would think that I would appreciate the alternative, but I’m stubborn and rarely like change.
However, recently I have realized that people come and go for a reason. People make mistakes and sometimes you aren’t able to repair the damages that have been made. But, what you can do is learn from it. You can do better to your next friend, or your next relationship. You see, I’ve learned that sometimes when confrontation arises between two people you both receive a gift, a gift of choice. You can choose to work things through, to forgive and forget, or to forgive and let go. There isn’t a right answer and the answer is circumstantial. But, it is a choice that should be made. Don’t be like me and just ignore, avoid, or replace the inevitable because then you are turning down a gift of choice. You end up giving away your obligation to choose the details in your life. Who comes in, goes out, and stays constant. You essentially lose control of your life and that will only drive you crazy or make you more depressed. I suppose with new year just around the corner, and I could use my own advice. I could use some controlling in my life. I mean out of all the things that were out of my control in 2010, at least I can control the people I confront, forgive, rebuke, or forget. The thought is exhilarating, so I can only imagine how it will feel when I put my thought into action. I’ll keep you posted on how it works for me… hopefully it’ll translate into my professional ambition as well. *Fingers crossed*
“A feeling of exultation overtook her, as if some power of significant import had been given to her to control the working of her body and her soul. She grew daring and reckless, overestimating her strength. She wanted to swim far out, where no woman had swum before.” K.Chopin
….oh and I take a bubble bath.
So, lately I’ve been prying into my friends’ lives since I don’t have much of a life myself and found out that the majority of my friends are currently undergoing a series of interviews or have been offered positions in various industries. Some in sales, a few in marketing/advertising, and others in consulting. Timing is impeccable, especially since I started doubting the worth of an advanced degree in this unforgiving economy. Nonetheless, I’m relieved to find out that hard work and perseverance pays off. Some of my friends have told me that the interview process is nerve wrecking. I couldn’t agree more, except interviewing is just as daunting as any life experience.
For example, interviewing for a job is much like a first date. You’ve probably heard this comparison before, but allow me to break it down from a female’s perspective. After the date or interview is finalized, the first thing a female does is pick out an outfit. For your date, you pick out your outfit depending on your favorite high heels and accessorize accordingly – your favorite dangle earrings, your Tiffany&Co. bracelet, and the necklace you bought “just in case”. // For your interview, you pick out your outfit still dependent on your favorite (comfortable) high heels and accessorize accordingly – your pearl earrings and necklace to feminize your “power suit”, and instead of a bracelet you accessorize with an extra copy of your resume.
Then, you begin to prepare for your first date, or interview. For your date, you prepare by asking mutual friends about your date. You further prepare by researching the restaurant by taking a glance at the menu and wine/cocktail selection on their website. // For you interview, you’ll ask networking colleagues for their professional advice on the interview and the company. Then, you’ll go online and research the company, reread the position’s description, and even practice interview questions.
On the big day, you are eagerly trying to make a lasting first impression with your date, or interviewer. During your date, you are attentive, poised, and well-mannered. // During your interview, you are attentive, poised, and well-mannered. // Before you leave the date, you either hug and plan for a next date or just say “keep in touch”. // Before you leave your interview, you either shake hands and set up a second interview or your interviewer will say “keep in touch”. // After the date, you send a text or Facebook message to your date to thank him/her for dinner and possibly even the flowers. // After the interview, you’ll send a follow-up e-mail thanking them for their time and consideration.
And depending on how the first date or interview goes, you either decide to commit yourself faithful to that one person, or company. You weigh your pros and cons and strengths and weaknesses and go with your gut. You change your relationship status on Facebook, or you change your Employer status on Facebook. The routine is the same. Isn’t it interesting how the process is so similar and the outcome is equally questionable. People spend days or even weeks wondering “Is she/he going to call?” But is it about the job or about the date? So, I guess what I’ve learned by just blogging out loud is that interviewing should be approached in the same manner as a date. Its exciting, and it might be the beginning of a lifestyle change. Every new beginning starts with a “first” something; it is unavoidable and there are no exceptions. So, go into your interview with the same confident smile that you would on your very first date, or vice versa! Either way, it’ll be a learning experience!
As my first blog post (ever), I wanted to ease into welcoming you to Working In Heels by sharing a little inspiration to get you through your days at work, at home, with friends, with boy problems, in traffic, or just one of “those” days. Kind of like a glass of wine, or better yet a nice, fresh glass of Sangria, I always enjoy reading reminders on why we as women need to remain stable and constant. It isn’t because our family, friends, and/or significant others expect us to, it is because we are made with our own individual flare that the world would not be complete without. We are beautiful in our own way, as cliche as it is. But you just need to hear it sometimes. We feel the most desirable when we are embraced by our lover, we are not satisfied until we get dessert, and yearn for more when we have everything. It is a mystery of a women and it gets even more complicated as we immerse our womanhood with our professional endeavors. But even when we feel like giving up, we have to remember that in those dark times, our lives are the most exciting. Our vulnerability is what enables us to become the women that we were intended to be – a learner, a fighter, and a survivor. We learn twice as fast, finally accept our flaws, and become ten times more amazing.
And just when we think we can’t handle it anymore, the storm is over. Our lives seem bearable again and we seem like “ourselves,” except this time we are wiser, sexier, and mentally healthier. It isn’t us that seem to struggle to get out of bed in the morning or cry ourselves to sleep at night; instead it is our sisters, daughters, mothers, or best friend. We comfort them the best way we can, but you know that deep inside it is their time to shine – their time to learn – and their time to grow, so you silently wait for their revolutionizing moment where they take off their pity-party shoes and slip on their proud high heels. It is the mystifying cycle of being a woman. So, like I said I wanted to share something special that summarizes all the pep talks that you’ve heard from your family and friends.
It comes from a website that captures the sole purpose of my blog – to inspire professional women to embrace their individuality.Turned On Women Manifesto When I read it, I was not only moved but inspired to proudly wear my high heels during the times that I feel like I want nothing to do with myself or my life. I hope you are just as inspired… enjoy!