Step into your power.
There is power in each and every one of us, but few of us achieve our full potential. We give our power away, often because we don’t realize we have it in the first place. To step into our power, we first have to identify what makes us unique. Start your “superpower” research by asking yourself, “What am I good at? What comes naturally to me? What gets me out of bed each day? What gives my life meaning?” Answer honestly. You won’t discover your superpowers by thinking about how you should feel or what you should do. Stop trying to meet the expectations of others. Identify your gifts and use them! In other words, do more of what you’re good at and love, and less of everything else.
Notice the dissonance and do something about it.
When we make career choices without consideration of our superpowers, we may experience dissonance. Elizabeth shared her career journey to illustrate the point. Her dad died suddenly when she was a child, and she watched her mum struggle, and so decided to pursue a nursing degree because it was a practical career. She’d always be able to work and wouldn’t be as vulnerable as her mother had been. While she felt empowered to make a difference for her oncology patients, hospitals at that time were patriarchies. She felt disempowered, but assumed it was her fault. After all, her grandfather had told her, “You can’t go to nursing school! Nurses take orders, and you’re too bossy.” Maybe there was a better choice for a “bossy” woman. She decided to go to law school hoping that a law degree would make her feel more powerful. Looking back, Elizabeth now understands the dissonance she felt at each stage of her career. She was “successful” in that she held positions at influential law firms. But firms rewarded associates for “billable” hours, and she struggled to meet partners expectations while raising two small children. When she went in-house, she never asked herself if her strengths and values were aligned with what corporate leaders expected from her. Today she realizes that she didn’t experience the feelings of power and success she longed for because there was a gap between who she was and what others wanted her to be. She made career moves to solve specific problems; moving away from dissonance, rather than toward resonance. As a coach and mediator, Elizabeth now experiences the fulfillment that flows from making conscious and informed career decisions.
Own your career.
We will come to many crossroads over the course of our careers, and Elizabeth encouraged us to be fearless and unapologetic in our choices. For example, when being a law firm associate meant she wasn’t able to participate in her children’s lives as fully as she desired, she took a break and started a private practice. She didn’t make as much money, but she had more control over her calendar, could volunteer at her kids’ schools and take the summer off. It was relatively easy to return to full time employment after a few years on her own.
Embrace the loneliness of leadership.
If you want to be a leader, you cannot be everyone’s friend at work. Build a network that you can be honest with, get a coach, and step into the leadership boots. People need leaders to lead, not to be their friends. Elizabeth’s advice for leaders: master feedback, learn how to get it and give it, and practice it every day. Be very specific.
As women we have each other.
As women we have a gift that we don’t tap into enough: each other. We are at this incredible moment in history. Equal pay and safety from being harassed at work should be a no brainer, but we’ve made inadequate progress. Right now women are united in demanding equal pay and saying “hell no” to oppressive work environments. We are changing the world through the power of our unity. But we are vulnerable. When we allow our differences to fracture our unity, we give our power away. What could we accomplish if we believed each other, recognized each other for our work and our superpowers, acknowledged our differences without attacking, and amplified each other’s voices?
Know your superpowers.
Elizabeth’s superpowers include optimism, creativity and resilience. These qualities have led her to this point in her career and will, undoubtedly, continue to lead her forward. When you know your why and celebrate your superpowers, everything else will fall into place. For Elizabeth, her superpowers have led her to coaching, where connecting with other human beings and helping them get unstuck is both powerful and rewarding. Anyone can be successful with the right attitude. So, tame your inner critic, discover your superpowers, stay curious, and don’t give up! As Sir Winston Churchill once said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”