The theme of this year’s Wharton Women in Business conference was “Own Your Career.” The impressive and diverse selection of panelists and keynote speakers shared their personal experiences related to the theme. Below are some helpful pieces of advice on what you can do to own your career.
It often seems like everyone around you is super amazing. How do you differentiate yourself? One keynote speaker emphasized, “life is not played on the sidelines,” so get your hands dirty and get involved. You are entitled to nothing until you have worked hard and proven yourself. Volunteer for projects, even ones that are not directly in your scope of work. Take that difficult or boring assignment that no one else wants. If you fail, at least you showed guts and perseverance, and your boss will think of you next time a tough task surfaces. If you succeed, then you are the hero.
Find Your Passion
Do what you love. Be realistic. Know what you know and know what you lack. Be self-aware. Know your personality, style and what you want. Create a goal or aspiration that is distinct to you, and then leave your comfort zone and pursue it. If you don’t know what you want, begin with the things that you don’t like and go backwards.
Life Is a Series of Choices, Not Risks
Stretch yourself. We all know that we often learn more from failures than successes and that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Still, we shy away when we perceive things to be too risky. Try changing your mindset and put your task in perspective. Sure, you might feel like a fool if the project goes awry and you think everyone is judging you. But in the end, you will still have a job, be able to pay your rent and buy those chic pants that you have been wanting for a while. Also realize that the end result is not everything. The learning that you extract is what really matters. Seize the moment and be 100% convinced of your decision. You are in control of your own life.
B+ is Okay
Prioritize and focus. In this crazy world where 24 hours in a day is nowhere near enough time and caffeine is your savior, you can’t possibly do everything perfectly. Figure out what really matters to you and devote yourself to executing those things as well as possible. For everything else, it’s okay to settle for a B+. Don’t burn yourself out; it’s just not worth it.
Create Your Personal Board of Directors
Find people who can give you open and honest feedback and can fill gaps in your knowledge. Mentors give advice and sponsors advocate for you, and both are important champions for your career. In addition, find yourself a group of people that can offer you information and advice about things you may not know much about. Staff this team with diverse backgrounds and different areas of expertise, and remember to reciprocate and be that person for someone else.
Of course, there is no magical answer to owning one’s career. You will probably use trial and error to apply the tips above. But as one keynote speaker gracefully summarized, “wisdom is experience plus reflection.” The key is to find your own balance in life. At the end of the day, ask yourself, “Am I satisfied? Am I happy?” If the answers are yes, then you have succeeded.