By: Robyn Carter, President of the Insurance Institute of Western Cape (IIWC)
There are a host of words that come to mind when describing a woman. Words like compassionate, caring, kind, nurturing and understanding. Others describe a woman as strong, ambitious, driven and determined. Those words have contrast in meaning and connotation. Much like women’s journeys, throughout our lives and careers, contrasting and different depending on the phase we find ourselves in at any given point.
As women, we navigate these various life phases differently. While I reflect on my journey travelled and what lies ahead, there are a few signs along the road that have emerged for me.
Seek mentorship and build networks:
I have come to realise that mentorship is crucial for various reasons. The obvious ones being that mentors provide guidance, support and share insights. But more importantly, they help navigate challenges based on their own experiences. I’ve been fortunate to experience both ends of this spectrum and have gained a plethora of knowledge and perspective from various strong women in business. This has allowed me to in turn provide a safe space for others to discuss their professional aspirations, challenges and help them to set and achieve meaningful goals. By learning from one another, we can, as women, accelerate our personal and career growth, enhance our self-confidence, and ultimately increase our chances of success.
Be flexible, resilient and communicate effectively:
Flexibility: We have all, at some or other stage, had to adapt to a change in circumstances, roles and responsibilities. If we are flexible in our approach, it allows us to pivot strategies, embrace new challenges and adjust to evolving work environments. This enables us to remain effective and innovative, especially when faced with unexpected obstacles.
Resilience: The journey travelled is never one without any potholes or speedbumps. Setbacks and failures are to be expected. What’s important is how we choose to navigate them. Being resilient allows us to persevere through the tough times, learn from our failures and maintain a positive attitude. We need to remain driven and continue striving to achieve our goals, even in the face of adversity.
Effective Communication: It is said that if one ever wonders what is going on inside a woman’s mind, just imagine a browser with 2857 tabs open all the time. For this reason, clear and confident communication is vital. It helps convey ideas, establish credibility and build strong relationships with colleagues, superiors and subordinates. Effective communication also aids in resolving and managing conflict and influencing positive change.
Maintain a healthy work-life balance:
This is probably the sign that emerges the most along our journey and the one that most women are challenged by regularly. How do we adapt our approach based on personal and professional priorities or make decisions about when to take on new responsibilities or pursue growth opportunities?
Set Clear Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life by defining specific hours and sticking to them as much as possible.
Prioritize self-care: Making time to enjoy activities that rejuvenate us both physically and mentally such as exercise, reading and practising relaxation techniques.
Plan and organise: Planning our days and weeks ahead, and setting time for work tasks and personal commitments is an effective tool that can help us prevent feeling overwhelmed.
Practice mindfulness: Incorporating mindfulness practices such as meditation and breathing techniques assists in managing stress and staying present in the moment.
Regularly evaluate and adjust: We need to regularly assess our work-life balance and adjust as needed. What works at one stage of our career may need some tweaking as circumstances change.
Remember, achieving a healthy balance is an ongoing effort that requires conscious choices and occasional adapting. Prioritizing our well being creates a sustainable routine that allows us to thrive both personally and professionally.
By identifying these signs along the road, and combining these skills, we can confidently navigate transitions, lead teams and make strategic decisions at different stages of our careers. We can build resilience to handle the setbacks, flexibility to embrace the change and effective communication to inspire and motivate those around us – all while maintaining a healthy balance that will ensure we achieve our goals and flourish in any environment.
“Women need to shift from thinking “I’m not ready to do that” to thinking “I want to do that – and I’ll learn by doing it.”– Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook