In the media this week, women’s equality has been a hot topic. Sheryl Sandberg released her second book, Lean In For Graduates and on Tuesday, April 8, 2014, we acknowledged Equal Pay Day. I use the term “acknowledged” because I don’t believe we should “celebrate” until the day in which women achieve pay parity with men is actually December 31. There’s no doubt systemic changes are needed in government and in organizations for women to gain true equality. I also can’t help but wonder, with so many possibilities in the world today, are we as women holding ourselves back? What’s holding you back?
If you stop and look at how our world has changed in the past 20 years, even in the past 10 years, it’s amazing. 20 years ago we didn’t have cars that park themselves, we’d never heard of Harry Potter, we watched movies on VHS tape players because there were no DVDs and YouTube didn’t exist; no one had ever uttered the word “selfie” or texted OMG! Beyond the obvious technological advances, the nature of work has also changed.
Change can be scary and it isn’t always for the good (case in point – reality TV), but with change comes a tremendous amount of opportunity. The possibilities in today’s world are almost endless. You don’t have to be an entrepreneur or another Sheryl Sandberg to create new possibilities for yourself, you can start small and simply take advantage of the opportunities already around you. There are new jobs and new careers originating all the time – just take a look at Forbes’ list of 10 Jobs That Didn’t Exist 10 Years Ago. Have you looked for other opportunities, sought out a new project, taken on new responsibilities, or pursued a business idea? If not, why not? What’s holding you back?
Afraid of being judged?
Women, in particular, often stifle themselves with fear. A lot of times it’s because we don’t want to be judged; we’re afraid of what other people will think or say. Here’s the catch, your work “friends” and those “other people” aren’t looking out for your best interests. When you don’t taking advantage of opportunities, you’re just giving them away to one of those “other people.” Don’t let the fear of being judged hold you back.
Afraid to fail?
Many view failure as negative and the end of something. I challenge you to look at failure as a beginning, not as the end. Failure almost always leads to a new path, a better idea and an opportunity to learn and grow. In a recent blog, Best Career Advice in a Word – Failure I talk about how, by avoiding failure, you may be undermining your own success. Don’t be afraid to fail, embrace the possibilities that failure brings. When you do fail, learn what you can, look for a new path and keep going.
Maybe you’ve become complacent?
I once worked in an organization where people simply did what they needed to get by and that was it – no questions asked, no engaging dialogue, no vision and no appetite for change at all – complacency and mediocrity were the status quo. It’s easy to talk yourself into that comfort zone – the work’s easy, my job’s close to home, it’s really not that bad here. Creating something new, stepping up or speaking out can be very hard, but giving up on yourself is much worse. Don’t do it! Put yourself out there, use your voice, go after what you want.
Lacking much needed self-awareness?
As smart and talented as women are, it’s surprising to me how we can be so blind to our own needs. When I talk to women about the Ask Ajna mobile app the feedback is extremely positive, but a lot of women don’t recognize that they can benefit from using their voice and asking for what they want. I frequently hear, “Oh, my sister needs that app,” or “I’m going to tell my friend about Ask Ajna, she could really use it,” even when I know that the woman I’m talking to could benefit from it herself. Every now and then, we all need to take a good long look in the mirror to see what we’re missing in our careers or our lives. We’re always eager to help someone else, but we neglect ourselves.
With so many possibilities now’s the time to reevaluate your career. What are you missing, what are you doing wrong, doing right, what are you not doing that you should do? Once you have the answers don’t hold back, just go for it. Life’s too short and the possibilities are too many for you not to at least try a new approach.
Do you have a dream or a career goal that you haven’t yet achieved? Share what’s holding you back. Better yet, if you’ve started your own business, taken a risk or pursued a new opportunity share your story – Twitter, Facebook, Youtube.