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Redefining Career Success, as a Woman

Posted: September 7, 2020

For many women, careers are like a marathon, as Prof. Vasanthi Srinivasan shares, three key elements to building one’s career.

“Dreams are lovely, but they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral, pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.” – Shonda Rhimes

What does it take for a woman to be successful in her career? This is a question that I have been asking myself for many years now. It began the year I had my first child, and I had to come to terms with the fact that I could not work as many hours as I would like or need – eventually prompting me to make the conscious decision to take a break from work. Now, after two kids and a lot of conversations with myself and other women, I seem to be closer to answering this question for myself.

The “have it all” model of women’s empowerment

The idea of can a woman “have it all” continues to be widely debated. This article in The Atlantic in 2012 prompted many discussions around what it took for women to succeed in the corporate world – a world traditionally created by men, for men. An interview by Indra Nooyi for Forbes also seemed to reinstate the fact that, actually, women can’t “have it all.” Women all over the world juggle multiple roles and responsibilities – caregiver being one of the primary roles played by women till today. With the responsibility of ensuring children, elderly and others in the family are taken care of, it is no wonder that a woman either forgets what her own career aspirations were or that those aspirations take a back seat.

But what if this need not be the case? What if what we needed to focus on was not if women can have it all (implying career success by traditional and, I argue, male perspectives), but rather, re-framing what the idea of “it all” means? Because after all, does “it all” even mean the same for any two people? I am a self-confessed workaholic – I love my career, and I love working. Which is why, for the longest time, it bothered me to no end that wanting to have a career and wanting to have children did not seem to coexist in the corporate structures I saw around me. It is heartening to see that today, many organisations have taken it upon themselves to change this narrative in their own corporate culture – and yet, the representation of women in the workforce is declining, globally. 

Re-framing narratives around career success takes time, especially since these have been around for decades now. More importantly, doing so will not be possible until women understand and accept that our careers are not linear, and very often, do not stick to the same timelines as men’s careers. For many women, careers are like a marathon, as Prof. Vasanthi Srinivasan shared in her interview with us. I believe there are three key elements to building one’s career, with intention-

Knowing your values

Identifying and understanding our values is not something many of us are exposed to, especially early in our careers. And yet, this is the foundation on which one needs to base not just their careers but their lives (what we like to call ‘leading from within’ at Shenomics). Identifying one’s core values takes a lot of introspection and self-awareness, but once that is done, the values act as a guiding light for many crucial decisions in life. Here is a handy guide of values you can choose from, if you would like to get started on this immensely fulfilling journey. 

My journey of identifying my core values was filled with trial and error. Distilling what I liked to do from what my core values were was not an easy task, and in hindsight, I am so glad I took the time to find them. It also helped that I was surrounded by those who supported me in this journey (more about this in my next point) of self-introspection, including a brilliant coach. Some of the questions I asked myself during that time were:

  • What kind of a woman do I want to be? 
  • What are the core elements (characteristics) of my being?   
  • Who would I need to be, in order to be proud of myself

Building a community

There is a common saying that we are the average of the five people that we spend the most time with – and we all know that is true. I believe I am truly blessed to have some inspirational women (and men) in my life – and I meet more of them each day through our work at Shenomics. I learn immensely from my community, and I have come to realize that I am a better person because of them. I also know that I have come this far in my career because I have had their support, encouragement, advice, and because they have held me accountable to the goals and aspirations I set out for myself.

Upgrading (and updating) skills

This is something that has become crucial in today’s world. Learning is an element of personal growth that I believe one needs to take complete ownership of – and invest in. Today, thanks to everything going virtual, there are some amazing programs that have become available to all of us – some which we would not have access to, otherwise. I have had the opportunity to be a part of global programs during this pandemic, which have expanded my world view, along with helping me connect with people from parts of the world I had never imagined!

At the end of the day, each of us defines what it means to “have it all” for ourselves – and each of us has a distinctive journey to success. I hope we can embrace our unique career journeys, not forgetting to enjoy it every step of the way.

Divya Martyn is the Head of Client and Community Engagement at Shenomics, and a passionate coach. She is excited to support women in their journey to becoming a Conscious Woman leader!

First published here.

Image source: Unsplash

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