Are you on the path of becoming you?
Have you read Michelle Obama’s book Becoming? Her story transcends political party and is more an open and honest account of her life; from her childhood in South Chicago to the White House and beyond. Her life as a child, a student, a lawyer, a wife, a mother and an influencer on a global stage.
However, it is her early story that speaks to me on so many levels. There was a time, after she’d become a lawyer and was working in a big law firm in downtown Chicago that she took a closer look at her life.
Checking Off the List of Life’s Expectations
Like many of us, she was a box checker. You create in your mind (knowingly or not) a list of accomplishments you must achieve before you can call yourself successful. It was this traditional view of life that prompted me to write my first book A Working Woman’s GPS: When The Plan to Have it All Leads You Astray.
I have encountered so many women who have come to a point in their life when they look at the checklist, see all the checklists and yet feel something is missing. They aren’t happy. They aren’t energized. They aren’t feeling valued.
Michelle speaks to this same realization. She has checked off all the boxes that were expected of her and yet she isn’t feeling fulfilled. So she decides to take action. And her action is brilliant.
She reaches out to others for advice.
Becoming You With the Help of Others
She knew that she wanted to be of service and being a lawyer wasn’t meeting those needs. So she wrote letters to everyone she could think of:
- Business leaders
- Leaders in the Non-profit arena
- Educational leaders
- People whom she admired
- People in positions of leadership that she would like to have
She didn’t write with the idea of finding a new job but rather was looking for guidance on how to create a career. The difference between a job and a career is so significant. We all want a career that we feel proud of; we feel like we are contributing to some greater good, we are using our experience to make a difference.
She wrote the letters and eventually met with several to learn:
- What their personal journey looked like?
- Given her professional goals, what advice did they have?
- What was their job like: what did they do, who did they help and how?
- Who did they know? Who had been important in their journey
- What next steps did they recommend for someone with her background and her desired goals?
This is an action we can all take. When we reach out to others, we have the opportunity to gain a clearer picture of the goals we are striving for. When we meet with those we’ve worked with, we also gain an understanding of what they believe is our greatest value. So often we fail to see just what we have to offer and that is why it is important to receive feedback from those in our sphere.
Next Step to Becoming You
Once you have reached out to those in your circle and those you would like to have in your circle and gathered their insights, it is time to make a move. As Michelle says in her book “I would need to hustle and learn.” It isn’t enough to gather the information, you have to act on it. My book The Working Woman’s GPS and my latest Accelerate Your Impact offer best practice ideas, worksheets and action plans to help with the process.
However, perhaps one of the biggest actions you can take to help turn your job into a career is to connect with a sponsor.
Mentors and sponsors are critical to your career development; they can help you achieve your professional goals faster and easier than you’d be able to do on your own. Check out my new online course Accelerate Your Career with Mentors and Sponsors.
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JJ DiGeronimo — the president of Tech Savvy Women — is a speaker, author, and thought leader for women in tech and girls and STEM. Through her work, JJ empowers professional women and consults with senior executives on strategies to retain and attract women in technology to increase thought and leadership diversity within organizations.
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