It may be warm in some parts of the United States (here’s looking at you, Miami), but in the Northeast, we’re in the Slump Zone. If you’ve ever experienced the depths of a cold winter, you know what I’m talking about: a decrease in energy and motivation, an increased desire to consume fatty goods and snooze away your weekends. Your world shrinks as you wear a path from home to work and back again. To combat this physical and mental lethargy, you need to actively shake things up.
Bark Box HQ. Photo courtesy of DogMilk
Last week, I attended my first Lady Boss event. Hosted by Bark Box HQ, I joined roughly 40 other women for an evening of guided introspection about our careers. Founder Tracy Candido conceived of Lady Boss as a means to meet like-minded women interested in taking their careers to the next level. Tired of banging her head on the glass ceiling and feeling isolated in her efforts, Candido sought out other women who were “seeking female mentors for advice, and want to connect with other women who want a clear path forward in their career.” Judging by the sold out crowd, I’d say there are plenty of us.
Tracy Candido. Photo courtesy of Lady Boss
After a greeting and introduction, Tracy turned the floor over to career coach Michelle Ward. Ward earned a degree in musical theater from NYU, but after years of trying to crack into the scene, she decided to make a career change. Embracing her love of building relationships, she embarked on a new path to become a career coach. This change did not happen overnight; to remain financially stable, Ward worked for 2.5 years as an executive assistant before becoming a full-time entrepreneur. In this short video, she explains her path in more detail; you can also get a feel for her infectious warmth and energy.
Once Ward told us her story, we were charged with reflecting on our own paths. Armed with paper and markers, Ward challenged us to answer five critical questions over the course of 10 minutes. The short time span, she explained, encouraged us to go with our guts and not over think our answers. Over the soothing sound of her ukulele, we scribbled down responses to these questions:
- Why are you in your current role? What inspired you to take it in the first place? Why does it matter to you?
- Why have you gotten has far as you have in your career? what is about you that people respond to? What do you get excited about? What comes easily to you?
- What do you want to be known for in your life? What makes you feel valuable? What contribution do you want to make?
- Why do you presently care about your role? Your career? Your field? What makes your work meaningful?
- When have you felt most helpful or valued?
This guided exercise cut to the quick of who we are, what we’re doing and where we’re going. I was surprised at the answers that flowed onto my paper; the process helped me clarify some points that I’ve had trouble articulating to others. With our answers in hand, we spoke to a partner and got feedback on our responses. (Thanks to the amazing Fikriyyah George for being a fabulous partner.) Ultimately, we uncovered trends within our answers and used this information to guide our decisions about how we approach our work and proceed on our career paths.
While the premise seems simple enough, I was truly amazed at how many women gained a deeper sense of clarity from the exercise (myself included). Ward’s guidance focused our attention on our career and ourselves and asked us to get real with ourselves about what we want. The results helped us brainstorm ways we can capitalize on our strengths to achieve our goals. For example, I love experimenting with new technology to solve problems. Open source software? Love it. Messing around with scripts and tweaking code? Can’t get enough. So it’s up to me to seek out challenges at work that could benefit from these experiments; then I have to roll up my sleeves and see what I can do. I left the event inspired, refreshed and excited. For all my non-NYC based women, don’t worry: we aim to provide plenty of resources for mentoring, career advancement, and goal setting over the course of the year. After all, just because you’re not in the Big Apple doesn’t mean that you can’t be a Lady Boss.