I recently read an article, “5 Reasons Adults Fear Going Back to School –and How to Get Over Them,” by Laura Leebove from General Assembly. Two of the five reasons really resonated with me: “I’m too busy – now’s not a good time,” and “I’m intimidated.” Both legit, and both barriers I’ll need to blow through, time and time again, if I’m going to stay fresh, engaged, fulfilled, and relevant in today’s marketplace and world.
Acknowledging that most prime-age women lead textured lives, with rich (and needs-full) relations all around them, how do we shift to, make room for, and sustain a growth mindset with our career and other goals in mind? For a lifetime? Here are six barrier blasters I’ve found useful.
#1 Google First. I view most tech as a practical means to an end rather than elegant innovations to adulate. Yet, I admit it, I have a crush on Google Search. Why? Because it provides endless access to knowledge that can empower me to solve my own problems and master new skills. One sure shot at life-long learning is to discipline yourself to Google first when you need to know or fix something. See what comes up! You might be surprised by the new options you uncover, and where that might lead you next. P.S. I just Googled how to make the does-not-equal sign (for #3 below) on my Mac keyboard. FYI, it’s Option-Equal.
#2 Ask For Help. Were you raised in a family where self-sufficiency was a Virtue, with a capital “V”? I was, and while that produced some positives, it also produced some unintended consequences. I have a hard time asking for help, even when I really need it; and I have to intentionally remind myself that this is dumb. If I’ve put in some first efforts, and I can’t solve my problem alone, it’s time to reach out to others to learn and benefit from their care and expertise. This is especially important during a career reentry or pivot. Networks produce the contacts that result in 80% of new opportunities, and most people enjoy sharing their experiences with others. Asking for help is a sign of strength.
#3 Reframe It. Dropping Out ≠ Failure. For much of my life, “dropping out” was a dirty word with negative stigma attached. As an adult and life-long learner, NO MORE. I once signed up for an evening Spanish class at a local university. The first night I realized I was surrounded by a majority of full-time day students and the pace would be accelerated. I was working and had three kids still at home. This class was meant to be a delicious side dish, not the main course of my life. As much as I liked the instructor and the subject matter, it wasn’t a match. I DROPPED OUT and have since found Pilot by startup Waverly Labs in NYC. Earbuds to share, that travel lightly with you all over the world, and can translate real time with your new foreign friend. By the by, I feel the same way about books and events. Fifty pages in and not meeting my needs? Is this event SO OVER? Life is too short, and there are endless opps. to explore.
#4 Just Do It. Sometimes, the best way to move forward is to commit to an opportunity you feel unprepared for, and then skill up to meet it. Feeling like a fraud (at first) and forcing fast learning may feel uncomfortable, yet having a deadline for delivery, and then experiencing your growth and success! begins to build a life narrative with an expanding set of skills, networks, and possibilities. And if not for yourself, carpe diem for your daughters. Studies indicate that women are significantly more reluctant to go for a stretch job than their male counterparts. Researchers observed that “men overestimate their abilities and performance, and women underestimate both. Their performances do not differ in quality.” We need to change this.
#5 Just Say No. During my career pause, one of the best pieces of advice I got was “choose your volunteer roles strategically.” Yes, there are times when stamps need to be licked and schools need help with event clean/set-up; yet we women need to value our time, our skills, and our goals, and choose how we invest and grow ourselves wisely. This doesn’t require we only choose into lauded advisory or board level roles; by contrast, the volunteer roles that grew my skills and networks best were Varsity Team Parent and PTA President at my kid’s school. As an INTJ and introvert, I was suddenly leading, speaking in front of, and organizing hundreds of volunteers; and running two small businesses. It was these strategic stretch volunteer roles, and the new and refreshed skills and networks I gained through them, that led to my current job.
#6 Be Bold. Take Imperfect Action. Finally, the tyranny of perfectionism is over. Excellence and an entrepreneurial experimental spirit is “IN”, perfection against some inherited standard is “OUT”. Yet many of us seasoned overachievers are still haunted by habits of pursuing perfection on the domestic front, in our schools, with our kids and ourselves. I was that five year old who freaked out on the first day of kindergarten because I didn’t know how to read yet. That’s a lot of neurons to redirect.
The +/- of the tech in our lives is that the rapid rate of change renders all of us beginners, over and over again. Perfection is no longer a valid goal because new job positions and workplace solutions are always on the horizon. If you live with a growth mindset, one of the exciting aspects of today’s world can be the need and opportunities to continually learn new skills, and then collaborate and share what you’ve discovered with someone else.
What barriers are you currently confronting? How have you blasted through others? Will you share them with us? Please email us at [email protected]
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