5 important things I’ve learned as a young professional woman (so far)

Hey there! I’d like to share 5 lessons I’ve learned while working as a young professional woman (so far). Of course I’m still learning and growing, but so far, these are 5 key takeaways from my personal experience and studies thus far.

1. The importance of developing emotional intelligence.

Though I am pretty emotionally intelligent (if I do say so myself), it took practice and it’s an ongoing process. I used to be someone whose emotions would show right on my face when I did not practice self-control. This attribute wasn’t so helpful when in a professional setting — or anywhere for that matter. As we’ve all experienced, I’ve been in situations that flat out floored me and my facial expressions, along with my attitude changed. Subsequently, my discontent was on clear display. From being hit on in professional settings (I’ll get into this a bit more later), to being asked to work outside of my professional scope in demeaning ways, I’ve been given quite a few opportunities to manage my emotions in stressful situations — and may have failed a few times.

After time and discovering what my triggers were, I learned how properly deal with and convey my concerns about certain situations and behaviors and how important that skill is. Dr. Travis Bradberry, coauthor of a great book I’d recommend Emotional Intelligence 2.0, wrote, “The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance”. He went on to reveal the following information discovered through research: “90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control”. The abilities to refrain from allowing emotions to run wild; stop and breathe; look at situations from another’s perspective and simply staying calm, collected and positive no matter what are vital to the success of a professional’s career.

2. The importance of possessing effective conflict resolution skills.

There will be many occasions where conflict arises. It happens in our personal lives and professional lives as well. Where there are humans, there will be conflict. When we lack the ability to successfully resolve conflict, we’re unable to work as efficiently and effectively as we can. When conflict arises, dealing with it in a healthy manner is extremely important. But how? Dr. Bradberry tells us, “Healthy conflict directly and constructively addresses the issue at hand without ignoring or trivializing the needs of either party”. This means we’re truly listening to understand others when they speak and not just listening to respond. This also means we’re taking into account the feelings of others, while assertively sharing our own feelings.

3. Confidence is key and confidence comes from knowing your stuff.

When you have and display a true confidence, founded on knowing exactly what you’re talking about and having the data to back it up, you’re more likely to be taken seriously, listened to and even revered as a reliable resource in your workplace. You have to believe in yourself and your abilities. You have to study, research, gain knowledge in the appropriate areas and be prepared to bring solutions to any problems you intend on bringing to the forefront. For instance, if you happen to think that idea your colleague presented isn’t really all that great, don’t just say or think that. Tell them. Say, “Hey, your creativity is awesome, and I like where you’re going with that, but this could be an opportunity to do [insert your great idea] because studies have shown, a,b,c”. However, be respectful, diplomatic and always have solid data to backup your words.

4. Don’t let the fear of being labeled as “angry, uptight” or the like keep you from standing up for yourself and/or others.

As I mentioned before, I’ve encountered situations that made me uncomfortable to say the least. I’ve been told how “good/cute” I looked on the job and I’ve gotten remarks I won’t repeat. I recall telling one organization’s (which lacked a formal sexual harassment training/policy) executive team the kind of remarks I received from multiple men on the job. Some comments were more inappropriate than others. I decided after much thought to simply suggest a formal sexual harassment training be set in place to prevent the commentary from becoming apart of the culture. I initially declined telling them who said what exactly in fear of the workplace becoming unnecessarily uncomfortable, especially since there was no training in place.

After a week-long back and forth (including me ultimately trying to retract my complaints and saying I was okay with comments I received -HUGE mistake) because the work environment had changed quite noticeably, I ultimately told them who said what. Private conversations were had and I was left feeling horrible; like an outcast and downright, badly. I left the organization soon after. While the comments may have been intended to be innocent enough, they were unprofessional — plain and simple. I wish I could go back in time and stand a bit more firmly, rather than backing down in the manner I did.

Moral of the story, when someone says something to you that you find inappropriate, tell them immediately. If the comment is serious, tell a superior and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Don’t be afraid of what people may think. Set a standard of professionalism for yourself and work for an organization who upholds those same standards.

Note: This all occurred before the many high profile sexual harassment claims from hundreds of women, so I was glad to see those women unafraid to back down.

5. The importance of working for an organization whose values align with my own — in word and deed.

When pursuing a career and searching for the right organization to stick with and add value to, what the company values is important to consider. The buck doesn’t stop there however; I take it a step further. Integrity, compassion, diversity and inclusion are my non-negotiable values. In order to be as passionate and productive as I possibly can be at an organization, I have to believe in it. It’s great working for an organization with leadership who values the same things I do. A company can easily write on a wall they have integrity, are diverse and inclusive, however, I’ve learned I want more than that. If an organization says they want to empower minorities and women, I want to see how they’re going about that. Are there women in executive, decision-making positions? Are the minorities in the organization often found working at the lowest levels, tasked with demeaning assignments and roles? These elements expose the true nature of an organization and ultimately affect the work culture.

So, there you have it. 5 tid bits of personal experience and lessons I’ve learned while working. I’m still growing each day, learning, making mistakes, but I’m on this wonderful journey called life and loving every moment of it.

Thanks for reading!