What career advice do you have for us girls?
This was the primary question put forth by the 300+ high school girls attending Harvard’s Young Women’s Business Leadership Conference to inspire and encourage future leaders.
The stellar two-day conference was packed with helpful sessions on many different industries and career paths. From Law to Medicine to Marketing, practically every occupation was represented. With over 50 experts on hand, the answer to that singular question was equally varied.
A common blueprint, however, emerged from the spirited conversations:
Explore the “weak” connections to build your personal network
Rachel Zarrell, editorial leader and producer at Buzzfeed, pointed out it’s not just who you know, but who you don’t quite know well…yet. Take the time to connect with that friend of a friend of a friend to widen your personal network and become exposed to different career paths and job opportunities. Use that shared point of connection to introduce yourself, and deepen the relationship through ongoing communication.
Know your rights as a woman in the workplace
Juliette Kayyem, national security analyst for CNN, encouraged young women to fully understand their rights when it comes to family planning and pregnancy in the workplace. While there has been significant progress to protect pregnant women and women with medically complicated pregnancies from being discriminated in the workplace, it’s up to all of us to self-advocate.
Joan Vennochi, Boston Globe columnist and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, encouraged her audience to take any job offer if it’s in a field you are interested in – no matter how lowly it may seem. Smart advice. Interested in the craft beer industry? Start by washing kegs. Want to be in advertising? Work in a grocery store so you can learn how products move off the shelves. Every job will provide you with experience and perspective.
Understand and appreciate gender differences
During my panel discussion, we were asked what advice we would offer our younger selves entering the workplace. My answer was a better understanding of how men and women approach work. Men and women are inherently different, regardless of the common goals we share in the workplace. And that’s okay. Take the time to study, understand, navigate, and appreciate the male point of view and their work methodology. Don’t confuse equality with sameness.
Alicia Williams, marketing expert and my colleague on the Marketing and Advertising panel, provided this gem…
Be kind. Indeed.