Category: Early Career

Why Confidence Matters

When you work really hard to gain expertise in your field, you want to believe that your competence will earn you extra stripes and higher level positions. Turns out it’s confidence, more than competence, that makes the bigger difference. More than mere bravado, authentic confidence comes from believing in your competence, trusting your abilities, having faith in your instincts, and conquering the fear of failure.

Many women lack the same level of confidence and self-esteem that men have. While some level of explanation may be rooted in physiological differences, most of it is social. In a 2015 study on Age and Gender Difference in Self Esteem, Wiebke Bleidorn and her research team studied nearly one million subjects from 48 nations. They found that worldwide, men systematically have higher levels of self-esteem than women, and that self-esteem increases with age from adolescence to adulthood. What is surprising about their study is this: the confidence gap between men and women is actually higher in industrialized, western, more egalitarian countries than in developing countries. How can we explain that?

It seems to me that in countries where women’s equality is guaranteed by law and where women  expect to be treated as equals, the blow to self-esteem is much greater when women experience inequality, unconscious bias, and harassment.

So how can women overcome these deeply seated sociocultural norms to regain their confidence and self-esteem? Dr. Sharon Melnick is a leading authority on business psychology, stress resilience, and women’s leadership. According to Melnick, there are three main patterns that affect confidence levels:

  1. Seeking Approval

  2. Preventing Disapproval

  3. Looping Self/Other Criticism

To rise above these patterns, we have to understand why we do them and be willing to move from what Melnick calls a “confidence seeker” to a “confidence contributor.” Once we can make the shift from looking to others for our confidence, we can begin to gain confidence from the true value of our contributions.

Dr. Melnick is a preferred facilitator for Momentum’s executive leadership class. This year Momentum is hosting a leadership series open to the community, and this week Dr. Melnick will conduct her “Confidence When it Counts” workshop January 16, 2019 at Samford University. 

 

Building Social Capital

We all have days when work feels overwhelming and we may not take the time to speak to a coworker in the parking lot or put away the mobile phone at the coffee machine. Yet, it is opportunities like these to engage with others, even on a surface level, that build social capital.
While some relationships with coworkers form naturally, others need time and attention to grow. It may feel awkward to strike up a conversation with someone who works in a different department or is much higher (or lower) in the hierarchy. Simply opening a conversation with a comment about the coffee, the weather, or the new landscaping outside is a good start. If time permits, ask what your coworker is working on today. We don’t have to have an agenda driving every conversation, we just need to take the time to build that social capital. Here are a few good reminders:
  1. Be energetic without being over-eager.

  2. Ask questions that genuinely interest you, and really listen to the answer.

  3. Attitude and emotions are contagious, so check yours before you engage.

  4. Stay optimistic. Even if your coworker is complaining, don’t add to their load. Be part of the solution.

CEO and entrepreneur Margaret Heffernan has an insightful and entertaining TED Talk on social capital that is well worth the watch. She explains that companies who encourage interaction between teams produce better results. At the end of the day, people need people and we never know what we can do for someone else or where that relationship could take us. Investing in social capital may be the very best thing we can do to make work meaningful.

Contributing writer Holly Moore

Mentorship: a workplace necessity or a necessity for success?

For the community of business professionals, the idea of mentorship is a hot topic, especially when discussing women in the workplace. We are all aware of the “leaky chasm” where more women are graduating from university than ever before and yet the number of executive leaders is slim. Mikki Taylor, a well-known writer and speaker, said that “many women live like it’s a dress rehearsal. Ladies, the curtain is up and you’re on.” In view of mentoring, it is important for women to take their steps with purpose. It is time we become bold and seek out mentors and mentees. Mentoring future women leaders is a necessity for the workplace as well as personal success.

According to Forbes,  only fifty-four percent of women have access to senior leaders who act as mentors or informal sponsors. The lack of mentors for women is believed to be one of the major reasons we don’t see more women in leadership. Increasingly data show that when more women sit at the decision-making tables, better decisions are made. In order to continue fostering growth, women must begin asking for help and sharing their insight. Mentorship is a wonderful path to begin paving better roads for the future of equality in leadership.

There are countless benefits for both parties involved in a mentoring relationship. According to a recent Forbes article, “it is a broader network of relationships and circumstances that shape individual success.” With many decisions that are made, there are discussions that come before them. When making a change in career choice, almost everyone will phone a trusted friend to hear his or her input and discuss options and concerns. Mentoring is important because there is an educated decision to trust someone who has more experience, a different perspective, and wise recommendations. While the responsibility for life decisions ultimately resides within each of us, we are wise to seek counsel from someone with experience in the issues we face.

The value of mentoring is a two way street, with mentors standing to benefit from the relationship as well. According to a Forbes article, the benefits of  mentoring include new insights into the workforce, valuable connections, new perspective, and the personal satisfaction of sharing experiences. In addition to the personal and professional benefits of a mentor relationship, those who mentor are twenty percent more like to receive a raise.

The guidance, honesty, and input of a mentor can help a mentee become their achieve their personal best. Many mentees desire this relationship to gain knowledge and a specific skill set, but this article points out that they also often receive a broadened perspective, gain connections, learn more about business politics, and gain the confidence to stand on their own. For young professionals who may feel inadequate, take the advice of Sara Blakely, the Founder of Spanx: “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know because it can also be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.”

A three-tiered mentoring program is an essential part of Momentum’s mission to advance women in leadership. Each year we pair class participants with senior mentors. Upon graduation, participants receive training on successful mentoring and are paired with a teen, college student, or young professional looking for a mentor. Momentum has fostered over 800 mentoring relationships to date.

If you have experiences, opinions or advice on mentoring, we’d love to see your comments here.

What is Social Entrepreneurship?

Kayleigh is a college junior and marketing intern at Momentum.

Defining social entrepreneurship

Over the last thirty years or so, the field of social entrepreneurship has grown rapidly. Why? Stanford Social Innovation Review explains it this way:

“On the most basic level, there’s something inherently interesting and appealing about entrepreneurs and the stories of why and how they do what they do…  These extraordinary people come up with brilliant ideas and against all the odds succeed at creating new products and services that dramatically improve people’s lives.”

However, the definition of social entrepreneurship is often unclear.

The difference between a social entrepreneur and a business entrepreneur is not a lack of profit. Business sustainability is impossible without profit. But, the social entrepreneur may be less likely to keep substantial financial profit. As SSIR said, “Instead, the social entrepreneur aims for value in the form of large-scale, transformational benefit that accrues either to a significant segment of society or to society at large.”

Truly, a social entrepreneur is just a catalyst for societal change.

My major

As the idea of social entrepreneurship has increased in popularity, the concept is beginning to be introduced in the university setting. In fact, I am studying Economics with a concentration in Social Entrepreneurship and Non-Profit Management at Samford University.

Personally, I want to learn how to utilize assets to forge stability in an unjust sector of society- whatever that may be.

Female social entrepreneurs

In order to make a difference, social entrepreneurs must inhibit creativity, courage, and an ability to take direct action. Here’s a few of the women in the realm of social entrepreneurship that I am inspired by:

via LinkedIn

Elizabeth Dearborn Davis

Elizabeth is the co-founder & CEO of the Akilah Institute for Women, which is the only women’s college in Rwanda. Elizabeth moved to Rwanda upon college graduation, and founded Akilah when she was 24. Launched in 2010, Akilah offers accredited diplomas in Entrepreneurship, Information Systems, and Hospitality Management. 90% of Akilah graduates launch their careers within 6 months of graduation and earn 12x the national median income.

via LinkedIn

Veronika Scott

Veronika is the founder & CEO of the Empowerment Plan in Detroit. The Empowerment Plan is a humanitarian project based in the city of Detroit. The plan centers around a coat that is self heated, waterproof, and transforms into a sleeping bag at night. But, the organization also employs homeless women to produce coats for people living on the streets. The coats are given away free of cost, and the employed women grow professionally in order to break out of the cycle of poverty.

via Pipeline Angels

 

Natalia Oberti Noguera

Natalia is the founder & CEO of Pipeline Angels, which is a network of women investors that’s changing the face of angel investing and creating capital for women social entrepreneurs. Pipeline Angels host boot camps across the U.S. for new investors and a pitch summit for start-ups looking for funding. Since its launch in 2011, 200+ women have graduated from Pipeline Angels investing boot camp and have invested over US$4M in 40+ companies.

Opportunity awaits

The world of social entrepreneurship covers a wide variety of passions, pursuits, and profits. Truly, there is opportunity for all to make a difference through their individual sector of work, even without the label “social entrepreneur.”

Read more about the topic here. 

Challenge Assumptions

Kayleigh is a college sophomore and marketing intern at Momentum.

The internet has thousands of articles offering advice for early career professionals. Most of the authors think back on their own career and write what they wish they had known at age 22 when they entered the workforce.

Universal advice includes, “find a mentor,” “become a life-long learner,” and “prove your value.” But if you include the word “women” in your search for early career advice, you get distinctly different results.

So logic would tell you that if the advice is very different, then the experience must also be different for young professional women than for their male counterparts.

 

I find the advice diverges along three basic assumptions:

  1. Women communicate differently from men (rapport vs report, if you will)

  2. Women shoulder a disproportionate amount of responsibility for housework and care-giving, particularly when it comes to family planning (the “motherhood penalty”)

  3. Women will earn less money than men for the same work, in nearly every profession (the gender pay gap)

Photo Credit: Ged Carroll, CC BY 2.0

Assumptions about early career women in the workplace push women to believe the stereotypes are true. As a young woman beginning to explore the workforce myself, my view of the business world is largely influenced by the advice people give me and the expectations they set for me, because I haven’t had a lot of professional experience yet.

Instead of getting advice on how to navigate through the struggles, I’d rather receive advice on how to eliminate them.
We need men and women working together to remove stereotypes, assumptions, and biases to maximize productivity among innovative, driven individuals- male or female. This begins with the expectations we set for up-and-coming leaders. Let’s not create boundaries that do not have to exist. Instead, let’s ask men and women alike how they need to adjust their schedule to accommodate a new baby. Let’s look at high-potential women and mentor them on how to take a high-earning path to provide for their family. Let’s not assume that one or the other is more willing to travel, do extra assignments, or lead the way for others. Let’s assume we are equal.

 

Millennial Strengths Add to Diversity

Kayleigh is a college sophomore and marketing intern at Momentum.

When you hear the term millennial, what do you think of? I searched it on google and adjectives like lazy and entitled were the first to pop up.  In my last blog post I wrote about the advantages of diversity in leadership in terms of race and gender. This week, Momentum welcomes Tamara Thorpe, an organizational development consultant and national expert on leveraging multi-generational talent. As a millennial myself, I was anxious to do a little digging into Tamara’s topic ahead of her visit.

In the next five years, the percentage of Millennials in the workforce is predicted to increase from 40% to 60%.  The Boomer and Gen X generations will get a lot more out of millennials if they are able to leverage the strengths of my generation, and we have quite a few!

Here are the top four millennial strengths from my point of view:

  1. Independent
    In the 1970s the median age for marriage was 23. Now it’s 30. Millennials want to marry (70%) and also want to have kids (74%). However, delaying those life changing decisions gives millennials more time to focus on career and life experiences before bearing the additional responsibilities that come with family life. That can only bode well for employers looking to leverage millennial’s independence and flexibility.
  2. Adaptable
    Previous generations were obsessed with owning things, such as a house, car, TVs, and garages full of “stuff.” Millennials tend to value experiences over assets, and those experiences make them highly adaptable to various environments. Millennials want to be ready to seize an opportunity should it arise. It’s why 60% of millennials opt to rent rather than buy their home.  Because experience is valued over consumption, millennials are highly adaptable to changing circumstances.
  3. Aware
    Millennials are the first generation of true “digital natives.” We were born with access to the Internet and a constant evolution of new communication channels. Older generations fear that all of this technology results in poor communication skills, but I would argue that the many social platforms millennials use increase awareness and compassion for the world around them. I am constantly impressed by my generation’s knowledge of social causes and their desire to come together to make a difference. Social business models are emerging rapidly, and millennials are highly aware of businesses that make a positive difference in the world.
  4. Ambitious
    I’ve read plenty of rants calling millennials entitled and lazy. But I will argue that most millennials are an ambitious lot. First of all, there are 75-90 million of us depending on how you count…that’s the largest generation in American history. That’s also a lot of competition. It’s harder for millennials to get into school, land their first job, and get their first promotion. Only the more ambitious ones will make it and we know it. Tamara Thorpe says, “[millennials] aren’t afraid to question authority and ask for what they want, which is to be included and involved.” Close ties to family have created a confident generation. We also know that our confidence has to be paired with hard work or it’s just entitlement. But we don’t want to do busy work to just “pay the dues” or “do your time”–we want to do meaningful work that makes a difference. And when we do, letting us know will fuel our ambition and drive.

 

Every generation has strengths and weaknesses, which is why we should embrace the diversity in order to leverage everyone’s talents.

We look forward to welcoming Tamara Thorpe this week to learn how to tap into the potential in every generation to become effective and authentic leaders, millennials and all.

 

Sources:
Goldman Sachs. (2017) Millennials Infographic. Retrieved from Goldman Sachs:
http://www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/pages/millennials/

Thorpe, Tamara. (2017) Let a Millennial Mentor You. Retrieved from Tamara Thorpe’s website:                 http://tamarathorpe.com/free-stuff/