Know Your Value

In early August 2018 I stumbled upon an opportunity on our internal website that made me do a double take.

When deciding to join a larger organization, I had been looking forward to exposure to different people with different experiences, and hoped to take advantage of the resources put into development.

This opportunity far exceeded my expectations-

KYVOnce I read this a few times in a row on the edge of my seat, I jumped to how I could be a part of it. You could nominate someone or you could nominate yourself. I realized I hadn’t heard anyone mention this, which meant two things: it’ll be hard for anyone to nominate me if they don’t know about it AND if no one knows about it, they’ll only have a few applicants and they’ll have to pick me!

I took it as a sign that it called for a video and essays, both of which I love. I was going to nominate myself, and I’d rebrand it to “applying” so it didn’t sound so self serving.

From that day forward, I was ecstatic. I showed my video to anyone who implied the littlest bit of interest. I was no longer embarrassed I nominated myself, I was proud of the story I had to tell.

But if I could go back, I would have shared this with my coworkers from the start. When I found out I was accepted in October, there was a lot to catch them up on- I applied for this months ago, I’ve been nervously awaiting the results, I’ve been accepted, and here’s what it is. No you didn’t forget, I just never told you.

I have the most supportive team, but somehow the idea of sharing this “application” with my peers made me doubt whether they’d believe I deserved to go. Of course, this couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

More so, I wasn’t accepted because no one else applied- our cohort of 100 was chosen from more than 700 applicants.

It wasn’t until the week before the Conference that the weight of that set it. Following a housekeeping/logistics call with our cohort, one participant, Jamie set up a Facebook group for everyone.

Shortly after, another member, Jason, created an event to run the Golden Gate Bridge Friday morning. I was giddy. This was going to be a weekend of being surrounded by motivated, like-minded people, who are eager to connect.

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Friday morning, I met Jason and Katie in the lobby, excited for such a unique morning workout. I didn’t know that this would be one of my favorite memories of the entire weekend.

Jason asked if I wanted to Lyft to the bridge or run, and I confidently said, “Whatever works!” He asked if I was a runner and I explained that I did my first marathon this year. We decided to Lyft as a group, and on the way there, I found out Jason does ultra marathons, and his training schedule (which I pried to find out) includes Tuesday and Thursday half marathons and 30+ miles on Saturday.

He’s also notorious for having burpees for breakfast. Aren’t we all?

Ohh, I thought to myself, this is sinking feeling is how my sculpt students feel when I announce we’ll be doing a 5 minute plank.

As we started off on our run, Jason quickly ran ahead while Katie and I did a run-stop for photos- run workout. Jason would circle back to say hi and then would carry on. It wasn’t out of impatience or to show off, it was a genuine way to have a shared experience.

At this time, Brene Brown’s words came to me as they often do, one of the quotes she often shares and speaks to in her own life is, “Comparison is the thief of Joy,” Theodore Roosevelt.

While I wasn’t judging Katie or Jason, I had this little whisper of self doubt. I had the opportunity to focus on the back of Jason’s “Spartan” shirt running in front of me, or I could take in the scenery and know that just being there, I am enough.

This was the best prelude to the Know Your Value conference I could have imagined. It was an equalizer. Hours after finding out about Katie’s family, what’s on the horizon for her four boys, I found out she’s the Director of Research for the NBCUniversal Amusement Parks.

When is the last time you met someone and the conversation went in that order?

On the way to brunch, Jason mentioned needing to prepare for the wellness panel tomorrow. I didn’t know where to start- I couldn’t wait for this wellness panel! Also you’re on the panel?? No comparison, just joy. Instead, I was grateful for the time I had to connect with these two unique and fascinating individuals, and couldn’t wait to meet more of our cohort.

IMG-0304It’s hard to capture the rest of the weekend into words, which is why I have delayed attempting to do so in a blog post for the last month.

Not all experiences are meant to be reproduced. The words would lack the energy, authenticity, and company that made them come to life.

What I will share, are a few takeaways that stuck out as actionable for anyone-

    • “Come with a plan. That way I don’t have to figure out your life for you.” One of the hosts from the NBCU side shared this with us. It put into perspective the burden you are putting on mentors and your advocates when you haven’t invested the time to actively think about where you would like your career to go. It’s like handing them a half baked cake and asking, where do think we could serve this?

 

    • “The only way you have a case for a raise is to increase your value to the company, no one owes you anything.” The VP of Benefits at Corporate reminded us of this, as he warned the 100 of us can’t go back to work on Monday and ask for a raise. He encouraged us to solve a problem for the business and track the value that adds.

 

  • “To know your Value, you have to know what you value” -Sarah Reed. Just kidding. I’m sure someone said some variation of this in setting up this activity. We were given a list of 100 values and asked to circle the ones that called out to us the most. From there we wrote our top 20 on cards and ordered them, and did the same thing again to bring us to our top 5. Regardless of the role I am in or the team I am on, I know I will add value through Passion, Creativity, Ambition, Mindfulness and Leadership.

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What also made this so difficult to write, is the overwhelming question of where do I go from here? How do I make sure this experience doesn’t become static?

Turns out, I needed to address that first, and wrote a post about moving forward from Know Your Value before writing this one on looking back. Stay tuned!

Wishing you a happy and healthy 2019, filled with opportunity and courage from Knowing Your Value!

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Dia Simms, CEO of Combs Enterprises (and started as his- Diddy’s- assistant)

How Did They Do That?

IMG_4986Always in amazement of Minneapolis Mad Women events, I’m not surprised I’m still sharing, connecting, and gaining inspiration from the March #HowDidTheyDoThat? session. Six women and one redefining-the-term-power-couple made up the panel that shared their journeys of how they got to where they are today.

Journey doesn’t mean read me your resume, for these speakers, it meant sharing stories of vulnerability, doubt, missteps, and embracing risk.

I could go on forever about the details of each stories (ask my friends, I have) but what sticks with me two weeks later is rather than checking all the boxes and moving through the motions, trust your instincts to follow your own path. Here’s a highlight of how they did it:

  • Kalei Grines, Business Engagement for Target Style, shared that she began her career hiding that she was a single mom, and later having her daughter think of the office as a second home. Once her daughter’s 10th birthday rolled around, Kalei realized she had crossed off all the goals and positions she wanted, but didn’t see her own work in who her independent, extroverted and gifted daughter had become. If something feels like it’s missing from your work/life balance, it probably is. Redefine success to include the life you want to live.
  • Jeremy and Krista Carroll, founders of Latitude, were inspired after spending time in Haiti to leave jobs they weren’t connected to and start their own business dedicated to elevating lives in third-world countries. For this leap to be possible, they asked themselves, “What’s the worst case scenario?” After confirming moving their family into Krista’s parent’s basement was indeed an option, the plan seemed less crazy. Krista credits Latitude’s success to purpose driving talent.
  • Pamela Brown, Brand Licensing & Partnership Management at General Mills, wrote a hilarious letter to her 22 year-old self that prepared her to reframe her career experiences that were to come. She called these “gifts wrapped in shitty ugly paper,” such as receiving a bad boss, terrible pay, no work/life balance; all of which helped her know what to look for in her next role. These shitty, ugly, gifts prepared her not to compromise on what mattered to her most.

After the eight panelists shared their stories, someone asked what their two non-negotiables are in a job. After brainstorming on the way home, and for the last two weeks, I’ve decided my non-negotiables are creative outlets and work/life balance

  • While I currently create content, webinars, graphics, white papers, that is not the only way creativity must show up for me. It’s thinking creatively as well— finding a new solution, trying things that haven’t been done— that make me feel like my whole self is coming to work.
  • Work/life balance isn’t actually a matter of balance. An amazing mentor once told
    me, “If something is in balance, it’s not moving.” So for me, it’s having an employer that allows for flexibility and life outside of work, and for me to be an employee that doesn’t make them regret that. I’m a better employee when I have IMG_4539time for early morning yoga, and evening hours spent away from screens.

I’m lucky that my first role and organization offer these two non-negotiables. At #HowDidTheyDoIt? I realized how many different paths and experiences people come from. We are all too unique to march to the beat of someone else’s drum, or cling to a set in stone five year plan.

For me, remembering that is like a full body exhale. Rather than worrying about being behind or getting ahead, get the most out of every experience and opportunity so you can one day be the panelist saying, this is how I did it.

Just Keep Leaning

Sitting in an meeting I was observing for work, I looked around at the pondering faces of leadership consultants, all two-three times my age. Their questions began overlapping with others’ reflections, and any chance for clarity seemed to be drifting father away.

After thinking of a related explanation involving advertising agencies, I debated whether I should jump in, considering I wasn’t invited as a participant. By the time I convinced myself I was qualified enough to be sitting at the table and needed to lean in, the conversation had escalated and despite my attempts to interject, I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

Rather than accepting defeat or regretting trying, I waited for a time of transition and told the man who had started the conversation my perspective from the creative/strategic communications world. Nodding thoughtfully, he thanked me for offering the insight. lean in

Regardless of details, it’s the fear of being wrong that glues your arms to your sides or your lips to a crease. The interaction with the one consultant and positive self-talk I used to motivate me to be involved was inspired by the Sheryl Sandberg novel, Lean In.

One of my favorite things about this book, which has been on the tip of many tongues for two and half years, is seeing how it resonates with others. For me, it played a significant role in the development of my professional life, as I stopped envying others’ experience and started pursuing and creating opportunities for myself.

On the other hand, some say it excluded different socio-economic classes that may not have the job stability to demand more responsibility or equal treatment. They also say there is no advice for breaking down initial barriers when entering the workforce.

A dear friend that always challenges me to see the world through a different lens, pointed out, “By telling women to ‘lean in’ she is putting the blame on women for the patriarchal society we live in and that they need to do all the work to break the glass ceiling…[women] are not the problem.”

While I understand and mainly agree with these criticisms, I believe it’s this demand to get it exactly right, to be an expert, that keeps our hands down and lips closed.

Advice for navigating the corporate world did not and will not resonate and inspire every reader as much as it did for me, but that doesn’t mean Sandberg fell short. Not everyone’s goals or lifestyles involve pencil skirts or equal pay, and because of this, I don’t think her target was every individual of every lifestyle. We’re asking a lot of Sandberg to cover so much ground, rather than diving deep into what she knows from experience, which happens to mainly take place in the corporate world.

If we wait to have the knowledge of every single piece of the puzzle before taking action, it results in a lack of confidence in your ability to create change, to take risks, and to create your own future.

IMG_0886Furthermore, even if we did wait for all the data and qualitative research, it’s human experience that trumps all. It’s when others express their perspective, their truth, that we make these lasting connections; not when they regurgitate what they learned from a book. For me, writing and publically posting my blog is my way to continue combating the voices that tell you to be smaller and fly under the radar, where there’s no risk of being wrong.

Whoever you credit to the shift, and there are many to thank, there has been a passion sparked that has removed negative connotations of the f word. It’s allowed more men and women to have conversations about feminism unapologetically; case in point, the recent Golden Globes.

Recognizing that nothing and no one will ever perfectly hit the mark, it’s our responsibility to highlight strengths to inspire others to build upon them, and illuminate shortcomings to empower other individuals to fill the gap. In my opinion, that’s leaning in, too.