The National Association of Professional Women—NAPW, for short—held their annual conference this spring in New York City and I, along with I Want Her Job Founder Brianne Burrowes, were in attendance representing you. Females of all ages and zip codes (I met another “Garvin” from the Florida Keys!) were in attendance to celebrate one another and, of course, to network.
A series of incredible panels and speakers, featuring the likes of Robin Roberts and former IWHJ Leading Lady Randi Zuckerberg, inspired and motivated us to achieve our fullest potential—but not just our potential individually. No, it was about achieving this potential by working together.
We heard from and met women in business, finance and the media. Each woman shared her story; her distinct path. And let’s not forget the driving force behind the event, NAPW President and Conference Host Star Jones, who expertly transitioned from serious to funny, usually in the same breath.
I found myself tweeting like a mad woman at the conference, capturing as many pearls of wisdom as I could. Rereading my tweets, I found one simple 140-character tweet perfectly summed up the four major takeaways I had after the event had wrapped. And I’d like to share them with you below.
1. Be positive.
One common theme throughout every woman’s story was that there will be bad days. You will hit a creative wall, will deal with a difficult boss, will scramble to make ends meet or struggle in some other form. And although uncomfortable, it’s also a completely normal part of the process. Hear that? Completely. Normal.
Real estate mogul, author and Shark Tank investor Barbara Corcoran took the stage for 20 minutes in one of the first sessions. Charismatic and entertaining, it was difficult to associate her with the hardships of her past. Take, for instance, when her business partner/boyfriend left her—and their shared company—abruptly.
So what did Barbara do? She gathered herself and kept moving forward. But there was a deeper silver lining: the fallout also helped fuel her fire and post-breakup, she had the attitude that she’d “rather die than let [her] ex see [her] fail.” Today, Barbara’s a pioneer in her field and on TV weekly doling out cash and advice to hopeful entrepreneurs.
Takeaway: It won’t be all sunshine and smiles on the road to success. And that’s OK! Work hard with what you’ve got and do your best to remain positive. (And sidebar girl-crush moment: Barbara retweeted me after her talk! Swoon.)
2. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
After Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, I feel this is a message we hear more often. But it bears repeating. The women who graced the stage asked for assistance when they needed it, and they also asked for what they wanted. At work—and in life—women still statistically struggle with this. But we need to stop.
Getting comfortable with “the ask” can require practice, but it’s worthwhile. Heck, the opportunity to attend NAPW was last-minute and it made me a little nervous to bring it to my manager’s attention, but I got the OK, went and had an incredible time!
Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to vocalize what you want or need. Little actions today can result in big gains tomorrow. (And if you hear a “no,” it’s not the end of the world!)
3. Be you, and the world will open up to you.
There’s something to be said for showing up and being your authentic self. The ladies on stage talked about putting in the work, even when they didn’t feel 100 percent confident about it. Whether writing their first business plan or newspaper column, these women took leaps of faith. They did so with the knowledge that they could fail, but more often than not, something positive occurred as a result of their risk.
I’ve seen this happen in my own life. I’ll work and work and work, and then, suddenly (always suddenly), multiple opportunities rain down on me like that *snaps fingers*. Not all experiences are ideal, but they’re lessons learned. So don’t be afraid to get your hardworking self going and to pound that pavement.
Takeaway: No risk? No reward.
4. Write the dictionary of you.
What words represent you? At I Want Her Job, we define ourselves and the women we cover as “bright, bold and balanced.” Think for a moment about your personal brand. How do you envision yourself and what you represent?
Takeaway: Plot, then live your personal mission statement. Define the words that describe you and your future.