As women, our ability to achieve our dream job and title or secure financial wealth feels more possible than ever before in human history. And yet, I find myself regularly connecting with women who share in private that systems like career advancement or paths for building financial wealth continue to feel rigged against them.
It’s a Catch-22: we need to experience moments of personal power to feel our self-efficacy and continue to show up to work and life with optimism for our future, but we also need to peel back the layers of injustice to address the systemic inequities that impact our lived experiences.
Just keep swimming
Many women in the amazing Elpha community have been impacted by recent layoffs or feel boxed in at work due to performance reviews that will be more exacting and rigid than in years past.
It’s easy to feel these blows and feel Martin Seligman’s 3 P’s: Personal, Permanent, and Pervasive. That is, it's only happening to you, it is going to be this way forever, and it impacts every area of your life.
When I unexpectedly lost a job a few years ago, it felt like the most brutal gut punch. Even thinking about it now, I catch my breath and feel the trauma of that horrible period of time and personal battle to redefine my worth and find my personal power before I felt ready to convince others that I was worth hiring.
I wish I had known about this framework earlier in life to consider how to build my self-efficacy and leverage all the tools available to me when negotiating with the Universe to land that next job or achieve that personal goal.
During that season of unemployment, as a single mother with two young children, I felt terribly alone. Hell, I was terribly alone. Fortunately, I found an amazing résumé coach. We met weekly to talk about what kind of jobs I wanted next, how to craft a few versions of my résumé and cover letter for those positions. More than anything, these sessions kept me from falling into a deep depression.
Each day I made it a goal to do one thing to help me land my next job and stay productive during a season that felt very dark. Sometimes it was as simple as adding one bullet to my résumé or checking in with past colleagues to keep my connections. On many occasions, I channeled the character Dory from Finding Nemo, and her song became my mantra: “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”
Paying success forward
Earlier this year, I spoke to 65 young women participating in Women Who Succeed, a premiere young women's mentorship program in the state of Utah. As I prepared my slides for students starting careers, I realized the same framework to build power and assert self-efficacy still applies in my 40’s—and especially in an economic downturn.
I prepared 8 slides on capital (with design support from the amazing Jason Hampton) and then asked the girls to think about what they hoped to accomplish at the start of the new year. (Full disclosure, these are not new ideas, just my packaging—you can find many versions of this on the Internet.) Some of the students were looking to get into college, while others were looking to land their first internship during the summer. Helping them connect with their capital and consider how they could exert power in their own sphere ignited some great conversations and next steps.
As I thought about what I might share with the Elpha community, I wanted to offer a post for anyone who is feeling powerless in this season of life. Please remember that you are more powerful than you probably realize. If you are between jobs and trying to figure out what to do next, I hope you will take a look at the slides below and consider whether there are big or small actions you can take today to help you step towards your end goals. I suggest finding one thing each day to help you exercise your power and build your many forms of wealth.
These slides are intentionally basic—use them as a broad application framework. I found it helpful to give each day purpose with something that felt productive and empowering. I hope you are able to consider all the levers you have to pull on and to find something to keep you going if it just feels too hard. Calling a friend to say it feels hard is an important form of self-care—and you need to know you are not alone.
One of the reasons I love the Elpha community is that it offers a space to talk about our experiences in systems that do not always serve women well. In addition, I value the community spirit that has emerged during this challenging time when so many are experiencing job instability and vulnerability. In the aftermath of a global pandemic and economic downturn with so many technology company layoffs, it’s easy to feel powerless and lose the strength that comes from self-efficacy.
For anyone on this network who is trying to figure out what’s next, I hope these tools help you. If you’re out of work, share ideas here for how you are finding hope, building your personal capital, and rebuilding during this season. And if your job has not been impacted, take a moment and consider how you might offer your capital and resources to support someone who could use a boost right now.