Earlier this month, I had the honor of serving as a panelist alongside some of the Hudson Valley’s most accomplished women at a local event. Called “Planning Along a Lifetime Career Path,” the event was presented by the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Women’s Leadership Alliance (WLA), an inclusive, supportive group for women to explore career and personal growth. What a pleasure it was to be in a packed room of women talking about how they’ve risked and managed traditions at various stages of their careers. As a public relations professional who has navigated a changing industry during some of the most change-filled years of my personal life, the topic resonated with me.
After a warm welcome from WLA Chair Molly Ahearn and opening remarks from Frank Castella, Jr., the Chamber’s President and CEO, I attended a break-out group held jointly by Dr. Lubna Somjee, an executive coach and psychologist, and Catherine Pietrow, a Systems Business Coach, who discussed how to make moves for career advancement.
First was Dr. Somjee, who offered frank insights into the planning stage of a business and how to decide whether to grow your business. She advised women to do their research on their field of business, including talking to people outside of their industry when contemplating business growth. She suggested a tactic that I’ve used (but with a different name), which is assembling a board of directors that can change as your company’s needs evolve. This trusted circle can consist of different professionals with different personalities as a place to share ideas, gather feedback and test concepts before implementing them. I left resolved to think more closely about who is on my board and how I can serve others. As she eloquently said, “Everything is connected and builds on itself.” Here’s to building with confidence.
Then I listened to Pietrow share insights on her career path and what she’s learned along the way. She counseled attendees that when they feel like they don’t have a choice, that is, when they feel most lost, to remember that they do have options and that there’s “always a place to negotiate for what you need,” she said. This becomes especially important as careers evolve and life situations change. As someone who has transitioned from New York City-commuter and power career-chaser to a stay-at-home parent, part-time freelancer and, now, business owner, learning to speak up and make choices has become a learned skill that I’m getting better at along the way. Pietrow revealed that early on, she kept talking to others, saying aloud what she felt and, in time, learned to express the various sides of herself. Doing so, she said, can clarify what we want, whether we think we can have it, what our options are and how we can make those choices work for our lives. She closed with a reminder to ask, “What’s my first next step?” and then make that next step known to others.
I then led a session on the entrepreneurial spirit, a topic that is close to my heart since founding Impact PR & Communications more than three years ago. I talked about what inspired me to start my public relations agency, including coping with negative self-talk and discouraging voices around me (yes, there were plenty of people in the wings to remind me of the what-ifs!) and how ownership has led me on a path to financial freedom. My tips included thoughts on overcoming the fear of failure, putting ideas into action, looking at market needs and pivoting accordingly, committing to your business and going all-in, and seeking mentors (an inner circle or, as Dr. Somjee called it, a board of directors). I uttered one of my favorite business quotes, ironically taken from the pages of Entrepreneur magazine: “You can’t be a mover and shaker if you’re standing still.”
Thanks to all the women who shared their stories that night and encouraged others to keep moving forward. We’re stronger when we’re marching together.