Opting in on your own terms

Step 1: Create an online brand. I don’t care if you have 15 years of experience in advertising, law, architecture, or a mix of work in different industries. It doesn’t make if you never left work, you are returning after taking time off at home with the kids, or pregnant and thinking about post-partum work-life. You have had years of experience inside and outside of work, pick a subject matter on which you would like to build credibility, articulate a point of view and share it online. This can pave the way for new career opportunities by allowing you to build credibility and helping you grow your network online and off.  That’s how Morra Aarons Mele got started. In episode 3 of my podcast, she describes it this way:

I just started writing and writing and writing for more outlets. I realized very early how incredibly easy it is to publishing yourself online. People begin to take you seriously. Then lo and behold you become sort of an expert in something. In the the digital age, it almost really is that simple.

I think it’s really important for women. We come in and out of the work force. It’s just a fact that women’s career progression are going to be interrupted by caregiving at some point. We have different social networks than men.We have fewer access points to power traditionally.One of my favorite lines is after work, men head for the bar with colleagues and women head for the grocery store or dry cleaner.

Building an online brand that is reputable and credible could subvert all of those barriers. That just blows my mind. You can be in your home office in your yoga pants with your kids upstairs, but if you have a good voice,  you are plugged in and  you know what you’re talking about, you can have influence. I think that’s something that every woman needs to take seriously.

Step 2: Grow your network. First, identify your goals. Are you trying to stay in the loop professionally? Are you looking to break into a new field and gather information? Inventory your current contacts.  (Think of past employers, alumni networks, friends, friends of friends).  List the people you’d love to reach out to who are out of your close circle of contacts. Create realistic goals for the next 1,3,6 months, year. Schedule time to reach out and follow up. Build relationships and be generous.

Step 3: Experiment and take risks. You don’t always know where your connections are going to come from or where they are going to go. You could meet someone on a trip, at the playground or at the co-op. If you find them interesting, don’t worry about if you are in the same industry or role, just talk to them for a while. The key to career longivety is going to depend on your ability to be open to new possibilities and career ideas.  If you have a set idea where you want to go, you will have a harder time making career progress. There are many paths forward.