If you haven’t already done so, please first read “The Misadventures of a Silent Black Girl: Creating Your Own Professional Ideal Part 1”.
The burden that black women and many others in the non-majority carry is heavy, and it can even seem impossible to bear at times. Each additional label that positions you as “other” can serve as an additional obstacle that you have to overcome along your professional journey. Many have shared the sentiment that you have to work harder to be as recognized or valued. Many have also voiced concerns that regardless of that effort, the chances are that you will never actually be equally recognized or valued.
In a system where you’ve been made to feel so out of control, how can you take back your power and continue to define and achieve your very own professional ideal and success?
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I will never pretend to have all the answers. I have learned several strategies for professional success, and mastering them is still a work in progress on my part. I am sharing them with you, because progress is the name of the game. With these strategies, I consistently witness myself making progress and winning the war, despite the obstacles behind me and battles that lie ahead. I want to eventually see you win, and in the meantime, I want you to feel like you are also making remarkable progress!
Here are the top 5 tips I have for defining and achieving your own professional ideal!
1. Know and love thyself.
You are the best in the world at knowing yourself and doing things like only you can do them. In getting older, I have gotten much more resolute about who I am and for what I stand. This has been a natural transition in my life, but upon further reflection, I would even say that it has become a mandatory one. You will be pulled in so many directions by professional and personal obligations that you have to set your own goals and boundaries. As importantly, you also have to grant yourself love and grace when you inevitably make mistakes or miss your targets. I have found it much easier to manage such tasks when I have a system for guiding my steps. I detail my system and provide free templates for you to create your own in a prior blog post, “My Mission & Me: The Mission-Driven Method of Bullet Journaling”. I highly recommend it as a proven way to outline your own unique mission and stay connected to it in everything that you do.
2. Focus on objective criteria.
The goal is to grow to be so good that “they” (whoever they may be) cannot make a logical claim against you. People will always attempt to infuse their thoughts and opinions into situations because that is human nature. However, when you have objective data and a track record to back up your work and worth, then you become undeniable and nearly invincible. To start, you have to proactively manage your time and use it wisely. I wrote another blog post, “Not Today, Satan!: The Mission-Driven Method of Time Management”, which details my time management strategies. Similarly to my bullet journaling system, it connects your unique mission to how you manage your time.
It is helpful to start with the guidance of a regulatory body or gold standard of some kind and continue building out your objective data goals from there. For example, as an OB/GYN resident, I have resident training milestones that serve as the “big picture” goals for my overall training. Furthermore, I have CREOG (Council on Resident Education in Obstetrics and Gynecology) content-based topics to cover and exams to take, and I set numerical goals for each. I expand upon such larger goals by creating daily or weekly habits for myself – reading practice guidelines, reviewing surgical procedures, practicing surgical skills, taking quizzes, and seeking formal feedback. In doing so, I am creating a habit of consistency for me to track over time as I work towards tangible goals and deadlines. When you read my time management tips in the above blog post and get to the last one, “Track It”, think critically and strategically about where you are now, what tangible steps you have to take to get to where you need to be, and what guides or benchmarks you can use to begin mapping your goals.
3. Keep quality counsel.
You will undoubtedly be influenced by the company you keep and the counsel you seek. I simply cannot emphasize this enough. At some point in life, it’s less about being popular and more about truly cultivating and trusting in the relationships you do have. In other words, quality trumps quantity when it comes to how you form and grow your circle of influence. Seek out people who challenge, educate, and inspire you. You also have to understand that some people are in your life for chapters rather than the entire story, and it’s extremely important not to cling to toxic people or situations. Even if a person is not necessarily considered toxic, if you have to think too hard about whether to share your business or feelings with that person, then they likely are not the best counsel for you. This is all easier said than done, as it takes not only “knowing and loving thyself” as previously addressed, but also persistently evaluating and protecting your relationships in a way that ensures that they are building you up rather than bringing you down. This does not mean that you cannot be kind and friendly with everyone you desire, but it does mean that you have to protect yourself by choosing true friendships and meaningful mentorship wisely.
4. Learn and innovate outside of traditional lines.
“No one’s doing that!” or “That hasn’t been done before” can be scary phrases to hear or think, but they’re also key phrases that can lead you on unique and highly rewarding paths. Think not only about synergies, but also about YOUR uniqueness. What are ways to blend your unique background and life experiences into a career focus or personal objective that is uniquely tailored to your talents? Most of us are a mind shift away from the biggest innovation and breakthrough in our lives. If you’re interested in examining your take on innovation, I wrote a short blog post about innovating, “Change The Game: How Are You Defining Innovation?” Regardless of whether you read more on this, it’s most important to think about a couple of things and repeat them to yourself often. YOU are the only you to ever do it your way. You have a unique set of perspectives, skills, and goals that add to the world in a way that only you can.
5. Envision your professional ideal as part of your HAPPIest life.
The ultimate goal is not to simply survive the workplace, but rather to thrive professionally and personally by living the HAPPIest life (full of Health, Authenticity, Passion, Purpose, and Innovation). Of course, as I have said before, the HAPPIest life is uniquely defined by and means different things to different people, and such definitions and meaning may change over time. How do you envision your HAPPIest life, and how does your professional ideal further this vision?
We have touched on the mission-driven methods of bullet journaling and time management, and I take this even a step further in the last blog post I’ll mention, which is “You Gon’ Learn Today: The Importance of Writing Your Own Life’s Narrative”. In that blog post, I discuss my favorite ideas for envisioning your HAPPIest life and putting it on paper in powerful ways. I also discuss why it’s so important to write your own life’s narrative, and I believe this is particularly important for people who have been considered “other” or do not see themselves reflected well in the leadership of their career fields.
Sis, the road is long and hard on each of our professional (and personal) journeys. When you’re making or especially nearing the end of your journey, I want for you what I also want for myself: to feel that the path is one of your own making and well worth every step along the way. You are brilliant, bold, resilient, and beautiful in every way that is uniquely you. I cannot wait to see the unique difference that you make in our world!
With Love and HAPPIness,
The HAPPIest MD