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University of Delaware - Alfred Lerner College of Business & Economics

By Sunny Rosen August 26, 2019

August 26 is Women’s Equality Day, celebrating the United States’ 1920 adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment, which prohibits federal and state governments from denying U.S. citizens the right to vote on the basis of sex. In recognition of this important anniversary, the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics is sharing the top five career lessons participants learn at the Lerner Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF). Read on for valuable takeaways that could help you take your career to the next level:

1. Create a career vision.

“A career vision is vital to understanding where your career can go and how to get there,” said Lynn Evans, managing director of the Lerner Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI). This is why the WLF encourages all participants to take a step back and visualize their ideal careers.

“We all have something unique and valuable to contribute to the world; and the world needs these contributions!” added Wendy Smith, UD professor of management and WLI co-director. “The more clear that we are on our vision, the more focus we can have to move forward and make it happen. Your job is to continue to clarify your values, your talents, your skills, your strengths and your passions, and figure out what you can do to offer those gifts to the world—and then go for it.”

2. Recognize imposter syndrome.

And know that if you suffer from it, you’re not the only one.

“Imposter syndrome may affect anyone, but it was first identified in women who feel that their success is due to luck, and not due to their talent, skills or hard work,” Evans said. “This can be particularly debilitating in terms of career success because of the negative impact on self-confidence.

“Often women in male-dominated environments are particularly susceptible,” she continued. “But women who recognize and understand imposter syndrome can overcome its impact, and help other women do the same.”

3. Develop your elevator pitch.

The WLF encourages all participants to hone and practice this critical skill. According to Evans, “An elevator pitch is named as such because it can be delivered in an ‘elevator ride,’ typically in 15-30 seconds, with the purpose of telling someone who you are, what you do, your experience—essentially what you want the listener to know about you in an organized and concise manner.

“Creating an effective elevator speech is important, but just as important is the process of developing one,” Evans said. “Done well, creating an elevator pitch will require one to understand one’s competencies and clarify one’s vision.”

4. Build and maintain a robust network.

Evans said that networking is one of the most important priorities that any career-driven person should focus on. Smith agreed.

“No (wo)man is an island,” Smith said. “The people around us help us succeed—offering us access to resources, connections to people and most of all, ongoing inspiration and motivation. And we can offer that same support to others as well. Our job is to continue to build those connections and networks, to support those people and to find support from them as well.”

5. Understand the power of women supporting women.

WLF participants discuss the ways that women still face a number of challenges in the workplace that their male counterparts do not. Fortunately, women can provide support and mentorship to one another in addressing and overcoming these issues.

“These crucial skills are the same for men and women; it’s just that women face different biases in the workplace,” Smith said. “As a result, we need to learn from other women how to manage them better. What we need to do, therefore, is to know how to use these skills to address these biases.”

To learn more about these lessons in person, sign up for the next Lerner WLF! The multi-day educational experience will take place from November 13-15.