“Professional women have made tremendous strides in terms of drawing on our strengths, abilities, and confidence in the workplace in recent years, but it’s clear that we have a long way to go before we are using our female power with self-assurance and ease,” says Kathy Caprino, MA, personal and professional coach, psychotherapist, and researcher of midlife professional women in transition.

Based on her national research study Women Overcoming Crisis: Finding New Meaning in Life and Work and work with hundreds of professional women each year, Caprino is finding that even high-level, high-achieving professional women report battling insecurity and discomfort in using their voices to speak up and say “no” or “yes” when necessary. Many professional women do not serve as their own advocate, nor do they experience being supported or mentored by other colleagues in the workplace. Professional women also reveal a reluctance to embrace new opportunities that may lead to greater advancement and leadership, particularly if the change in responsibility or focus takes them out of their comfort zone.

Clearly, there is a palpable power differential experienced by women in the workplace, and the leadership styles of men and women remain widely divergent, contributing to gaps in understanding, acceptance, and trust. In the end, Caprino’s research participants report experiencing less than a rock-solid sense of empowerment and strength in their work lives.

These gaps that professional women experience in their own empowerment can lead to personal and professional crisis, and a deep desire to transition away from the current professional track and identity to a brand new one.

How can women gain in empowerment, and avoid professional crises altogether?

Caprino has found the following approaches, suggested by her research participants who have successfully reinvented their lives, work, and professional identities, to be very effective:

1. Remember, you are a many-faceted individual. Your life is a mosaic. Your current job does not define who you are in this world. Let go of what isn’t working.

Over-identification with any role in your life can lead to emotional difficulty and limitation. You are more than your current job or professional identity. If you don’t like who you are at work or what you are focusing on, you need to either find ways to change your style or behavior to your liking, or find new work or workplace that allows you to be and to express who you truly are.

2. Stretch and grow at all times..say “yes” to new opportunities that excite you (even if they make you nervous)

Again, you are more than you think you are. You have a wider array of skills, strengths and capabilities than you are aware of at the moment. If you are offered an opportunity that allows you to stretch in a new area, and this area feels exciting to you, then go for it! The expansion you’ll experience will allow new preferences and strengths to emerge. Be committed to continually expanding your knowledge and skill base. Move away from your perfectionism and needing to be an expert. Be a beginner again, and don’t shy away from trying new things.

3. Don’t let your ego make decisions for you

Don’t let your ego lead you around by the nose. Ego-based decisions are those that lead you to actions that simply inflate your ego and your sense of outward domination, power, control, and recognition. Often these ego-based decisions point you in a direction that is not in line with what you are truly passionate about. Integrate your ego with your intuition, your higher thinking skills, and your understanding of what you value and appreciate. Make decisions that reflect who are and wish to be in life.

4. Get out of denial when things aren’t working

Staying in the dark about what makes you unhappy only prolongs your suffering, and postpones the action that eventually must be taken. Get hip to what isn’t working in your life and work, and begin to create a meaningful action plan for addressing what needs to be changed, added, redirected, or released.

5. Receive outside support; elicit new, unbiased and expansive perspectives

How do you identify clearly what has to change and how to change it? Get some unbiased help, which can come in many forms including an outside mentor, coach, career counselor if needed, or someone who has done what you wish to do who can provide beneficial guidance. Helpful support is neutral, not biased, and aims to help you on your path (not someone else’s) by providing fresh insights and perspectives on how you can draw on your vast potential to achieve what you desire.

6. Know your passions and talents, and find work that emphasizes them

So many professionals (women and men alike) haven’t taken the time to understand what they are passionate about in life — what endeavors give them joy and positive energy. This is an essential step to take to avoid professional crisis. Discover and identify specifically what stimulates you, know what you are uniquely talented at and excited about, and move toward these endeavors. Find new ways to bring them forth in your personal and professional life wherever possible.

7. Decide what your life outside of work needs to encompass

In order to achieve essential work/life balance, you must know what balance means to you. What do you need and want to have in your life outside of work, to feel that you are living the life you desire? Get as clear as possible about what your personal life needs to express and embody. Once you know, than your priorities will become clearer, which in turn allows you greater conscious control over how you manage your work life.

8. Develop short- and long-term goals for all areas of your life. Act on these, and review your progress, continually

If you haven’t already, it’s time to sit down with a pad and outline both short- and long-term goals for all key areas of your life and work that reflect who you are at your core, and what you wish your life to mean and contribute going forward. Make your goals concrete, specific, behavioral and measurable, and don’t limit yourself only to what you think is possible. Develop goals that reflect your true potential, and what you dream you can do. Once you commit these goals to paper, break them down into bite-sized, doable mini-steps, and begin to take action. Revisit your steps and your goals regularly.

9. Know your value. Don’t underestimate yourself and be your own advocate. Believe in yourself and your potential.

According to many of the professional women studied, men seem to be more skilled overall in perceiving their own value and taking advantageous action based on an unwaivering estimation of their current and potential contribution. Women are in a somewhat earlier stage of development in their ability to embrace and express their worth in the workplace and at home.

Start by understanding and appreciating your own value. Focus on speaking and acting from a rock-solid sense of value and self-worth. If this is difficult for you, gather together some friends or colleagues you respect, admire and trust, and create your own Mastermind group dedicated to helping each of you find, and stay on, a course for a lifetime of expansion, fulfillment and purpose. Believe in yourself and understand your own enormous power to impact your own life and the world around you in positive, joyful ways.

10. Be authentic to yourself. Take positive action and use your voice in empowered ways, always. Don’t be afraid to put yourself forward.

Trying to be someone else in the workplace simply doesn’t work. Do and say what is authentic and appropriate for you. Develop an integrated style that embodies your values around leadership, authority, power, delegating, executing, relating, and communicating – a style that allows you to express who you are and what is important to you. The more you do this, the more it will become apparent if and when you need to make a change in your professional life.

Employing these strategies will not only help you avoid professional crisis altogether, but also bring you forward on your path of professional and personal fulfillment, strength, and confidence for a lifetime.

For more information on the Women Overcoming Professional Crisis: Finding New Meaning in Life and Work national research study or Caprino’s Life and Career Path Assessments and coaching programs, please visit www.kathycaprino.com

Author's Bio: 

Kathy Caprino, MA is a personal and professional coach, psychotherapist, author, and speaker on successfully navigating through major professional and personal transition, and making the most of our lives. She has co-founded Living in Harmony-The Center for Emotional Health in Westport, CT, and also specializes in Empathic Parenting coaching that fosters empowerment and self-reliance in children and families.
Ms. Caprino is conducting a national research study on Women Overcoming Professional Crisis: Finding New Meaning in Life and Work, co-sponsored by The Esteemed Woman Foundation. For more information or to inquire about participating, please contact Kathy at:
Email: kathy@kathycaprino.com
Web: http://www.kathycaprino.com