“It was time to be uncomfortable with myself — and that meant really pursuing a dream,” Beth Comstock, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at General Electric.
What makes a successful career woman?
Do those who have made it to the top follow a manual, step-by-step guide to professional fulfillment?
Not really. Although, as we found out, they do, however, have many things in common.
GE hosted “Women @ Work Forum” at the recent BMW Malaysian Open. The forum highlighted the importance of the women role in today’s workforce and saw speakers that include sports personalities Margaret Court and Datuk Nicol David; corporate leaders Datuk Yvonne Chia and Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood as well as the Malaysian Minister of Youth and Sports, YB En Khairy Jamaluddin.
We spoke to them, and have compiled a list for professional women, starting out in their careers.
Things that you probably already know, but have yet to implement to accelerate those gears from “Neutral” to “Drive”.
1. Be Passionate
Passion is loving what you do and doing what you love. Successful people love and do – above everything else. This passion drives them through, and beyond the obstacles that stand in their way of achieving their goals.
You are not “stuck” with a particular passion, Passions change and the key to success is leveraging that passion at the right time to provide the right fuel for your ambition. “Find where your passion is, do what you love and you will excel in life and be the best in that area”, Margaret Court, former World No. 1 professional tennis player and Christian minister from Australia.
Don’t be afraid to go after your dreams, and even more so – don’t be afraid to make those dreams, a big one. New territory will always be daunting, but with the right support, you will excel. Nothing is impossible if you go after the things that you love. “Discover yourself, take the most of what you have because passion will translate it into a bigger picture as you go along in your life. You can’t do something that you are not into…”, Datuk Nicol David, World No.1 Squash Player.
2. Determination is the not-so-secret weapon
Credit: Squash Player
Once you set your mind to it, determination can be your most powerful asset. The key is to focus and keep your goals in-line. It’s the survival of the fittest, and understanding what you want in life, makes it easier. Our very own national gem and the United Nations Development Programme’s National Goodwill Ambassador for Malaysia, Nicol David, certainly lives by that, “If I put 100% in what I do, I would achieve what I want to achieve”.
Sarah Lian, Asian entertainer and brand ambassador of Beverly Wilshire Medical Centre, “The more determined you are, the more you understand what you want in your life and where you want to go, it makes you feel more proud as a woman.”
3. Believe in Yourself
Great things come from ordinary people. You can be ordinary, and still be number one. This can only be achieved when you believe in yourself. If you don’t, no one will. Stay true to who you are. “You should not see the achievements of other women as impossible because everyone came from an ordinary background and they become extra-ordinary”, Editor in Chief of Marie Claire Malaysia, Mindy Teh.
Datuk Yvonne Chia, an international banker and corporate leader in Malaysia expressed, with a simple, yet powerful statement- “I stay true to what I believe in”.
4. It is okay to fail
Credit: IMDb Pro
Yes, it really is, as long as we come out of the failure having learned something.
Every failure is just another lesson on how not to do something.
We stumble and fall but what differentiates one from the rest is the ability to pick oneself up and keep trying. Successful people, never give up. They see failure as a challenge and they rise up to it. Every failure is a learning curve, they learn from their mistakes and progress. “Every step of failure, is actually a step towards your success”, Sarah Lian.
5. Good habits last a lifetime
Credit: BMW Malaysian Open
Having principles and values are important in life. It shapes a person; their attitude, personality and character. It is imperative for one to build these principles from a young age. A good habit stays with you for the rest of your life. One way to develop these habits are through sports. Margaret Court believes that being in sports helps build discipline, commitment and the focus to achieve these goals - “Sport brings many wonderful things, particularly I believe; discipline, commitment and focus. Whatever you do in life after sports, it puts you at a great advantage”
6. Make the best with what you have
You can never have it all. Despite what you hear or read, this is an overstatement. In life, it is all about give and take. Having said that, there will be certain things in life that will have to be sacrificed. Being a woman doesn’t necessarily mean having to choose between being a mother or having a career. There is no right or wrong answer to this. You will just have to make the best with what you have, and when you have it. “It is impossible to have it all but you can almost have it all”, Yvonne Chia.
7. Remember to be beautiful
“The word “beauty” is the most overused, misunderstood, poorly defined word in the English language”, Huffington Post. So what makes a woman beautiful? A woman is beautiful because she believes that she is. The challenge in today’s society is the perception of beauty and how it is being re-defined by Hollywood actress, fashion designers and supermodels. Women are their own worst beauty critics. Dove’s, Real Beauty Sketches campaign, showed us that women are usually harder on themselves than those around them.
Everyone is unique, an overused, paradoxical statement, but still holds a simple truth - the key is believing in oneself, self-confidence. “Love yourself and be comfortable in your own skin, then only you will understand what true beauty really means”, Karen Po, Consultant Aesthetic Physician of Beverly Wilshire Medical Centre.
8. Challenge stereotypes
The hardest thing a woman might have to do is first to embrace stereotypes, and move on to use this as the vehicle to break through the glass ceiling.
Recounting her early years in advertising, a traditionally male-dominated industry in the early days, Mindy Teh, editor of Marie Claire magazine said “When I joined, although the men were encouraging, several stereotypes were already in place..because both my art director, and I were women, we were given what were considered ‘soft accounts’. However we had fun with it, and ensured that we did the best would that we could, gaining the trust of our peers”.
9. A supportive partner does wonders
A supportive partner can be one of the most important elements to catalyze professional growth. It does not have to be “you” or “me” - just the tolerance from both sides to find the right balance, allowing time for family, and work.
“My husband was wonderful support – I always believe that it is truly important to have your partner stand side-by-side with you, both helping, and supporting each other in your respective careers, and I was truly lucky to have a wonderful man beside me”, Margaret Court.
10. Do not be afraid of change, embrace diversity
As the proverbial journey of 1,000 miles, everything begins with small steps. With change, comes new territory, and sometime it is in our nature to reject change, instead of embracing it.
“Look at the universities in Malaysia, on average 65% of attendees are females, and compare that with participation in the workforce – only 49%. Part of that is due to tradition, societal expectations, “glass ceilings”, and this has to be a fundamental change because it a real waste of our resources – a waste of talented individuals”, YB Khairy Jamaluddin, Malaysia’s Minister of Youth and Sports.
“At GE, we work at identifying issues, systems, beliefs, behaviours, that limit a woman’s ability to build lasting careers – before moving on to address them systematically, providing the groundwork for change”, Stu Dean, CEO, GE Asean.
The Women’s Network was created to accelerate the advancement of women working at GE. By sharing information, best practices, education, and experience, we help one another develop the leadership skills and career advancing opportunities needed to drive GE’s success.
Locally, GE’s efforts in this area has been recognized, having received the 2012 Prime Minister’s CSR Award for the “Empowerment of Women”.
Globally, GE has been voted `Best Company for Working Mothers’ by Working Mother Magazine for the past ten consecutive years.
`Act, Connect and Inspire’ is the Women’s Network motto and guiding principle to how we shape our initiatives. For more info, go to https://www.ge.com/careers/culture/diversity/womens-network
Top Image: ICLIF